Three years ago Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo created HOPE Week — Helping Others Persevere and Excel. Jason wanted to use the leverage of pro sports’ most iconic brand to recognize individuals and organizations who help others beyond the call of duty despite limited financial resources. The fine efforts of Zillo and the Yankees have not gone unnoticed as other baseball clubs have tried to follow suit. Earlier this season there was a “Mets in the Community Week.”
Last Wednesday the Yankees honored Queens Village’s Saints Joachim and Anne’s School, which has been educating a number of Haitian children who lost family members and arrived penniless in New York in the aftermath of the horrific Haitian earthquake in January 2010. The Yankees welcomed the students to last Wednesday’s matinee (alas, a dreary 9-2 loss to the Mariners) and then gave them a magical night in Manhattan, including a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral conducted by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and a bus tour during which Derek Jeter served them pizza.
While I can’t give Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson a hard time for trading All-Star outfielder and free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran to the Giants for highly touted pitching prospect Zach Wheeler, it’s ludicrous to think the 21-year-old hurler is guaranteed to be the second coming of Tom Seaver. Yet, that seems to be the thinking of too many fans, and worse, too many baseball media cognoscenti.
The resolution between the National Football League and its players is good news for all fans, but those who indulge in fantasy sports are truly celebrating. Fantasy leagues, in which participants draft offensive players for fictitious teams and real statistics determine the winner, have been growing rapidly.
Flushing High School alum and Maspeth resident Scott Engel has been hosting a fantasy sports show on Sirius XM satellite radio for years. I’ve seen Scott treated by players in various baseball clubhouses with the same kind of hero-worshiping respect that they give to the likes of Bob Costas and Chris Berman.
The show’s success prompted Sirius XM execs to start a fantasy sports channel. The station launched in style last Thursday with a “celebrity fantasy football draft” at Times Square’s Hard Rock Cafe, featuring WWE wrestler Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, one-time Playboy centerfold Pilar Lastra, and such Sirius XM sports hosts as Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and former Mets GM Steve Phillips.
What could have been a rather tedious three hours was actually quite entertaining thanks to draft host Adam Schein’s comedic flare. Schein wisely treated the draft more as a Friar’s Club roast than a serious sports discussion. He had a field day with Steve Phillips over his personnel decisions when he was with the Mets. “Kevin Appier is available!” “Mo Vaughn is still available!” “Mel Rojas is still on the board!” exclaimed Schein every time Phillips’ turn came around. To his credit, Phillips was a good sport and laughed heartily. He even conceded on the air that the Mets had good reason to fire him in 2002.