Sabathias host kids from Boys & Girls Clubs
Event at MLB Fan Cave proves to be a big hit for all involved
NEW YORK -- Bottom of the fourth, Indians at Cardinals, July 27, Interleague Play during the 2006 title season in St. Louis. Albert Pujols led off the inning with a single to left off of CC Sabathia.
And that was the lone hit, unless you count a two-run double in the 2004 All-Star Game at Houston.
There is scant batter vs. pitcher history for the new American League super-matchup to come starting in 2012, but Pujols is 1-for-9 lifetime against Sabathia. It is already worth looking ahead to, because Pujols and his new Angels club are the first visitors to Yankee Stadium come April.
"Them adding Albert and C.J. [Wilson] to an already really good team, it makes it tough to go out on the West Coast and play," Sabathia said Monday night at the MLB Fan Cave, where he was Santa for kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens, but that's a really good team."
Given the likelihood that Sabathia will be the Yankees' Opening Day starter again in 2012, it is already possible to speculate on their showdowns, just for fun. Barring postponements, it's a problem right out of the gates, too. The Yanks open with six games on the road, so presumably Sabathia's second start would be April 11 at Baltimore. Then the Angels visit the Yankees April 13-15.
The next chance Sabathia would have to face Pujols would be the final three days of May in Anaheim. In any case, there is plenty of that classic lefty-righty drama to come in the seasons ahead. Both are in long-term deals, and both are on clubs with supreme 2012 expectations.
The road to the AL pennant for both of them goes through Texas, because the Rangers have won it twice in a row. The Yankees were knocked out by Texas in the 2010 AL Championship Series, and never got a chance for a rematch as Detroit eliminated them in a five-game AL Division Series in October.
For Sabathia, that is a sore subject that he did not just leave behind in the sullen Yankee Stadium clubhouse after Game 5. The Yankees won 97 games in the regular season, most in the AL. Sabathia was 19-8, his sixth consecutive season with at least 17 wins. Was it hard to say goodbye that fast?
"It was for me," he said. "Winning the World Series the first year, losing the ALCS the second year and then being put out in the first round, really made me step back this offseason. You want to win. You want that parade. You want that at the end. It just made me really step back and look at some things that I could do better to help our team win."
On Oct. 31, Sabathia resisted the temptation of free agency again and instead inked a one-year, $25 million contract extension that includes a $5 million buyout. He is under contract through at least 2016, and the Yankees hold a vesting option for the '17 season.
Other than that, the Yanks have been inordinately quiet, as the Angels and Marlins have been the big noisemakers so far this offseason. The Rangers just lost their ace lefty for the second year in a row (Wilson following Cliff Lee). In addition to keeping Sabathia long-term, the Yankees just re-signed veteran Freddy Garcia, to go along with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett.
"I like our rotation," Sabathia said. "I like what we have with our guys. I'm excited for the season. Guys stepped up and made the starts they needed to make. If we can do that again, I think we'll be right back where we were this year."
On Monday night, Sabathia was excited to be at the MLB Fan Cave and a lot of kids were excited to be around him. It was a charity event for his PitCCh In Foundation. "He's like a 13-year-old, just taller," said 13-year-old Daquan Saxon of the Bronx.
Indeed, Sabathia grew up with the help of a Boys & Girls Clubs as a kid in the tough neighborhoods of Vallejo, Calif., and he continues to recall what it meant for Dave Stewart -- then a dominant right-hander with Oakland -- to speak to boys and girls like him at the time. This was the second year in a row that Sabathia and his wife, Amber, along with two of their four children, appeared bearing gifts for children of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club -- this time for the Columbus House.
Last year, the Sabathias gave out two pairs of shoes to each kid. This time, each youth was given an iPod. And the best part about this event was that the Sabathias themselves got a gift in return. The Columbus House members rehearsed long and hard and delivered a dazzling dance routine.
"We're so glad that you guys are here to share this with us, and as a gift from me and CC, you guys are all going to go home today with iPods," Amber said. "We wanted to give you guys something, we wanted to give you something that will last all year. You can use it to play games, take pictures, educational, stuff you can really use. ... I know you guys have a special performance for us, and that's the best gift you can give us, so we thank you for that."
Sabathia really is exceptional at interacting with children at these types of events. He just blends in, gets down low and will talk to a 9-year-old as if he were talking to Joe Girardi in the dugout. There was no need for elaborate Santa garb, either -- assuming anyone could have stitched it together. He just wanted to enjoy sharing this experience with his family.
"Oh, this is great, to be able to come out and be at the Fan Cave. I had the kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs come out and it's going to be a fun night," he said. "It means a lot to us to be able to hang out with the kids and have them be a part of our charity. They love to do it, so it's a lot of fun."
Tamara Williams, 13, was among those who enjoyed the iPod case decorating station behind the Cave Monster bank of TVs. "I never met a famous person before, and he has a really nice family," she said. "I'm going to put some books on my iPod and use it for class-related stuff. I thought it was cool, because he gave something to us and we gave something back."
The MLB Fan Cave is now accepting applications for 2012, and many Major Leaguers like Sabathia are likely to drop in as the format changes to a gradual season-long elimination contest. They will start with a large group of fans who set out to watch every single game of the season, and one winner will remain by the final game of the World Series.