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Commentary: Renewing a Love for the Yankees

By Mike Mroziak

Buffalo, NY – For my entire youth, I was a Yankees fan. No, I take that back. I was a baseball fan. I was a Yankees nut.

Growing up in Niagara Falls, New York, I couldn't help it. Even when there was a short-lived minor league club playing at Hyde Park Stadium, the "Gazette" still had plenty of room in the sports section for the Yankees. My timing was right, too. While I was learning the game with the Whirlpool Mighty Mites and LaSalle T-Ball Pirates, the Yankees were winning the 1977 and 1978 World Series Championships. My neighbor, Mr. James, was a lifelong Yankees fan, and my neighborhood sandlot team named itself the 59th Street Bombers, just like the Bronx Bombers.

I was the kid with the Yankees cap, home and road jerseys, Yankees jacket, t-shirt, gym shorts and logo socks, even a Yankees bat I got from a store in Tonawanda that sold nothing but Yankees items. In my bedroom were my Yankees pennant, ceramic Yankees player, and an abundance of cards with the Yankee names of the day: Guidry, Jackson, Hunter, Chambliss, Lyle, Nettles just to name a few.

I still remember Thurman Munson's airplane crash, the pine tar incident, Dave Righetti's 4th of July no-hitter, and Billy Martin being hired, then fired, then hired again, then fired again. As an intern with the Buffalo Bisons in 1991, I always looked forward to the nights when the Yankees farm team, the Columbus Clippers, came to town.

Soon after, I walked away from the game, as did many other fans, fed up with the people that were ruining the game. Scandals, labor disputes, the cancellation of a World Series it turned me off for years. The game did win me back when it was again about what was on the field led by the record setting deeds of Cal Ripken Jr., and Mark McGwire. But an odd thing happened. While the baseball fan came back, the Yankees fan did not.

At this time in my life, I was dating a woman who moved to Cleveland to take a job there. As you can imagine, Cleveland became a second home for me, and as part of a desired career change I was interested in making Cleveland my first home. As part of the acclamation process, I adopted the Indians as my team. My timing could not be any worse. The Yankees once again returned to their championship form, and took four World Series titles.

Meanwhile, the relationship with the girlfriend in Cleveland came to its end. Soon after, so did my bond with Cleveland. I'd later made my career change right here in Buffalo, so I was here to stay, loyal to my roots - almost. I was not only a traitor to some other Yankee fans I know, I was also a fool for missing out on the team's latest World Series wins. But most of all, I really let down one Yankees fan in particular - my inner child. I recently decided it's time to make amends. It's time to embrace the Yankees again like I embraced baseball again. It might take me a while to regain credibility with other Yankees fans, and that's fair, but I'm not concerned about that. It's the long ago fan in me with which I need to reconcile. So far, I think we're getting along just fine. I look much better in a Yankees cap anyway, and I've promised my inner child that I will never again abandon him nor the Yankees for the sake of romance.

But just to be on the safe side my current girlfriend is also a Yankees fan.

Listener-Commentator Mike Mroziak is a former Buffalo radio news reporter, and currently Communications Manager at the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.