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Hank Steinbrenner has poignant memories of his father

Hank Steinbrenner spoke about his last moments with

Hank Steinbrenner spoke about his last moments with his father for the first time Thursday. Photo Credit: AP, 2008

Getting back to baseball was the easy part for the Steinbrenner family.

In his first public appearance since his father, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, died of a massive heart attack July 13, Hank Steinbrenner spoke of his father's death and the future of the franchise.

"It was especially tough for me, I think, because I was his first and we did everything together when I was a kid, long before he owned the Yankees,'' Hank, at 53 the oldest of four siblings, said Thursday at the Stadium before his "Hank's Yanks'' played Team Mariano in the first-ever "Boss Cup'' game.

"So when he was lying there in the hospital, that's what I was thinking about . . . So it was very, very difficult. I had to leave the room a couple times. And it was funny because everywhere I walked around the room, he kept following me [with his eyes]. And I just lost it at that point.''

The adjustment back to baseball was an easy transition for a family that has spent nearly four decades immersed in Yankees tradition, he said.

"It's business as usual as far as that goes,'' he said.

The injuries that have befallen the Yankees haven't shaken Hank's belief in the team's postseason chances.

"I think we're doing great considering Andy [Pettitte] is out and a couple other problems,'' he said. "Obviously, we're in the toughest division by far in baseball, so it's going to be a struggle down to the wire. We'd like to win the division, but rest assured, we're going to get into the playoffs. Then it's just a matter of what we do from there.''

As for Pettitte's nagging groin strain and Alex Rodriguez's strained calf, Hank said he's not concerned about the Yankees' aging stars.

"They'll be fine, they'll be fine. That's the bottom line,'' he said. "You've got to deal with what you've got to deal with. Look at what the Red Sox are dealing with right now.''

When asked about the direction of the franchise in his father's absence, Hank said: "Our plan - my brother, myself, my sisters, the entire staff of the Yankees - it's always going to be the same. We plan to win. We do what we have to win. We don't make a lot of money 'cause of revenue sharing. And we don't shy away from paying salaries and we're building up the farm system, too.''

He declined to discuss manager Joe Girardi's expiring contract.

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