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Yankees Get Set For Opening Day
Twenty-seven matching white flags with navy numbers forming the years of each title fluttered from the poles atop new Yankee Stadium under a near cloudless sky, with "2009" hanging from the last stick above left field.
Fresh red-white-and-blue logos were painted in foul territory in front of each dugout, and bunting was draped around the ballpark in three rings from the main level, the luxury suites and the top deck.
A handful of players took batting practice in the huge indoor cage, while others went for treatment in the spacious medical facility behind the double swimming pools.
Everywhere, there was a sense of anticipation: On Tuesday, the Yankees do what they do best — hand out World Series rings.
"It's sweet! There's no doubt about it. Obviously, it's been a few years," Andy Pettitte said Monday.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Pettitte will become New York's equivalent of Olympians — five rings each. Yogi Berra, always the ring leader with 10 of his own, will hand out the newest addition to the crown jewels with the help of Whitey Ford, owner of a modest — for the Yankees — six.
Pettitte won all three postseason clinchers — and the core four became the first players to win five titles with one team since Berra, Mickey Mantle (seven) and Ford (six) in 1962, according to STATS LLC.
The white gold rings, with the famous interlocking "NY" and a theme of "unity," will be distributed during a ceremony prior to the home opener against the Los Angeles Angels, the team the Yankees defeated in the AL championship series. New York then went on to beat defending champion Philadelphia in only the second World Series that spilled into November.
While the four vets each will be filling out a five of a kind more glittery than any in Las Vegas, Alex Rodriguez will be fitting his first finger for a ring, the culmination of a notorious but previously unfulfilled big league career that began with Seattle in 1994.
"I think he'll have that feeling that he's walking on air," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm really going to enjoy that smile on his face."
Joba Chamberlain planned to give his ring to his father. Pettitte at first kept his in a safe, then his wife displayed them in the study.
They're not for everyday use.
"It's kind of corny. Who wears a World Series ring?" said CC Sabathia, who was trying to persuade his wife to allow their 6-year-old son to skip school to attend the ceremony.
Hideki Matsui, whose six RBIs finished the Phillies in Game 6, will be on hand at the second-year stadium — with the Angels, the team he signed with after the Yankees decided he was too old and too injury prone. Girardi said Matsui will look "funny to us in red."
"I think people will go crazy," Sabathia said. "He was a big part of our team, the reason why we won last year."
As the title returns to the Bronx for the first time since the flag was raised after the 2000 World Series championship, much is different. Across 161st Street, where old Yankee Stadium stood shrouded in dark screen last fall that resembled a funeral cloak, the old field of dreams mostly has been reduced to rubble. Only the right-field stands remain erect and awaiting demolition, overlooking the land where the first 26 titles were celebrated going back to 1923.
Players noticed when they arrived from Florida on Sunday night.
"The guys were like, 'Well, the stadium's gone,'" Pettitte said. "It's gone, and it's not going back up. It was sad when you see that ballpark still sitting over there last year when we took the field here, but you just remember all the great memories we had there and you hoped to start building some memories, and we have already done that."
Girardi said he was shocked. Now he wonders if the new ballpark will still be the launching pad that produced a major league-leading 237 home runs, 22 more than the most hit at the old stadium.
"I thought I knew what to expect until I looked next door and saw there wasn't much of stadium there," he said. "And now I don't know what to expect. I don't know if that's going to change anything. I guess we'll find out soon enough."
NOTES: Because Pettitte is slated to start against Ervin Santana, Pettitte wondered whether he'd be able to participate in the ring ceremony of whether it would conflict with his pregame bullpen. ... Girardi's car shut down during the opening trip — because of an error by the manager. "That that didn't work out so well, regular unleaded in diesel," he said.