I'll be posting more later today from the Futures Game, but we must take a moment to pay tribute to the great Bob Sheppard, who passed away this morning at age 99.

Does any other sports venue have a voice attached to it like Yankee Stadium does Sheppard's? Not that I can think of. So stately, professorial, authoritative. Players spoke of what it was like to have Sheppard introduce them. Of the sheer honor of it. The sense of accomplishment, on the player's part - confirmation that he had made the big time.

I knew Bob a little bit, certainly not as well as my Newsday colleagues Mark Herrmann (who did a great job writing the obituary) or Neil Best. Just a quick hello here and there, and I conducted one lengthy interview with him 10 years ago, for a story commemorating his 50th year on the job. He sounded no different in everyday conversation than he did when he was introducing Derek Jeter at the plate.

What we all admired, especially as he got up there in years, was Bob's ability to make an exit. If the game was about to end - two outs, say, in the top of the ninth, with the Yankees winning - Bob would introduce the batter, then gather his things and position himself at the top step of the press box.

If that third out happened, bam! He was out of the press box in one step, onto the elevator about 15 feet away and then into his friend's car. It probably took him no longer than two minutes from the last out until he was on the road, on his way back to Long Island.

I admit, I was holding out hope that Bob would make it at least once to the new Yankee Stadium and introduce a batter or two. Friends said that, while he was thin, Bob still had that voice and his spirit. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. But like anyone else who went to a game at the old Stadium from 1951 through 2007, I'm grateful I got to hear him do his thing.

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