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World Series 2001
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10/24/2001 04:30 PM ET
Series dream comes true for six Yankees
By Mark Feinsand
MLB.com
Alfonso Soriano, with World Series veteran Derek Jeter, is looking forward to his first Fall Classic.

NEW YORK -- When the Yankees take the field for Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday in Arizona, it will have a familiar feel for 19 of New York's 25 players. But for the other six, it will be an experience they will never forget.

"The reason I play this game is to win," said catcher Todd Greene. "These guys are probably tired of hearing me all season, telling them 'Win it again. Don't stop winning now just because I'm here. It's time to keep on winning.' This is very exciting, it's what I've always dreamed about."

Greene joins Mike Mussina, Jay Witasick, Alfonso Soriano, Randy Velarde and Enrique Wilson as the only Yankees to never have played in the Fall Classic, and for him, there is no bigger thrill.

"This is why I signed with the Yankees," Greene said. "I knew that I was healthy, knew I could get the chance to play in the big leagues again, and when the Yankees were interested, I thought that would be my best chance to win."

Playing in the World Series was also Mussina's primary motivation when he signed his long-term deal with the three-time defending champions last November. Now, after a 17-11 season, during which he came within one strike of tossing a perfect game, Mussina is one step away from his ultimate goal.

"I'm ecstatic," Mussina said, sporting his new "AL Champion" cap in the celebratory Yankee clubhouse following Game 5 Monday. "This team deals with adversity and success in relatively the same way. We don't get too excited when we win games and we don't get too low when we lose games. If you can maintain that and forget about what happened, you can go out and play your best baseball the very next day."

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Mussina, who battled the Yankees as a member of the Baltimore Orioles for the first 10 years of his career, said that while the Yankees know they have a tough task ahead of them, the Diamondbacks will have to be at their best to beat the Yankees, who have now won 11 consecutive playoff series.

"I haven't seen it happen in four or five years," said Mussina, when asked what it will take for Arizona to dethrone the champs. "If we play our best game and don't hurt ourselves, the other side will have to play tremendous baseball to beat us."

Witasick, who came to the Yankees in a midseason trade, said that playing on a team with so much World Series experience has made it easier for the young players to keep their emotions in check throughout the 2001 playoff run.

"It's an incredible feeling, especially to share it with the guys in this clubhouse," Witasick said. "A lot of these guys have danced this dance before, but guys like me have never been to this stage. It's a whole new level, and while it's something exciting, there is almost a calm being with these guys. They've shared their past experiences with the younger guys that haven't been there before, and it's something they say we'll never forget."

As exhilarating as the first two rounds have been for the Yankees, Witasick knows that the best is yet to come.

"After going through what we did, being here in this locker room, it's a highlight of my career and something that I'll always remember," Witasick said. "Now I'm hoping for the next stage to be something even better."

Greene said that although the road to the World Series has been a bumpy one for New York, the roadblocks have made the final destination that much more satisfying.

"No one expected us to win, we were supposed to lose to Oakland. The Mariners were supposedly the best team in the league, all-time record of 116 wins, we weren't supposed to beat them either, but we did," Greene said. "This team is Octoberized. We know what it takes to win in October, and I'm glad to be a part of it. I've learned a lot from my teammates, the difference of playing in the regular season and the postseason. It's valuable experience for me, I'm happy to be a part of it."

Mussina, the likely starter for Game 1, said that he will try to approach his World Series debut like any other start, though he realizes that may not be possible.

"It's the World Series," said Mussina. "It's big, it's exciting, but I'm going to try to take it like every other game. Hopefully I can."

When Soriano played in his first playoff game just two weeks ago, he was asked if it was the most exciting game of his career. The rookie, who electrified Yankee Stadium with his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the ALCS, said that making his postseason debut was exciting, but he was looking ahead to bigger and brighter things.

"In New York, playing for the Yankees, all the games have pressure," Soriano said through an interpreter. "There will be more good moments in the future -- like my first game in the World Series."

Soriano won't have to wait much longer for that moment. It comes Saturday.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com.