Game 116: TB vs. NYY — Nice to see you, Class of ’96, but here come the Baby Bombers!

In a big promoted move, the Yankees featured a big pre-game ceremony featuring the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Championship team that started the big dynasty. The former players jogged (insert any “old man” joke you may have here) from the center field to their respective positions on the field. Of course, Joe Girardi had the furthest to go to his former position at catcher and seemed to be the least winded. (Chalk it up to having to keep up with all the new, young guys, I guess.) And then former manager Joe Torre rode out on a cart to many cheers and excitement of the crowd. They took a big commemorative photo, waved to the fans, and then watched the young players take on the visiting Rays.

It was fun to reminisce with the team: Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Jose Cardenal, Chris Chambliss, David Cone, Mariano Duncan, Cecil Fielder, Andy Fox, Joe Girardi, Doc Gooden, Charlie Hayes, Matt Howard, Derek Jeter, Pat Kelly, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Dave Pavlas, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Willie Randolph, Mariano Rivera, Luis Sojo, Mel Stottlemyre, Darryl Strawberry, John Wetteland, Bernie Williams, and Joe Torre.

But the truth is that it was kind of like a chapter closing. Between this anniversary gathering and Alex Rodriguez’s final night last night, the Yankees are turning a new page. And it’s awesome. Clearly.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees today in the middle game of this weekend series against the Rays. Tanaka threw just 79 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs, and striking out 8 Rays batters. In the 4th, two singles put runners on the corners to be ready to score on a big 3-run home run to get the Rays on the board. And that same batter added a 2-out solo shot in the 6th inning to cap off the Rays’ scoring today.

Clippard breezed his way through the Rays’ roster in the 8th. And Swarzak’s single pitch put a runner on base in the 9th, but Layne shut them down in 9 pitches to close out the game for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ offense on the other hand had a bit of a help from their newest addition and the new youth movement that is the New York Yankees now. With 2 outs in the 2nd inning, recent call-up Tyler Austin stepped into the batter’s box for his first time as a major leaguer and promptly hit a solo home run to get the Yankees on the board. Right after him, Aaron Judge in his MLB debut hit a monster solo home run right up the middle. For the first time in MLB history, two rookies hit home runs in the same game for their first MLB at-bat.

In the 4th, down 3-2, the Yankees tied up the game with Starlin Castro’s solo home run up to center field. Then in the 5th, Judge singled to start the inning and ended up at 3rd on Ellsbury’s 1-out single. Then it was Aaron Hicks to hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd deck of the right field seats to push the Yankees ahead of the Rays again.The Yankees added just a bit more in the 7th. With 2 outs, Headley worked a walk and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run into the right field seats to ensure the Yankees’ victory.

All of the Yankee runs today were scored on home runs hit by players aged 26 and under. Broadcasters officially dubbed them the “Baby Bombers”, a term I think is indicative of the youth and strength of this new version of the Yankees.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves & the Scranton Shuttle: today, before the game, the Yankees transferred pitcher Conor Mullee from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL due to his continued carpal tunnel syndrome-like symptoms; they activated infielder Chris Parmelee from the 15-day DL and outrighted him AAA Scranton; reliever Ben Heller was optioned back to AAA Scranton; and the Yankees selected the contracts of Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, who clearly contributed to today’s game.

Had the Yankees been not in a Wild Card race (depending on the outcome of some of tonight’s game, they are looking at only being 3 games out of the Wild Card spot), the commemorative event might have had more significance. And while it was pretty cool to see everyone on the field again, it wasn’t exactly the focus of the day. No, that belongs to the rightly dubbed “Baby Bombers”. It was like a weird preview of Old Timers’ Day or something without getting to watch the old guys jog around the bases again.

I guess because I talk about the current Yankees every day, and have deep conversations about what could be, my focus is what is and what will be. It’s nice to remember what was, but if all you have is what you accomplished in the past, then you’ve lost the joy of the present and the hope for the future. And honestly, that’s what makes remembering worth it — knowing that things can get even better as you find the positive and potential in the what’s right in front of you.

Go Yankees!

{Watch the full pre-game ceremony here. And one of the best interviews today was with Joe Torre with the YES Network booth, featuring former players and YES Network broadcasters David Cone and Paul O’Neill; it was also during this interview that the Austin-Judge power duo debuted.}

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