Yesterday I actually made my first real appearance at Steinbrenner Field for spring training.
Since the pandemic, many things have changed. Many new faces, many new rules, just a little bit of everything.
This year I enter my 49th season around the Yankee Universe.
Rather than go through the whole credential process to get into the park, I asked a film producer friend of mine to let me have one of his season tickets. I thought it would be less stressful to just sit in the stands and just concentrate on the pureness and beauty of watching a Yankee game.
As I walked into the park, my mind instantly took me back to another time. In my mind, I would see the other people that would scream out my name as I would walk in and realize that that was not to be anymore.
When I got to my seats I just stared at the dugout and saw all of the new coaches and many new players.
My mind started to play tricks on me and all of a sudden the players were named Murcer, Munson, Hunter, Jackson, Randolph, and the manager was Billy Martin and then I “saw” a very young Mattingly, and here comes Bernie Williams and there goes Jeter and Posada–Then I woke up from my daydream.
At that moment I needed to take a walk, so I went to the legends dining area. I sat there very quietly and just stared at the walls. My producer friend, Armando Gutierrez, asked me what was wrong and I said, “You wouldn’t understand.” I literally wiped the tears from my eyes when I looked into the hallway and like a miracle, I saw the face of someone that I had not seen in years!
It was Robert Viliet. Robert is a stadium custodian. Why Robert means so much to me is because a couple of years before George Steinbrenner died he was sitting at an International House of Pancakes. The Boss loved IHOP. In the middle of his meal, the Boss overheard a mother scolding her then seventeen-year-old son about how badly he was screwing up his life. She told her son that she was scared for his life.
As she was leaving, Mr. Steinbrenner called her over with her son and after exchanging words with them, the Boss read Robert the riot act and then ordered Robert to meet him at his office that afternoon.
Robert showed up on time and the Boss proceeded to give him a job in the Minor league clubhouse. The Boss introduced me to Robert as his first proclamation project not realizing that Robert would be his last. I actually wrote about this in my book Yankee Miracles.
Last night as I approached Robert, we hugged like long-lost brothers. It was a moment that I so badly needed. Robert said some very profound things to me. It was as if George Steinbrenner was talking through him. They were actually important messages that I needed to hear.
The one message that really hit home was that no matter what negativity I approached, climb over it and keep striving forward. That we must keep getting this message to the young people.
I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. My seeing Robert at that particular moment was no coincidence.
The Yankee brand is one of, if not the, most important brand in the sports and entertainment arena.
It’s a brand that I myself have witnessed help save lives because some fans love it so much. Especially many that are sick in hospitals and all they have to look forward to is that night’s Yankee game.
Between Newsmax, New York Tastemakers and New York Sportsday my articles sometimes reach as many as 10 million readers. No, I do not get paid for this, I do it because I love to reach people with the true beauty of what the Yanks are supposed to be all about.
Thank you Robert Viliet, you and I are the bridge to George Steinbrenner’s desire in helping those young people (and there were many) before it got to be too late.
Forgive me for feeling sorry for myself.