NEW YORK — The New York Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the rival Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, encouraged on to a 3-2 victory by a fan near the left-field foul line who held up a small placard urging “GO YANKEES”.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” commented Yankee manager Joe Girardi after the dramatic come-from-behind win. “We sometimes get bogged down in the details of how to play a baseball game, and forget that the main idea is to move forward, to progress, to emerge victorious, to — as that fan so eloquently put it — to ‘go’.”
The Yankees had trailed the Rays by one run going into the bottom of the ninth, but rallied on a solo home run by Alex Rodriguez, a double by Derek Jeter, and an RBI single by Robinson Cano.
“That sign not only inspired me to find the strength to drive the ball deep to right. It reminded me that I should ‘go’ and run around the bases, rather than stop and chat with the second baseman,” Rodriguez told reporters after the game. “I know there is a proper time for base-runners to stop, and I think it’s shortly after they cross home plate. It just helped me to get that confirmation from the crowd.”
The fan, identified as Andy Scott of suburban Long Island, said he had become concerned about the Yankees’ recent four-game losing streak, and decided to hand-letter the encouraging words on the back of an old MapQuest printout he had abandoned in the back seat of his car.
“It may not have been a professional sign, like some other people were holding, but it did speak from the heart,” Scott said. “I’m just glad they didn’t notice I had to squeeze in the second ‘E’ of ‘YANKEES’ after initially misspelling it.”
“No, I didn’t notice that at all,” said Jeter, whose double paved the way for Cano’s game-winning line drive. “I guess I was focused more on the ‘GO’ part anyway. I knew the second word began with a ‘Y’ and I just assumed it said ‘YANKEES’, though I supposed it could’ve said ‘YOUSIF’ or ‘YEUNGLING’ from where I was standing. It was the context that made me think it was probably addressed toward our team.”
Cano said he also appreciated both the general encouragement of the message, as well as the specificity of the directions.
“When I hit one in the gap and can tell it’s in there for extra bases, I sometimes get caught up in the moment as I’m streaking toward first base, and forget whether I’m supposed to turn left or right at that point,” Cano said. “If more fans would hold up signs reminding us of the importance of fundamentals — be it ‘TURN LEFT’ or ‘KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL’ or even ‘JUMP UP WHEN A BALL IS HIT OVER YOUR HEAD’ — I think it would keep us grounded in reality.”
Many of the other Yankees agreed that plain-spoken, concise advice from fans was helpful.
“I wish I could get guidance on some of my financial investments,” noted designated hitter Mark Teixeira. “This being New York, you know there have to be some Wall Street types in the crowd. I’m constantly on the lookout for the banner that says ‘BONDS ARE SAFER IN THIS ENVIRONMENT’ or the guy who’s painted something like ‘STOCKS ROCK’ on his bare chest.”
“I’d appreciate some child-rearing counsel myself, since I have two young children,” said pitcher Andy Pettite. “We’re on the road a lot, and frankly it’s easy to forget whether to put the diapers on the bottoms or on the heads. I think of myself as a father who’s closely involved with his children, and little reminders like that from the crowd would be so thoughtful.”
“The only down side I’d note about fan involvement involves some of their clothing choices,” said center-fielder Curtis Granderson. “If I see a guy in Section C, Row 8 wearing a ‘Yankees’ jersey, I sometimes think I’m supposed to throw the ball to him after I make a catch. Maybe if they could hand-write the word ‘SUPPORTER’ or ‘FAN’ underneath, it’d be a little more clear to me that he’s not actually an active member of our roster.”
“I can see where there might be some confusion on an issue like that,” manager Girardi confirmed. “On balance, though, it’s that supportive attitude from the home crowd that frequently gives us such an advantage.”
First-baseman Lance Berkman began to chime in on the subject, but stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed the sign above the locker room door that said ‘EXIT’.
“Guys, guys, look at that,” Berkman called out to his teammates.
At that point, the entire Yankees squad headed for the players’ parking lot, even though many of them had not yet dressed after their post-game showers.