Just one look into Army's dugout Saturday proved that the Black Knights' exhibition game against the Yankees was anything but a typical baseball game.
Several members of the Bronx Bombers paraded through Army's dugout throughout the afternoon at Doubleday Field in a contest the Yankees won 10-5. Manager Joe Girardi and stars Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte and Ichiro Suzuki were among the Yankees who spent the afternoon asking the Black Knights about life as a cadet at the United States Military Academy.
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"Obviously, you see somebody who is a household name," said Army pitcher Chris Rowley. "You see them on TV and you see them on the field, and then you meet them and they're just great people."
Rowley said the question he was asked the most by his foes was what time he wakes up in the morning. His answer: 4:30 a.m., "on a late day."
"The thing that was obvious for me today was respect," Black Knights coach Joe Sottolano said. "Not only did they come over, but they came over open, interested and as legitimate people. It wasn't a job for them at this point."
Hours before the game, the Yankees toured the West Point campus.
"I thought it was a wonderful experience going around the campus and the different buildings and areas and monuments and getting a chance to meet with the cadets at the mess hall," Girardi said.
"Their life is more different than the normal college student, and I was curious," he added.
The Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning, but Army rallied to close the deficit to 5-4 in the third before the Bombers pulled away later in the game. Brennan Boesch and Melky Mesa homered for the Yankees, who used nine different pitchers.
Despite the loss, the Black Knights said they gained confidence by keeping the score tight for much of the contest.
"One of the big things going into today was we didn't want to embarrass ourselves," said Army catcher Andrew Johnson, who was 1-for-3 at the plate and scored a run. "We still are a ball club who is trying to win a championship. When we came back with that four spot and held them at 5-4 for a while, it was a game going on. It was pretty awesome that we could compete with them."
Army fans came out in full force on a day when temperatures reached the mid-50s. Mike Kwinn, a 1984 West Point graduate who lives in Monroe and teaches at the academy, and his former classmates tailgated for the event like they normally do for football games during the fall.
"When they said the Yankees were coming in town, we decided to break out the tailgate," Kwinn said before the game. "This is awesome, to get to have everyone here. It's going to be an amazing day. And it's a great day, weather-wise. Everything has come together."
Army installed temporary seating to increase Doubleday Field's capacity from 880 to 6,500.
An hour before the first pitch, the larger of the two new bleachers, along the first-base line, was packed with fans watching the Yankees take batting practice -- "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams among them -- and observers were lined along fences all around the stadium hoping to catch a glimpse of big league stars such as Cano and Ichiro.
"This is a modern day 'Mystery Alaska' -- the vaunted Yankees playing a college team in front of 6,500 fans when they usually play in front of 55,000," Peene said.
Some Yankees -- including Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Mariano Rivera -- signed autographs along the first-base fence before the game, with Rivera, who announced he will retire after this season, being swarmed by fans. When the time allotted for autographs ended and Rivera walked away, dozens of fans who had been waiting for the future Hall of Famer to sign their memorabilia let out a collective groan.
The draw of the Yankees was even too much for some people who ordinarily don't follow baseball to pass up.
"I'm not a big baseball fan whatsoever, but I bought my full allotment of tickets, and I'm taking my (4-year-old) son (Cohen) to his first baseball game today," said Maj. Tom Livingston, who is stationed at West Point.
The game marked the 22nd meeting between the Yankees and Army, dating back to 1927. The Bronx Bombers have won all the meetings.
The Yankees open their regular season at home Monday against the Boston Red Sox. Army opens Patriot League play with doubleheaders against Navy Sunday and Monday.