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Yankees remember Yogi Berra as warm, humble

New York Yankees players, coaches and staff take

New York Yankees players, coaches and staff take part in a moment of silence as they wear the No. 8 on their sleeves to remember Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who died Tuesday, before the Yankees' game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Credit: AP / Nathan Denette

TORONTO - Alex Rodriguez's most memorable moment involving Yogi Berra was a pep talk.

It occurred before the Yankees started their postseason run in 2009, one that would start in the ALDS against the Twins and end with their 27th world championship.

"He said, 'I have a good feeling about this year, kid,' " A-Rod recalled before Wednesday night's game against the Blue Jays. "I have a good feeling about this team and I have a good feeling about you. I have one [piece of] advice. If there's a fork in the road, take it.' So I did."

Rodriguez, whose struggles in the playoffs with the Yankees were documented often, went 19-for-52 (.365) with six homers, 18 RBIs and 15 runs during that postseason. Three of the homers came in the seventh inning or later.

"It was something I needed to hear and it was great hearing it from Yogi," said Rodriguez, who several times referenced Berra's 10 rings and propensity for performing well in October. "It meant a lot to me."

As did, in general, Berra's presence around the club, particularly in spring training, to players and coaches. Up until two springs ago, the Hall of Famer was almost a daily fixture, arriving early at the stadium and staying late.

Brett Gardner has been a Yankee since being drafted in 2005. "I've gotten to be around a lot of special guys, I've gotten to be around a lot of the guys that have built up this organization into what it is, and he was probably the most special of them all," Gardner said. "Not just for what he did on the field, all the World Series, but what he was able to do off the field, the people that he impacted. He was just a very special human being."

Joe Girardi got to know Berra on a variety of levels -- first as a catcher with the organization and then as manager. Berra often sat in his office for morning chats and accompanied him in the car to many a spring training road game.

Berra always seemed to connect with the Yankees' catchers -- Thurman Munson, Girardi, Jorge Posada and the newest one, Brian McCann.

"I remember when I was a catcher here,'' Girardi said, "and he would be there while we were doing drills and talk to us about certain things and I used to think, 'I can't believe I'm next to this guy, I can't believe I'm in [his] presence, in the same dirt he caught in.' I was always in awe of him, but he never made you feel that you should be."

A-Rod said: "It's hard to describe Yogi unless you met him and spent time with him and really felt his warmth." He also mentioned Berra's humility, a sentiment echoed by Gardner.

"Always very humble, never talked about himself, never talked about his accomplishments, always was willing to offer advice," Gardner said. "Just coming up as a young player, he probably had no idea who I was and was willing to talk and say hello."

Added general manager Brian Cashman: "I've been around a long time, and come across many really successful athletes and celebrities in their own right, and a lot of time, they're not as approachable as someone like Yogi. Yogi, with all the success, he was one of the most humble and warm and welcoming and kind people you'd ever know."

And there were those 10 World Series titles, a total Derek Jeter often referenced.

"Yogi didn't have enough fingers for the rings he had," Girardi said. "I don't think you'll ever see a player have the success Yogi had. I think the closest that we've seen in sports today is maybe Michael Jordan with six [titles] in eight years. It's not going to happen."

With David Lennon

New York Sports