Jorge Posada donned his catcher’s equipment once more and took his place behind the plate at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
He’d already gotten a hero’s reception as the players were introduced for the annual stroll down memory lane we know as Old-Timers’ Day. But as the fans applauded and chanted his name, this clearly was one of the sights they came to see.
Posada is the first member of the Core Four to come to an Old-Timers’ Day. He said he began to consider it when he received his invitation in the mail and decided to go after being prodded by Tino Martinez.
“It’s great to get back to the Stadium — back home — and put this uniform on,” said Posada, a five-time All-Star with five World Series rings from a career in pinstripes. “You feel like you could play again.”
Posada has kept an eye on the current edition of the Yankees. When asked if he sees similar qualities to the Yankees teams that won those first championships in the run of four in five years from 1996-2000, he replied: “I do. The thing I like the most about the team is they don’t quit. The score is 8-0 and they still give it a fight and try to score some runs. I like that about them.”
Coincidentally, the Yankees fell behind 7-0 Sunday and battled back before eventually falling to the Rangers, 7-6.
The last great Yankees catcher believes we could be witnessing the next: Gary Sanchez, who hit a three-run homer Sunday and has 33 in his first 100 big-league games.
“I think about how strong he is,” Posada said. “He’s going to be very durable because his body is put together real well. I just hope he stays hungry, and during the offseasons, I want him to commit himself to this game and the things he is able to do during the offseason are going to help him during the season.”
Posada praised Sanchez’s ability to hit with power to all fields but said the most impressive part of his game is “his arm — he’s got a plus arm.”
Could Sanchez become one of baseball’s best catchers? “When you’re able to put up numbers like that,” Posada said, “he can be.”
There were a lot of rousing welcomes during the introductions. Those for Whitey Ford and Don Larsen were notable for their length.
Old-Timers’ Day is more than just a spectacle for the fans. Texas manager Jeff Banister watched all of the introductions from the dugout. Posada said that when he was playing, it was an event he and many teammates looked forward to.
“You come in early today,” he said. “You wanted to see the Reggie Jacksons. You wanted to see Whitey Ford. You wanted to see Yogi. You wanted to say ‘hi’ and maybe get an autograph. It is a special day for players, also.”
“I think it connects the generations of Yankees players,” said Ralph Terry, who was part of the 1961 and 1962 title teams after giving up Bill Mazeroski’s Series-winning homer for Pittsburgh in 1960. “We’ve all been a part of something.”
In the same vein, Posada said former players should feel something of a responsibility to participate in Old-Timers’ Day.
“Five or six years from playing, you should come around,” he said. “I want to be here for the fans and the fans want to see the old guys come around . . . This is the best organization in the world. They treated me real well.”