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March 30, 2013If there was such a thing in sports as a "symbolic" game, then clearly Saturday's exhibition baseball game would fit that title ... easily.
And what is that representation?
Well, there is no more prestigious and historic college or university in the nation, then the one that overlooks the Hudson River, that is called the United States Military Academy at West Point.
And further down the Hudson River, there is no more iconic sports franchise in the world, than that of the New York Yankees ... whose players of past and present are equally as legendary. Names such as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson, Rivera, Jeter, Rodriguez, Ford, Berra and of course the owner of all owners, the late George Steinbrenner.
So as the morning unfolded into the early evening, the history of these two American institutions would see their paths cross, whereby the highest level of mutual honor and respect would be very evident throughout the course of the day.
But even prior to making their way to Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field, the Yankees had an opportunity to take in the mystique of West Point.
The team toured five places on campus.
The first in terms of order was the Kimsey Center, followed by Foley Center, the Cadet Chapel, Trophy Point, which allowed the Yankee players to take in the picturesque area overlooking the Hudson and the Mess Hall.
"It was in a word, breathtaking," said Yankees' announcer Michael Kay, who joined in on the morning tour.
For Yankees' Manager, Joe Giradi, the property of West Point are somewhat familiar stomping ground for the seasoned skipper, who is known to take in 1 or 2 Army football games throughout the season. So when Giradi was asked by GoBlackKnights.com Publisher Charles Grevious to share what he told his players about West Point ... especially those Yankees who had never been on campus before and/or perhaps were unaware of institution to begin with ... this is what he had to say.
"How beautiful it is, number one," said Giradi, as he took his time recapturing that moment with his team. "When you pull in here, you see the beauty. For me, it's what the military does for us is so important. We're here to play a game, but they're here to protect us and how important that is that everyday that I wake up, I feel safe and the importance of that, because it's not true in a lot of places. I told them to enjoy this day and I think our guys are having a blast. They've been able to see the history of this campus and talk about it. The Chapel, the Hudson River where General Washington who had the chains that run across ... wow, the history of this place is magnificent. To enjoy this, to enjoy this day with Army is very special."
And yes, there was a baseball game, as the fans took full advantage of the ideal spring like weather and the 5,000 temporary bleachers that were added, as a full capacity of 5,600 took in Saturday's contest, which served as a tremendous fan/media event for both the Yankees and the Army baseball program.
No surprise that prior to the game, many of the Black Knights' admitted to being in awe, but being equally as excited about participating the game itself.
During the Yankees' pre-game batting practice, members of what GBK calls "Tar Heel Six", which includes Jon Crucitti, Justin French, Franklin Garrison, Alex Jensen, Justin Reece and Jacob Page ... all products of North Carolina, stood on the side kidding about what task might be more challenging ... fielding a hot grounder off the bat of a Yankee or facing a 95 MPH fastball.
"This is the greatest sports moment I have ever experienced," declared Garrison, with a huge smile.
But once the game started and the Black Knights stepped over the white lines to take the field, jittery as they may be, it didn't show and they put forth their best effort.
Army's ace, Chris Rowley was scheduled to be Saturday's starting pitcher, but was by Andrew Flaherty, who looked good comfortable to start the game.
The sophomore right hander struck out leadoff hitter Brett Gardner, then got Ichiro Suzuki to pop-out to 2nd base and then went head to head with Robinson Cano. Yes, the same Cano who was the 2011 MLB Home Run Derby Champion, American League All-Star and who has a .308 career batting average.
Nervous? Perhaps and especially when Cano launched one deep to the left field warning track, only to be pulled down for the final out of the opening inning of the game.
Well, this was less about the final score, which saw the Yankees prevail, 10-5 ... but more about the "symbolic moment" in time for both great institutions.
** To chat with other Army fans about this article and more, please visit The 12th Knight message board.**