Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My surreal Paul O'Neill moment

On Saturday, I covered the Yankees for the newspaper, which was kind of funny, since I hadn't even been to Yankee Stadium in 10 years. As surreal as it was to make my return to the Bronx as a member of the working press, it was more surreal to find myself in a clubhouse with Jeter, A-Rod, Mariano, and Bernie. Down the hall and to the right, Joe Torre's office, decorated with photos of his finest baseball memories, included a framed shot of he and Don Zimmer celebrating with their arms around each other. It was a Yankee fan's mecca and and a baseball fan's heaven rolled into one. And even as surreal as all that was, my most striking out-of-body experience came at a most unexpected time.

During the third inning, I slinked off the men's room and soon found myself standing next to the Yankee legend known as Paul O'Neill. Paul was working with the YES Network, hence his skyscraping presence in the media restroom.

My first thought was, "Good lord, he's a tall man!" I think my next thought was "I guess even legends have to answer the call of nature." Then I thought about how funny it was that I was standing next to one of the most popular Yankees of all-time, one of the most emotional players in recent memory, and now here he was, calm as could be, standing next to me -- a young reporter he's never heard of -- in the media restroom. We were peers. I mean, what's more unremarkable than standing next someone in a men's room at a baseball game? (Don't answer that).

I wondered if it felt as surreal for him to be a part of the media as it did for me to be standing amongst the stars in the clubhouse. In the media workroom, O'Neill almost could have been 'one of the guys,' except for the fact that he was the only one over 6 feet tall, the only one wearing a size 68 suit (that's a rough estimate), and the only one who the players smiled at when he walked in the clubhouse.

My mind wandered, and just that quickly, he was gone. He brushed past me and sprinted back to the broadcast booth. The fourth inning had begun. He had to get back on the air. And I had to get back to my laptop. And that's what it's like to cover the Yankees.


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