Game 63: NYY vs. LAA — Not quite a good night in the City of Angels

Angels Stadium is often called “Yankee Stadium West” because there is a rather large contingent of Yankee fans in the LA area who come out in droves for Angels-Yankees games every year. And that’s apparent by how much blue and white fill the cherry red seats and that the games are sold out in the middle of the week.

But I’m thinking it felt a little less like a second (or third?) home for the Yankees after this series. Despite the strength the Yankees showed this week, even coming from behind, it seemed to fall short in the end in these last two games. Pretty much faulting the less-than-ideal pitching show from both teams in the last 48 hours.

It’s really no surprise that the Yankees broke through right in the top of the game. Gardner led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Judge’s 1-out single. After Judge stole 2nd (and has just 1 less stolen base than Gardner this year), Matt Holliday’s sacrifice fly scored Gardner to get the Yankees on the board. Castro was then hit by a pitch to set-up a big breakthrough by Gary Sanchez, who hit a great 3-run home run into the left field seats.

Michael Pineda certainly had an off-night tonight. He threw 102 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up 10 hits, a walk, and 5 runs overall, and striking out just 2 Angels batters. After the Yankees gave him a nice lead, Pineda struggled right from the start, giving up 3 singles to load the bases with 1 out. A sacrifice fly got the Angels on the board. It was only a sacrifice fly because of the amazing defensive skills of Aaron Hicks actually reached over the center field wall and caught it, robbing that batter of a grand slam that would’ve quickly tied up the game. But Pineda got out of the inning without further damage.

It didn’t last long. After a lead-off single in the 2nd, a 2-run home run edged the Angels closer to the Yankees’ lead. And in the 3rd, the lead-off single moved to 2nd and then 3rd on 2 ground outs. After a walk, Pineda threw a really messy wild pitch, which easily scored the runner from 3rd (the runner who is not fast at all, a veteran with a persistent injury and better known for some towering home runs) to tie up the game. Another single scored another run and put the Angels in the lead.

The Yankees came back to tie it all up again in the 6th. Sanchez led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. After 1 out, Chase Headley hit a single which scored Sanchez, and then Headley got caught in a rundown between 1st and 2nd. The game was tied again, but it was only the 6th inning.

Pineda was able to fend off the Angels for the second half of his outing, but he handed over the game to recent call-up (see below) Ronald Herrera. Despite getting ahead in the 7th with 2 quick outs, Herrera gave up a walk and then a big 2-run home run to give the Angels back the lead. Herrera had trouble getting that 3rd out of the inning. The next batter was hit by a pitch and then stole 2nd, ending up at 3rd due to a throwing error (Sanchez having a bad defense day, but a great offense day). But then Herrera got the strikeout he needed to stop the Angels’ advance.

Like I said, neither pitching staff was really at their best tonight. The Angels’ starter only made it into the 4th inning due to a potential injury, and both teams gave up 26 collective hits and got just 9 total strikeouts.

Final score: 7-5 Angels, Angels win series 2-1

Injury news: after last night’s unexpected injury and exit, CC Sabathia was tested and examined for what caused the tightening of his hamstring. An MRI revealed a grade 2 hamstring strain, which makes a stint on the disabled list unavoidable. As of yet, the Yankees haven’t set a timetable or announced a rotation replacement (for Sunday’s start) or a corresponding roster move.

Roster moves: The Yankees have been busy moving people around. Chapman is working with the Tampa Yankees on his rehab assignment. After designating Tommy Layne for assignment, they ended up outrighting him to AAA Scranton (like I said, they still want him around). Before the game today, they optioned Ben Heller to AAA Scranton, recalling tonight’s newest addition to the bullpen Ronald Herrera from AA Trenton. And in completion of a trade made earlier (Johnny Barbato) with the Pirates, the Yankees picked up pitching prospect Matt Frawley.

And the final day of the MLB Draft was earlier today, and the Yankees filled out their draft choices with 19 pitchers, 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers.

Pitchers: Shawn Semple, Harold Cortijo, Aaron McGarity, Garrett Whitlock, Ron Marinaccio, Bryan Blanton, Janson Junk, Colby Davis, Riley Thompson, Austin Crowson (L), Alex Mauricio, Shane Roberts, Tristan Beck, Jacob Stevens, Jordan Butler (L), Andrew Abbott (L), Tanner Burns, Brent Burgess, and Andrew Nardi (L)
Outfielders: Steven Sensley, Pat DeMarco, Jake Mangum, and Jimmy Herron
Infielders: Eric Wagaman (1B), Ricky Surum (SS), Chris Hess (2B), Alika Williams (SS), and Hayden Cantrelle (SS)
Catchers: Ryan Lidge and Steven Williams

Overall in the draft, the Yankees clearly sent a message as they sought 28 total pitchers, 5 outfielders, 5 infielders, and 2 catchers. In thinking back to these last few seasons, the biggest weakness is the pitching and the Yankees are clearly setting themselves up for a future of stronger pitching options. And prospective pitchers made good trade bait if the Yankees need to fill an offensive hole along the way. It was a good move for the organization.

Go Yankees!

Game 62: NYY vs. LAA — Angelic walk-off sours West Coast hopes

West Coast Week is hard on all of us East Coasters. But an extra innings night game, over 4 hours of play, and one with an unfavorable outcome, is rather less than thrilling. Add in a potential loss of a starter who’s been on a great run, due to an injury, and it’s basically not going to be a good night.

CC Sabathia was looking for his 5th straight win tonight, but fell a bit short. And not by his own fault. Actually, overall once again, he had a pretty good outing. In his 4 strong innings, he only gave up 3 hits, a walk, and an unearned run, striking out 4 Angels batters. But coming up off a pitch in the 4th and grabbing his leg was definitely not a good sign. (More after the recap)

In the 4th, with 2 outs, a batter reached on a missed catch error at 1st, ending up at 2nd on the play. He then scored on an RBI single, though due to the error, it was unearned for Sabathia, keeping his ERA in pretty good shape. The runner got caught stealing (“you don’t run on Gary!”) to end the inning for Sabathia, a good thing as he was clearly injured at that point.

After Sabathia left, the Yankees bullpen got quite the workout. Giovanni Gallegos got the first 2 innings (5th & 6th) and fairly sailed through them, as did Warren in the 7th. But Tyler Clippard gave up a lead-off solo home run in the 8th to tie up the game at that point.

To get to that point, the Yankee actually relied almost solely on one player for their scoring tonight — the unlikely hero of Chase Headley. In the 5th, Headley hit a 1-out ground-rule double and then hustled home to score on Brett Gardner’s single. And then in the 7th, Headley hit a 1-out solo home run up the middle.

When the starter came out of the game that inning with 2 men on base and 2 outs, the Yankees once again left them stranded (a common theme in this game, actually). And while they certainly had opportunities to do something (read: that common theme), the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them.

With the game now tied, Yankees reliever Holder started the bottom of the 9th inning, but struggled his way through 2 hits and 2 outs before the Yankees opted for Chasen Shreve who got out of the jam and then pitched his way into and out of another jam the 10th.

As they hit the 4-hour mark, the game turned into 11 innings. The Yankees weren’t adding to the score, and the Angels saw their only opening in the bottom of the 11th when Shreve gave up a lead-off walk. After an out, Shreve was responsible for that lone runner at 1st as Heller came on to close out the inning. That runner moved to 2nd on a ground out, watched as another baserunner joined him on a walk, and then promptly scored on a bloop single to score a walk-off win.

Final score: 3-2, in 11 innings, Angels

Injury news: Sabathia felt his leg “grab” on his 2nd to last pitch, and then said when he could push off (a necessary move for a pitcher, as you can imagine) for that final pitch, he knew something was terribly wrong. They will send him for testing, mainly an MRI, to get a timetable of recovery before deciding on a DL stint (and his replacement on the rotation), but with a hamstring injury, there’s always going to be a DL stint.

Aroldis Chapman was to begin his rehab with the Advanced-A Tampa Yankees (against the Bradenton Pirates affiliate) tonight, but severe weather forced a postponement. They are scheduled to play in Bradenton tomorrow night and the weather is looking much better. Chapman is nearing his return, still shooting for the end of the Oakland series, but I guess that depends on whether weather will cooperate with his rehab starts at this point.

Today was also the second day of the MLB Draft. The Yankees continued picking up pitchers (mostly right-handers), and mostly juniors and seniors in college.
Pitchers: Trevor Stephan, Arkansas junior, (round 3, 92nd overall); Glenn Otto, Rice junior (round 5, 152nd); (the lefty) Dalton Lehnen, Augustana College junior (round 6, 182nd); Dalton Higgins, Dallas Baptist junior (round 7, 212nd); Kyle Zurak, Radford University senior (round 8, 242nd); Austin Gardner, University of Texas Arlington (round 9, 272nd); and Chad Whitmer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior (round 10, 302nd). And an outfielder: Canaan Smith, Rockwall-Heath High School (round 4, 122nd overall).

One more day and 30 more picks. Basically, this is an offer by the Yankees to these young players. They can accept the offer for a chance to play ball with the Yankees organization and enter the realm of professional sports, or they can decline the offer and continue their studies or pursue a different avenue. Some will decline to hone their skills and try again next year for the draft, especially the younger players. I’ve heard stories of high school kids getting drafted (even at early rounds) but declining because they made a deal with their parents to get through at least 2 years of college first. They may come back at get drafted again or even attempt a tryout at an open call.

There is no typical draft story. One example is current Yankees rep at the draft Andy Pettitte. Technically, he was selected in the 22nd round for the 1990 draft right out of high school. But he chose to enroll in a local junior college and came to an agreement with the Yankees of what’s called a “draft-and-follow prospect”. He eventually signed with the Yankees a year later. But he and his wife later made their sons promise to go to college, despite being very good athletes (and still drafted) themselves. It certainly depends on the player, their circumstances, and their life choices.

Go Yankees!

Game 61: NYY vs. LAA — Back to #TanakaTime helps make it 6 in a row

An extra day’s rest seemed to be exactly what tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka needed to get back into form. Not that it was the greatest outing, but it was certainly more “Tanaka-esque” compared to his more recent outings. Not quite back to the Tanaka who dominated Spring Training, but more on par with a regular season kind of Tanaka.

In this first game of the series in Anaheim against the Angels, Tanaka threw 89 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs (though only 1 was earned), and struck out an impressive 8 batters. Actually, he was quite dominant tonight. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning but then held the Angels off for most of his outing. In his final inning, the 7th, with 1 out, a batter reached on a fielding error, stole 2nd, and then scored on an RBI single.

The Yankees then handed the ball off to Tyler Clippard to finish the 7th inning. Clippard gave up an RBI double that technically blew Tanaka’s win, but then buckled down and got that 3rd out and then the first 2 of the 8th inning. Dellin Betances came out for a 4-out save, breezing through them in just 18 pitches, including 3 strong strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had to catch up to the Angels early small lead, get out in front, and then overtake them again to win this game. The Yankees hit into the Angels’ starter pretty hard, pushing him to 93 pitches and exiting the game in just the 5th inning.

First, in the 3rd, with 2 outs, Holliday and Castro each worked a walk, and Didi Gregorius’ single scored Holliday to initially tie up the game. Then in the 5th, Judge worked a 1-out walk, and Castro hit a 2-out single. Gregorius’ single then scored Judge to break the tie.

Deep into the bullpen already, the Angels sent in a new reliever for the 7th inning. Judge led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, watched the reliever intentionally walk Gregorius with 2 outs, and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. Despite a walk to Carter loading the bases, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize at that moment to gain any further ground.

After the Angels tied up the game in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees immediately came back in the 8th to retake the lead. Aaron Hicks hit a nice 1-out double and waited for another pitching change. And then Aaron Judge promptly hit his 22nd home run of the season, a 2-run shot to the right field seats to give the Yankees the ultimate win, setting Betances up for the save.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

It’s worth noting that Didi Gregorius was on fire tonight, going 4-for-4, with a walk and 2 RBIs. He’s now batting .344 for the season. He’s still 2nd on the team for batting average (Judge, of course, is 1st with .347), but it’s worth noting of the 9 players who started tonight’s game 4 have batting averages above .300 (Judge, Gregorius, Castro, and Hicks), while of the regular roster, there’s 9 players who have averages above .260 (the four above plus Ellsbury, Torreyes, Holliday, Sanchez, and Gardner).

And today was the first day of the MLB Draft: the Yankees first pick (and 16th overall) was right-handed pitcher Clark Schmidt, a junior at the University of South Carolina (and former fellow classmate and teammate of current starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery). Schmidt is actually still on recovery from Tommy John surgery this April. So despite being a first-round draft pick, he won’t be able to resume baseball activities for another year, meaning he will probably still finish his education while he recovers.

For the Yankees other pick of the day, the second round and 54th pick overall, they selected Matt Sauer, another right-handed pitcher, who graduates from a California high school this year. Oddly, because of Schmidt’s current status on the unofficially disabled list, Sauer was actually rated much higher on the Draft prospect list than Schmidt. But the funniest thing about the draft is that you just never know who’s going to be the next hall-of-famer and who might have more success as a high school baseball coach.

There’s two more days and 38 more rounds of the draft tomorrow and Wednesday, and you never know who might they might pick up  along the way.

Go Yankees!

Game 60: BAL vs. NYY — Judge-ment Day

The Yankees went into this afternoon’s game looking to end this homestand on an upwards swing before heading for their first West Coast trip of the season. And they certainly succeeded.

Chad Green was called up yesterday for the start in today’s finale against the Orioles, but he had a mixed bag. It started off pretty well, but he ended on a bit of a sour note. He threw 53 pitches into the 3rd inning, giving up 2 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, striking out just 3 batters. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter doubled and then scored on the next batter’s double. That would be it for Chasen Shreve, but he too struggled to find the footing (and that runner was Green’s responsibility.

Shreve promptly gave up a double that scored Green’s remaining runner, and then he gave up yet another double (the 4th consecutive one of the inning) to score Shreve’s first runner before getting those pesky 3 outs of the inning. Jonathan Holder was able to hold off the Orioles from adding to their score for the 4th and into the 5th inning, something Adam Warren picked up in the 5th and ran with into the 7th inning.

Recent call-up Domingo German came on for a long-term close finishing up the final third of the game, sailing through right up until that final inning. He just had to make a dramatic flourish right there in the end. But he was also able to hold off the Orioles.

Meanwhile, while the bullpen got quite the workout, the Yankees offense did what they love to do — hit big and hit a lot. In the 1st, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 singles, a walk, and an out. Starlin Castro’s single scored Gardner and Judge to kick things off for the Yankees’ runs today. Of course, Gary Sanchez promptly opened things wide open with a big 3-run home run.

Despite that big 1st inning, the O’s starter was able to tamp down on the Yankees’ offense. That is until the 4th inning. With 1 out, Hicks walked and ended up at 3rd on Judge’s double. They both scored on Matt Holliday’s single. And that would be it for the Orioles’ starter, who didn’t make it out of that 4th inning.

And the true weakness of the Orioles was certainly exposed this weekend, as the bullpen continued to get hammered by the Yankees’ offense. In the 6th, Aaron Judge hit the biggest home run of the season, 495 feet over the left field bleachers (into the wheelchair row behind the bleachers on the concourse out there). After Holliday reached on a fielding error, Starlin Castro got in on the fun and hit a nice 2-run home run.

In the 7th, with 1 out, Torreyes and Gardner both walked and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. Then Judge hit a 2-run home run into the right field seats, his 2nd of the game and 21st of the season to cap off the game.

Final score: 14-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Orioles 3-0

After Judge’s first home run in the 6th, it was basically all anyone could talk about. Judge had a really perfect day actually, going 4-for-4, with 4 runs scored, hitting in 3 RBIs. And of course, there were those 2 home runs. That 495 foot homer is the longest hit home run this season, and tied for 2nd longest in the “Statcast Era”, just 6 feet short of the longest homer hit by a certain Miami slugger.

But overall, not a bad way to hop a plane to California… on a 5-game big winning streak.

It’s that time of year again. The MLB draft begins tomorrow and will run through Wednesday. The Yankees have one draft pick per round this year — #16, #54, & #92. Then for rounds 4-40, they pick 17th in each round until the end. In addition to following the games against the Angels, I’ll be posting draft updates for the Yankees.

Recent Yankee draft picks have certainly found their way around the league, some still with the Yankees, others traded to other teams’ farm systems. But just because they’re not picked in the 1st round doesn’t mean they won’t do something amazing or make it in the majors. Gardner was selected in the 2005 3rd round, Refsnyder in the 2012 5th round, and Betances in the 2006 8th round. In fact, though Judge was selected in the 1st round, he was the 32nd pick. That’s right, 31 other players were selected in 2013 before the Yankees went with the current home run king and All-Star leader. (Though he wasn’t even the Yankees first pick!)

Go Yankees!

Game 62: DET vs. NYY — Breaking the streak

Truth be told, the Yankees just didn’t play very well tonight. The pitchers weren’t really on their best outings, and the Yankees bats just didn’t spark alive against the Tigers’ pitchers. Of course, it didn’t help that the Tigers’ starter is back into the form that made him a fierce name around the league. Timing is a funny issue sometimes.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight, and like I said above, he just wasn’t at his strongest tonight, despite being rather efficient with his pitches. Tanaka threw 92 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 5 runs, striking out 4 Detroit batters. A lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning got things started for the Tigers.

In the 5th, a lead-off single stole 2nd base, moved to 3rd on a 1-out single, and then collectively scored on a big 3-run home run into the left field seats. And with that, the Tigers were nicely in the lead. And in the 7th, with 1 out, Tanaka gave up a single and then called it a night. Kirby Yates came in to finish off the inning, but a single and 2-RBI double later, the Tigers went from a nice lead to a strong lead. Yates did finish off the inning with a couple of ground outs, a couple of runs too late.

Nick Goody had a decent outing in the 8th with 3 great strikeouts, and Richard Bleier continues to be a good call-up with his quick 12-pitch scoreless 9th.

But the Yankees just weren’t able to make up the difference despite the decent last couple of innings from their pitchers. They had their biggest shot in the 3rd inning tonight. With 1 out, Chase Headley hit an amazing triple off the left field wall (just inches from the foul pole). Due to a minor rule that could’ve made that hit a home run, the umpires called for a review just in case the ball hit the cement or foul pole. MLB HQ upheld the original call as a triple as the ball hit the padding, making it a hit or a triple in this case. But no worries, Headley did cross the plate on Rob Refsnyder’s single for the Yankees’ lone run of the game.

Final score: 6-1 Tigers. (Winning streak broken, back to .500 on the standings.)

Draft update: Over the last three days, the Yankees selected 40 young athletes with the potential to become the next great pinstriped hero. Just 1st round draftees that have made their own MLB impact (and not always with the Yankees) include Aaron Judge (2013), Cito Culver (2010), Slade Heathcott (2009), Gerrit Cole (2008), Ian Kennedy (2006), Phil Hughes (2004), Derek Jeter (1992), and Thurman Munson (1968).

This year, represented by Yankee legend in his own right Andy Pettitte, the Yankees selected a young high school outfielder named Blake Rutherford for their 1st round draft pick. He was followed by Nick Solak, Nolan Martine, Nick Nelson, Dom Thompson-Williams, Brooks Kriske, KeithSkinner, Dalton Blaser, Tim Lynch, Trevor Lane, Connor Jones, Taylor Widener, Brian Trieglaff, Jordan Scott, Tony Hernandez, Zach Linginfelter, Mandy Alvarez, Greg Weissert, Evan Alexander, Miles Chambers, Timothy Robinson, Blair Henley, Braden Bristo, Joe Burton, Edel Luaces, Gage Burland, Phillip Diehl, William Jones, Bo Weiss, Ben Ruta, Miles Sandum, Juan Cabrera, Bryson Bowman, D.C. Clawson, Zack Hess, Tyler Honahan, Corey Dempster, Sam Ferri, Brian Keller, and Nate Brown.

Some notable details: that’s 3 catchers, 4 infielders, 10 outfielders, and 23 pitchers (17 righties, 6 lefties). While they selected just 13 high school seniors, the majority were junior or seniors in college — a sophomore, 12 juniors, 13 seniors, and one college-aged player with no college. So, it looks like they’re aiming for older, more established players, heavy on the pitchers. And based on the current roster and what I’ve seen from some of their farm system, that makes sense in their thinking.

But then, who knows? Pettitte was a 21st round draft pick and became one of the Yankee greats, his number retired in Monument Park, beloved by so many now nostalgic Yankee fans. That’s where the unpredictability of life and of baseball intersect. You just never know when the next “great one” will pop up and change the whole game.

Congrats to all those drafted! I hope you make the right decisions for you and your family and end up doing exactly what you were created to do. Especially if that’s to play for the Yankees one day…

Go Yankees!

Game 60: LAA vs. NYY — Sweeping the Angels & the Draft

Okay, so the MLB Draft is underway in New York for the next few days as the Yankees look to expand their future pinstripes from the pool of thousands of high school and college hopefuls. As of this post, they picked up their first round draft pick tonight (18th overall) and have a second draft pick (62nd overall) before tonight is over. Representing the Yankees is 1990’s 22nd round draft pick Andy Pettitte. He will continue this role through the next 2 days as the Yankees fill out their draft selections for 40 full rounds.

(I’ll post the final results as part of Saturday’s post when the draft is completed. You can follow the draft online or watch it live all weekend on MLB Network.)

In the meantime, the Yankees are back at .500 with tonight’s sweep of the Angels. Yes, the Yankees are on a bit of a hot streak. Not that anyone is complaining (except perhaps the Angels and their fans).

Ivan Nova started tonight’s game for the Yankees, back in proper form and dominating for most of the game — just 76 pitches in just over 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out 5 batters. The Angels got on the board first in the 4th when their lead-off double scored on a 1-out single. Then a double and 1-out 2-run home run in the 7th ended Nova’s night a bit earlier than anticipated. But better safe than sorry.

So the Yankees opened the bullpen to the Warriors Three (no, I won’t concede to name from the take off the popular 90’s hip-hop/rap group). Betances easily sailed through the rest of the 7th, Miller the 8th, and Chapman the 9th for the save.

It was actually some pretty strong pitching throughout the game from all 4 pitchers, including 9 total strikeouts. While the Angels’ staff didn’t fare so well, much to the favor of Yankee Universe as it turns out.

The Yankees hit their peak in the 5th inning. Gregorius led-off the inning by working a walk, moving to 2nd on a ground out, and then scoring on Chris Parmelee’s single. Then they loaded the bases with Ellsbury’s single and Gardner’s walk. Carlos Beltran’s ground-rule double scored Parmelee and Ellsbury, only to be followed-up by Alex Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly to score Gardner and Brian McCann’s double to score Beltran.

Gardner tagged one on in the 7th with a lead-off single, moving to 2nd on a balk, then to 3rd on a wild pitch, before scoring on Rodriguez’s double. The Yankees looked like they might do something more in the 8th, even loading the bases again, but a simple ground out dashed those extra runs. Not that they needed them tonight.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees, Yankees sweep Angels 4-0

Next up: the Tigers come to visit for a weekend series in the Bronx. The MLB Draft continues through Saturday. And Old Timers’ Day is Sunday. So we have a very busy weekend ahead.

Injury update: if I was superstitious, I’d believe that 1st base was cursed. During tonight’s game, current 1st baseman Chris Parmelee went down with a hamstring injury (trying to do the splits actually) and was pulled from tonight’s game in the 7th inning. He is scheduled for an MRI and to meet with the team doctor, but there’s already talk of a stint on the DL. Yeah, just as he’s starting to find a nice home over at 1st and in the batter’s box. So, we’re onto Refsnyder at 1st apparently. Fingers crossed for Teixeira’s speedy return to make the world right again.

HOPE Week Day 4: a few years ago, Alvin Irby of Harlem, a former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, was visiting his local barbershop and saw a few kids hanging around bored and was suddenly inspired. These kids could be using this down time to learn to enjoy reading. Thus, Irby founded Barbershop Books, an organization that provides access to books that would specifically connect with children of color.

Irby is now partnered with 10 Harlem barbershops and one in Brooklyn and caters specifically to young children ages 4-8. One of those is Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop in Harlem where Irby and a great group of kids met Dellin Betances, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and Ronald Torreyes and a special guest hip-hop artist, reading some great books to their captive audience and then enjoying lunch hosted by their Yankee guests.

With the $10,000 donation from the Yankees, Irby intends to expand Barbershop Books throughout the City. The children were guests of the Yankees at tonight’s ball game, and Irby, of course, got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Go Yankees!

Game 65: NYY vs. OAK — Looking at the future

Tonight’s first pitch was thrown out by a robotic device, operated by a kid in Kansas City but the ball crossed the plate in Oakland. There has been a lot of talk about adding more technology to the game, so I guess this is a nod to what can be done today and a hope for innovations in the near future. The kid is currently undergoing treatment at a Kansas City children’s hospital for a rare blood disorder. (The ESPN story is here.)

The Yankees could have used a more consistent robotic pitching mechanism as starting pitcher Phil Hughes wasn’t really on his game tonight. His 95 pitches took him only through 4.1 innings, allowing 4 hits and a season high 5 walks. He also allowed 3 runs, one of which was a 2-run home run (by the same player who would later get a solo homer off Joba Chamberlain in the 8th inning). After allowing an RBI double in the 5th, Hughes was replaced by rookie Shawn Kelley who kept the A’s scoreless for his 1.2 innings. Logan pitched his .1 inning in the 7th before being replaced by Chamberlain who went 1.1 innings, allowing that solo homer and an RBI single. He was promptly replaced by rookie Claiborne who walked his first batter and then got the last out. The Hughes-Chamberlain combination tallied 5 runs for the Athletics, something the Yankees offense couldn’t overcome.

The A’s starting pitcher had better luck fending off the Yankees. In the 6th inning, Mark Teixeira knocked Brett Gardner in for a sacrifice fly to put the Yankees on the board. And in the 7th inning, Jayson Nix singled in Youkilis for their 2 total runs that the Yankees would score all evening.

But it was the Yankee defense that kept Oakland from running up the tally on the scoreboard, with two very good sliding catches by Ichiro Suzuki in the 5th and in the 6th, both off the same batter. Ichiro will probably enter Cooperstown as a Mariner, having spent 11 seasons there, but I think most Yankee fans will follow that old mantra of “once a Yankee…”. And to me, Ichiro will always be a Yankee.

In other “future” news, the Yankees signed contracts with 13 of their draft picks, including their first pick Eric Jagielo, whose stellar performance at Notre Dame earned him the 26th overall selection and $1,839,400 in signing bonuses. Other “new Yankees” include Tyler Wade, David Palladino, John Murphy, Philip Walby, Cale Coshow, Caleb Smith, Jordan Barnes, Derek Toadvine, Sam Agnew-Wieland, Trent Garrison, Kevin Cornelius, and Hector Crespo. (More on Jagielo and today’s signings here.)

And I guess that’s what these games force fans to do — look toward the future. You can’t change the past; and you have to power to affect things today for what is to come in the future. So we never know how a draft pick will turn out or even if they will ever make it to the majors or if they will be worth the investment. But that’s what’s fun about following the draft. You never know when we find the next Thurman Munson, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, or Josh Hamilton (all first round draft picks). And at this point, who knows who will become a household name and who will become “that guy who used to play baseball”. Best of luck to all the draftees, whether they signed or passed (usually to go to college, like Josh Pettitte chose to do), or at least passed for now. The future is yours for the taking and the making; so (like Doc Brown says in a movie before most of you were born) “make it a good one!”

Go Yankees!