One Room, One Yankee Game: How Baseball Led To Bonding On School Trip

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One Room, One Yankee Game: How Baseball Led To Bonding On School Trip
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This article was originally published in the November issue of my school's newspaper. It discusses how a Yankee game led to bonding on the Shabbaton, our school-wide overnight trip.

Top of the ninth. Bases loaded. Three balls. Two Strikes. Two outs. Down one run.

All 10 of us huddled around the television as Nick Swisher found himself in the situation every ten year old boy aspires to reach. One more ball would tie the game; a single to the outfield would put the Yankees ahead and would leave the responsibility of the final three defensive outs to baseball’s best closer, Mariano Rivera.

Until the ensuing pitch, the stars in Yankee Universe appeared to be aligned for victory and we seemed destined for a night of endless celebration.

After starting pitcher A.J. Burnett surrendered four early runs, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning. Angel manager Mike Scioscia chose reliever Darren Oliver to face Mark Teixeira, the Yankees’ star first baseman, but his decision proved ineffective.

Tex, as many fans call Teixeira, sent Oliver’s first pitch deep into left-center field. The ball bounced off the wall, three runs scored, Tex stood at second base, and the party started.

A room full of boisterous, passionate teenagers, who were disheartened only five minutes prior, shook with the excitement of returning to the World Series.

After Oliver intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui looped a pitch into shallow center field. Tex toed home plate, we erupted in cheer once again, and before we could all resurface from our dog pile, three loud bangs rapped on our door. The door opened and at least five more Yankee fans from our grade rushed in like wild dogs to join the celebration.

We jumped on beds; we hugged each other; we high-fived each other, and we shouted with joy. The scent of the World Series was becoming stronger.

Shortly thereafter, the pack of wild dogs returned to their room, but four pitches and one two-run triple later, they were back, banging on the door and pouring in to celebrate the Yankees’ new-found lead. More jumping, more high-fives, more shouts, and another dog-pile ensued.

Much to our dismay, the party fleeted away almost as quickly as a CC Sabathia fastball reaches home plate.

Up by two entering the next half inning, Yankee manager Joe Girardi kept Burnett in the game. Each of us was left in utter disbelief—Burnett had been erratic all night. Why didn’t Girardi bring in a member of the best bullpen in the playoffs?

Nine pitches later, two Angels were on base and Girardi finally brought in Phil Hughes, a young power pitcher. Unfortunately, Hughes didn’t throw like the Hughes of 2009, and the Angels regained a one run lead.

Imagine a room of students who have just been told by an intractable teacher that a ten page essay would be due the following day. Livid, stunned, possibly contentious, but aware that complaining would be of no use.

That was us. Just replace the students with die-hard Yankee fans and the teacher with a wicked Baseball God who just delivered a damaging blow.

Although it felt like our hearts, which had been beating one thousand times per minute with excitement half an inning earlier, had been ripped out and thrown on the floor, we still had hope. The Yankees’ offense had a reputation for being potent, especially against Brian Fuentes, the Angels’ closer.

Our collective frustration deepened as the Yankees went down in order in the top of the eighth and Joba Chamberlain nearly let the Angels blow the game open in the bottom half. Regardless, the Yankees trailed by one entering the ninth.

Now, back to Swisher and the situation every ten year old boy dreams of experiencing.

Top of the ninth. Bases loaded. Three balls. Two Strikes. Two outs. Down one run.

“Come on, Swish,” anxiously murmured one of us as Swisher asked for time and stepped out of the batter’s box.

Swisher, who was having an abysmal series offensively, was already hitless in four at-bats. We all thought he was due for a hit. Slumps never last forever, right?

“Please, Nick.” Another restless prayer.

Fuentes stepped towards home, cocked his arm, and delivered the pitch. Swisher offered at it and sent the ball high into the illuminated California night. As Jake Taylor said in the comedy film Major League , “Uh-oh, I don’t think this one’s gonna have the distance,” the ball plopped into Erick Aybar’s glove in shallow center field and the Yankees lost.

Expletives were grumbled, someone collapsed out of disappointment on the floor, and everyone eventually fell silent in a state of disbelief.

Our Yankees had lost Game Five of the American League Championship Series. With two games left in the series, the American League World Series berth was anyone’s to capture. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that our confidence level was as low as that of a freshman speaking in front of his entire high school, but you get the point.

Inevitably, our disappointment lasted the rest of the night and inhibited us from enjoying the Shabbaton to the fullest extent. But, by Friday morning, we were recuperated and were able to view the experience in a positive light despite the loss.

“It was incredible to be with so many people who I knew cared as much as I did,” commented a senior in attendance, “It was the closest I have ever felt to being in the stadium without being there.”

The goal of the Shabbaton was to strengthen bonds among friends and to form relationships between grades. Naturally, you would expect the connections to build outside—on a field, during an activity, etc. You probably would never guess that my most powerful moment on the Shabbaton occurred in an overcrowded room while watching a Yankee game.

Even though the connection was developed in an unconventional manner, my school managed to achieve its Shabbaton goal for me and likely everyone else in the room. The guys I watched with have been my friends for years now, but, as lame as it may sound, that game deepened my relationships with them.

Obviously, a win would have been nice. But, regardless of the outcome, it was a valuable experience that will be remembered for a long time.

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