Yankees "sign" three as part of HOPE Week celebration
Wednesday, on the second day of HOPE Week 2014, the Yankees honored the Friends of Jaclyn, an organization that pairs children with brain tumors with high school, college, or professional sports teams to allow them to be honorary members of the clubs - and in doing so, general manager Brian Cashman signed 12-year-old Ryan Tucker, 11-year-old Sean Callahan, and four-year-old Quinn Ostergren to be honorary Yankees for the day.
The trio got the royal treatment, starting when they were surprised by Yankees players and staff with a lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. Once at Yankee Stadium, they took part in a press conference where Cashman and Yankees senior vice president Jean Afterman introduced them while the Yankees' players' union representative, David Robertson, and honorary agent Shawn Kelley presided over them signing on the dotted line.
They were then brought into the clubhouse to their lockers, which were situated in some prime real estate; Ostergren and Tucker, who are cousins, got to dress in between Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, while Callahan got the empty locker right next to Yankees Captain Derek Jeter.
"Awesome," was all Callahan, who was issued jersey No. 2, could say about the spot, and when Jeter walked in and said "Hey, buddy!" to his new neighbor, the smile on Sean's face was worth a million words.
Once dressed, the trio then got to go out on the field to watch the team take batting practice and assist in pregame activities, and later they helped Robertson bring out the night's lineup card before being honored on the field.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi unfortunately didn't get to use a 28-player roster for Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays - even if Callahan did say during the press conference that he was ready to spell his new neighbor at short if needed - but the skipper did beam about HOPE Week during his own pre-game press conference.
"We love this week. We have a lot of guys who do a lot of great things individually, but this week we get to give back as a team and recognize people that are doing amazing things," Girardi said. "I've always said that without hope there's nothing, and I think that if we can take some time and help people who are burdened or going through difficult circumstances, and take their mind off things and give them something to look forward to, I think that's extremely important."
PHOTO GALLERY: HOPE Week - Yankees for a day
What Girardi aspires for is exactly what Friends of Jaclyn strives to do. In 2004, then-nine-year-old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given a 30 percent chance of survival, and after hearing of her story and passion for lacrosse, the Northwestern University women's lacrosse team "adopted" Jaclyn as an honorary member of the team.
The following spring, the Lady Wildcats - with Jaclyn in their corner - won their first of what is now seven NCAA Championships in the spring of 2005, and Denis Murphy, realizing the profound impact that bond had on his daughter, started Friends of Jaclyn to help other children in a similar struggle have the same experience.
Now 19, Jaclyn has been cancer-free for nine years, and the foundation celebrated its 500th adoption this past May, with its adoptive teams ranging from Ontario, Canada to Ontario, California and everywhere in between.
Jaclyn and her family were also on hand as part of the HOPE Week recognition, with father and daughter getting to throw out ceremonial first pitches, but in true HOPE Week spirit, the Murphys and their three newest friends weren't the only ones to get a little love.
See, while the three honorees were getting dressed, Michael Callahan, Ryan's younger brother, got a chance to "crash" Girardi's press conference, walking in and getting a chance to sit beside the skipper as he wrapped up his media meeting.
Girardi, who joked to Michael that "I have a feeling you're the ham in the family," had just finished answering a question about his pitching rotation, and when he turned to ask Michael about the "rotation" of growing up in a household with one older brother and four younger sisters, he got the kind of honest answer only a pre-teen could give.
"It's sometimes very annoying. There's a lot of yelling and I get headaches very often," Michael casually said to a laugh from the assembled media, "and the rotation is that I just stay in my room and close the door and I don't hear anything."
Girardi, who has surely watched his own three children do the same at some point, laughed and reassured Michael that he's not the only one.
"My kids are 14, 12, and seven and they go at it too…going at each other is normal, but you all survive and grow up and become friends and you wonder how you made it through," the skipper told Michael. "I grew up with three brothers and one sister and my poor sister was in the middle, so it was rough for her, but that's just a part of life."
Wednesday's honor wasn't the first for Tucker, Callahan, or Ostergren - Tucker was adopted by the Fairfield University men's lacrosse team five years ago, his cousin Ostergren has become an honorary member of the University of Connecticut women's soccer team, and this fall, Callahan will become "Army Strong" when he heads to West Point to become an honorary member of the football team at the United States Military Academy - but the memory will last a lifetime.
The same holds true for all of the men in the clubhouse they got to enjoy Wednesday, especially the proud Yankees skipper, who as part of his job is the patriarch of one of the world's most fluid families.
"We get to do this as an organization, and that's what thrills me the most."