New York Yankees trainer Gene Monahan waves to the crowd...

New York Yankees trainer Gene Monahan waves to the crowd after receiving his 2009 World Series ring before the Yankees' baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels. (April 13, 2010) Credit: AP

The Yankees stood in front of their dugout applauding and the crowd followed their lead, the ovation building and lasting nearly a minute.

And though it wasn't a player being saluted, it was a Yankees institution: longtime trainer Gene Monahan.

Monahan, who is battling cancer and missed his first spring training in 48 years with the organization, made his first appearance of the year with the club, participating in the pregame ring ceremony.

"I think it probably meant more to us than to him for us to have the opportunity to see him," Derek Jeter said.

The first ring Joe Girardi handed out was to Monahan, a moment Girardi called "emotional." As Monahan stood near first base with his ring and the ovation grew, the trainer tapped his heart and acknowledged the crowd several times.

Girardi choked up after starting his postgame news conference discussing the scene and Jorge Posada called Monahan's presence his favorite part of the day.

"Gene Monahan is a special man," Posada said. "He cares for everybody. He's the best. He has worked on a lot of people and he keeps us on the field. We need him to be there. It was really special to see him out there."

"It means a lot, it means the whole world to us," Mariano Rivera said. "Knowing that he's battling cancer and being here for us today, is tremendous. Hopefully God protects him and he will be back with us again soon."

Fans impress Granderson

A lot stood out to Curtis Granderson about a Stadium home opener but he was most impressed with the fans.

"The amazing thing about the fans is the knowledge they have," Granderson said. "It's one thing to be a die-hard fan, I think that's kind of everywhere, but the knowledge of the team . . . everything there is to this team, everybody seems to know a little bit about it. I think that's amazing, the amount of people that know it and know it well, probably know more than most of us players in here about our own team."

Extra bases

Chan Ho Park, who did not give up a home run in 38 relief appearances last season with the Phillies, has allowed two in three games this season . . . David Robertson has allowed seven hits, including yesterday's grand slam, in 21/3 innings . . . Tuesday was the 64th time Rivera saved a victory by Andy Pettitte, extending the pair's record for highest win/save combination since saves became an official statistic in 1969.

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