Four numbers have been retired by the Staten Island Yankees. They are Jason Anderson (#19), Chien-Ming Wang (#41), Robinson Cano (#17) and Brett Gardner (#6). I was there for two. Each made it all the way from Rookie A Ball to the Bronx.
Anderson was the first player who donned Yankee Pinstripes in 2003. He was a reliever who also had a stint with the Mets. He was honored on July 15, 2003.
Wang was part of two NY-Penn League championships (2000, 2002). He became a fan favorite as a Yankee who finished runner-up for Cy Young. His arrival in 2005 coincided with Cano. Both rookies were instrumental in turning that year around. It proved that the Yankees could develop homegrown talent. While injuries to Wang derailed his Yankee career, he’s made it all the way back with the Blue Jays, picking up a win the other day. Cano actually finished second to Huston Street for Rookie Of The Year. My favorite prediction was telling our buddies that the second baseman would become an All-Star. Cano has graduated into the top second baseman who the Bronx Bombers must re-sign.
Gardner was part of another championship team in 2005. I caught on late in time for an exciting run. The speedy outfielder was making diving catches and hitting line drives at the top of the order. He’s one of those classic overachievers who is easy to root for. One of the few Yankees who is a stolen base threat, he’s bounced back from an injury riddled 2012. The Gardner gets it done.
During my years covering the Baby Bombers, I was fortunate enough to be there for Wang’s retirement, which included his own bobblehead. It even looked like him. My favorite part was when I met him and then he was interviewed in different languages. His reaction to having his own bobblehead was priceless. You could tell how much he enjoyed it. It was definitely a fun moment to be at the ballpark in St. George. That same night, a strong thunderstorm shortened a game. I still can remember making a run for it to the car. The trip home was intense.
A year later, Cano had his number honored before the game. He came onto the field for the ceremony but wasn’t made available to the press. Definitely disappointing. It didn’t leave a good impression. I’m sure Robby is a good player to the media but it would’ve been nice if he gave us the light of day. It’s not every day you return to where your pro career started.
As the SI Yanks embark on another season, I wonder if they’ll one day retire Francisco Cervelli’s number. Cervelli has been a great story surpassing expectations. He made it over catchers who were more highly thought of by the organization. Signed as a free agent in 2003, he worked hard to get where he’s at. I enjoyed covering him. At that time, he didn’t speak a ton of English but understood well enough to answer questions. To this day, getting the chance to interview him about making the Mid-Season All-Star Game was enjoyable. I interviewed him, Mitch Hilligoss, Seth Fortenberry, George Kontos, Kyle Larsen and Nick Peterson. Wilmer Pino also made it but didn’t have a translator available to be part of the piece. That was a great team who needed three games to repeat. Future major leaguer Kontos worked out of a bases loaded jam by striking out the side. In six innings, he fanned 11. Peterson, Jonathan Hovis and Mark Melancon did the rest- touching off a great celebration in the locker room.
I’d love to see Cervelli join Anderson, Wang, Cano and Gardner. The fact he’s still an important part of the big club speaks volumes. He has comeback from a miserable 2012 and is about seven to 10 days away. When the Yankees let Russell Martin walk to Pittsburgh, it opened the door for the charismatic Venezuelan to regain his job behind the plate. Since he went down, Chris Stewart’s done an admirable job. Cervelli is clearly the best of a trio that includes Austin Romine. Wouldn’t it be something if the Cisco Kid backstops this team to October? In a parallel to his career, it won’t come easy. Just the way he likes it.