Yankees look back

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

Early in the season, a player on the SYAA Pinto League (coach’s pitch) Yankees came up to coach Fred Matthews and told the coach that he wanted a trophy.

&uot;I told him and the rest of the team that if they wanted a trophy, they’d have to earn it,&uot; said Matthews.

For the remainder of the year, the small ‘New Yorkers’ earned their awards in a big way. They finished 18-3, outscoring their opponents 350-126 (including 31 runs in a single game). They hit 52 home runs, and sent five players to the All-Star team. Most of all, they finished first in the league, and won the season-finale tournament.

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On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees, their coaches and parents celebrates one of the most successful seasons in SYAA history. &uot;This has been a great year,&uot; said Matthews, cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers. &uot;The parents, players, coaches, everyone helped a lot.&uot;

Before the season, the team practiced three times a week. &uot;Parents asked me why we practiced so much,&uot; said Matthews, whose son, Robby Stevens, was the team’s second baseman. &uot;I told them that it was like school; if you don’t work hard, you’re not going to learn.&uot;

As nice as a winning season was, scoring the most runs wasn’t the most important thing to the players or coaches. &uot;They learned that sportsmanship comes first, and winning second. If a player makes a mistake, they learned to go up, pat them on the back and say, ‘That’s OK, we’ll get them next time.’ If a player on the other team made a good play, we didn’t hang our heads; we told them ‘Good play.’

&uot;The kids never knew how many runs they scored, or how many outs they had. They just stayed on the bases until the coach told them to run, or in the field until the umpires told them there were three outs.&uot;

As the players chowed down, home-run leader Adam Brinkley gave his thoughts on the season. &uot;Everyone worked together on this team,&uot; said the two-year veteran of the Yankees, who belted 24 round-trippers during the season.

Brinkley called New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter his favorite player, &uot;because he plays my favorite position on my favorite team!&uot;

After Matthews and his fellow coaches handed out trophies and certificates, Matthews asked the eight-year-olds on his team to stand. &uot;You guys are moving on to bigger and better things,&uot; he said. &uot;Remember, don’t argue with coaches, because you’re playing for them, not yourselves. You’re not always going to be playing on a team as fortunate as the one you’re on now, so keep your heads held high.&uot;

He then addressed the seven-year-olds. &uot;You have some big shoes to fill, but you can fill them by playing ball as one unit. There’s going to be younger players on the team next year, and if they get down, you have to be there to pick them up. This is your moment to shine.&uot;