Everywhere he looked, Jorge Posada was surrounded by family. His son Jorge Luis raced onto the field ahead of him, depositing the ball on the Yankee Stadium mound. Jorge Sr. stood behind the plate to catch the ceremonial first pitch from his famous son. Right behind the mound stood all nine current Yankees position players, who are like brothers to him.
"I kept trying to tell them to go to their positions," Posada said Friday after throwing that first pitch before the first game his Yankees played at the Stadium since his retirement. It sure was unique in the annals of first-pitch tosses, because players always do run to their spots on the field and start warming up. Not this time, though. They wanted to be in hugging range.
They all did hug Posada, as did Mariano Rivera and Joe Girardi after the former catcher hustled off the field. All of it played out to a roaring standing ovation. "The fans were, again, super-amazing," Posada said, knowing that those thousands of people are family, too.
Posada was emotional, especially when he looked at his old spot behind the plate and saw Jorge Sr., the man who once escaped Cuba as a stowaway, began a life in Puerto Rico and taught his son how to play ball.
"It was like old times, playing catch with him again," said the son, now a potential Hall of Famer. "They told me they wanted Mariano to catch it and I was super-excited to have Mariano catch it, but for me to have my dad there catching it was a little more important. I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't have had the career I had, if it wasn't for him. I wanted to share that moment with him."
Rivera said later: "That was the best thing, choosing his father. Everything was perfect."
Don't tell that to Posada's stomach, which was churning before that throw. His buddy Derek Jeter and the rest of the Yankees had been riding him about it. Posada, a clutch player who rose to so many postseason occasions, was really nervous. All he could think was: "Don't bounce it, don't throw it over his head."
Lots of other stuff went through his head and heart. There were all the good memories, balanced with the contentment he has at home in Miami, taking Jorge Luis and Paulina to school, then going with his wife, Laura, to the gym for workouts. There was the anguish that accompanied his career after Jorge Luis was born with craniosynostosis, a congenital birth defect that inhibited the natural growth of his skull.
Surgeries are now behind the 12-year-old, who is playing baseball this year for the first time. He plays outfield because he's a little "shy of the ball," his father said, but he loves it.
"He wanted to throw the first pitch," said the former All-Star, who helps with his son's team.
Also Friday, there was a thought about Andy Pettitte, staging a comeback after retiring in 2010. Did that make Posada reconsider? "I've got to wait one year," he said.
By next year, he hopes to have a job in baseball. He just didn't want one badly enough to play for someone else this season. "I had teams that were calling, pretty good opportunities," he said. "I didn't want to be another guy on another team."
That is because he is and always will be a member of the Yankees family.