Bronx, N.Y. — On a bright sunny afternoon Yankees legends of the past came out of the shadows to don the pinstripes once more for the 73rd annual Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium.
The rich and immense history of the New York Yankees was glorified as 36 former Yankees players stepped into the batters box and onto the pitching mound in front of Yankees fans, young and old, who were awestruck by the sworn of Yankees royalty that stood before them.
Old Timers’ Day wouldn’t be Old Timers’ Day if it did not include the Latino players who helped shaped the team. Two notable players from different dynasty eras were found roaming the field, all smiles, as they soaked in another Old Timers’ Day.
Héctor López took in the view by the first baseline during batting practice, watching the Yankees players that came after him run across the outfield flagging fly balls, an outfield which he shared with Yankees legends Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
López was the first Panamanian to put on a Yankees uniform and is the second Panamanian to play in Major League Baseball, making his debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1955.
“I didn’t expect it myself but it was a dream come true,” López said on playing in the major leagues. “Playing ball in Panama and I had the chance to come to the states and play baseball and finally to the big leagues, it was a great thing and I always try to take back little stuff that I can share with people in Panama.”
López went onto win two World Series championships with the Yankees in 1961 and 1962.
Making his Old Timers’ debut was another Panamanian and LatinoMVP Award recipient, who is notably considered the best closer in Major League Baseball history, Mariano Rivera. López reflected on the time he encountered the scrawny Panamanian boy who would soon become the only player to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously.
“I coached him a little bit, I think it was in ’93, when he had a bad arm. But he works hard and everything worked out right for him, he’s a nice man and I wish him more luck.”
Luis Sojo could not contain his excitement once stepping into the batting cage. After relinquishing the batting cage once, he sneaked in another session to take more hacks.
“It’s fun. Just to come over here and to spend time with the players, the Old Timers’ and to see guys I haven’t seen in a long time, for me that’s a blessing.”
Sojo’s most memorable career moment in pinstripes came in game five of the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets, when he broke a 2-2 tie with a two-RBI single giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead and their 26th World Series championship.
When asked if he felt any pressure going into the Old Timers’ game he simply grinned and said, “I never feel that.”
The Yankees faced the Houston Astros following the Old Timers’ festivities. Two prominent Venezuelans could be found within both dugouts, 2016 LatinoMVP award winner José Altuve and All-Star Gleyber Torres.
“It makes me proud to see those guys,” Sojo said on watching fellow Venezuelans Torres and Altuve in the big leagues. “Now I see these guys perform in the highest level, in the big leagues, representing the country the way they do. I couldn’t be more pleased. I managed Altuve in Venezuela in 2013 and I knew this kid was going to make it because his confidence level was unbelievable. Gleyber I saw him last year in Spring Training. What they could do on the field is amazing and you just have to be happy with them.”
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