It was great to catch up with Tony Pena over the weekend in Toronto. The Yankees bench coach had plenty of memories of his 1979 season in Buffalo that you can read about in Tuesday's editions as we head toward his induction Sunday in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pena is Joe Girardi's bench coach with the Yankees and got the first World Series ring of his long career with the Bronx Bombers in 2009. He had lost in the Series as a player with St. Louis (in 1987 to Minnesota) and Cleveland (in 1995 to Atlanta).
"That was like a dream come true to win," he said. "You try to achieve your ultimate goal and sometimes you never get it. In '87 and '95 we had chances and didn't win. As a coach I came here and this was my opportunity to have a ring on my hand. Everything happens for a reason. You just have to be at the right place at the right time."
The Yankees, of course, are in the hunt again this year. What does Pena think about their chances?
"We've been a little up and down but we just have to get our own guys back," he said. "[Rafael] Soriano, [Eric] Chavez and, of course, Alex [Rodriguez]. That's the first thing. When you have your guys, you'll be fine. We just need to try to play to the top of our abilities."
Whatever happens in 2011, it will always be remembered for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit and Pena said he was thrilled to be in the dugout for the dramatic home run against Tampa Bay.
"That was an amazing moment," Pena said. "I've been here for six years now throwing batting practice to him all the time and seeing how much he puts into his body, how much effort he puts into the game, how much beating your body takes to play the same way every day.
"The most amazing thing about him is how he comes out here and has the same expression every single day. I've never seen Derek jeter go from here to here [putting his hand over his head and then down by his knees]. He's on the same line and that's very tough for a player.
"When he got the 3,000th hit, I was like a little kid. I was so happy for him. It couldn't have happened to a better guy."
taggedEx-Bisons | Yankees