The tour of yankees dugong was off to a great start
The Rodriguez family was milling around as the Yankees took batting practice in Toronto in May. "I can't believe how close we are," he said as he elbowed his father in the ribs.
They were invited by the Yankees after a fan in Toronto caught a home run ball and handed it to a Yankees player. "If you're having a crappy day, watch this," was one of the phrases that were used in the video.
Mike Lanzillotta got to bring his wife with him to the BlueJays' game the next day. The Yankees came in and out of the far end of the bench. The field was where Judge was hanging out at the cage before he took batting practice.
They thought they would linger for a while, then sit in their seats. The BlueJays gave the Rodriguez family prime seats behind the Yankees' bench, and Mike and Kayla got tickets to the game.
Everyone was surprised by the Yankees' 6-foot-7 height.
Judge turned toward the group as he walked down the steps towards the club. Judge smiled as he was introduced to him by a Yankees staffer.
A small shriek and a dash out of the way for Judge as his mom was over five feet tall. Everyone remembers Judge as much as he is taller, even though the media guide says he's 6-foot-7. After watching him lumber around right in front of them for the oil company, there was something fuzzy and dream-like about what had happened the previous night.
Lanzillotta, wearing a Blue Jays jersey and a surgical mask on his face, couldn't control his disbelief as his eyes flooded with blood. Lanzillotto put his hands on his head as Judge pulled him in for a hug. The top of his body moved backwards as his knees buckled. It looked like his jaw dropped.
Lanzillotta thought that this was a fairy tale.
Cesar looked like he was in fairytale land. Both of them were wondering how the hell they ended up here.
What it's all about 💙 pic.twitter.com/LGt2zkty5J— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 4, 2022
Cesar Rodriguez's older brother moved to the Toronto area in the mid-2010s. Cesar says that he was looking for a better life for himself and his family.
He found that in Canada and immediately told Cesar to come. Cesar moved in with his brother and his family. He had the same desire for a better life for them.
He had to put in a lot of effort to get it. Cesar did everything he was asked to do, from painting houses to landscaping to banquet hall work. He had to scrounge up some money to get to Canada. He loves his job at the toy company.
Baseball was a raft. Cesar was a big baseball fan as a kid. He fell in love with the team that he saw the most on TV, the Yankees dynasty of the mid 1990s, and Cesar began to collect jerseys of some greats from the past. He and his wife didn't have a hard time naming their first child. The little boy would be the same as the captain.
He loved baseball as much as his father. When he was younger, he sat on his lap and watched games in Venezuela and became a fan of Judge. He liked the bigness of Judge and the cool name.
The Yankees came to Toronto in May and he wore his No. 99 Judge uni. The Rodriguez family paid for the MLB Network to see the rest of the Yankees games in Toronto, after setting aside $2,000 a year for tickets and concessions. The teams will play three games this weekend.
They were in a race to get from their house to their seats in the left field bleachers. The Yankees were on a 10-game winning streak, part of a 17/6 start to the season. They wanted to pour water on their opponents.
A man by the name of Mike Lanzillotta was leaving his job as a theft management specialist for a chain of department stores. He called his friend to make sure they were on time for the meeting. Singh was in charge of investigating noise complaints in Toronto when he finished his shift. He says that they are the fun police. Everyone is like, 'Oh god, here they come'.
Lanzillota and Singh were outside of the stadium trying to get a beer before they went in. The Jays call their hot dogs "loonie dogs". Lanzillotta and Singh were laughing at how many they could put down because the dogs were $1 a piece.
They went to their seats because the dog line was out of control. They might grab food later.
Their seats were empty.
People were already sitting down there. Singh suggested sitting in the empty aisle seats and if anyone came, they would work it out. They landed in the aisle seats because nobody showed up to claim them. They noticed two Yankees fans who cheered for their team even though they were in enemy territory. They thought about saying something to the boy and his father after Lanzillotta elbowed Singh. Both of them use that word a lot, in place of heckling, and it's clear they have a Canadian style brand of barking at opposing players.
They didn't chirp at all. They chatted with the Rodriguezes and said hello. Singh's family had come from Guyana and Singh's grandparents had a hobby of playing baseball to cope with missing cricket in their native country. The Singhs found their footing in Canada thanks to MLB games.
Even if it was for the hated Yankees, Lanzillotta still loved the exuberance of the man. Lanzillotta said, "We're getting you a ball tonight."
Cesar nodded while smiling. What's the chance that a ball would end up in their lap? It was thought to be at 1 in 1,200. The left field is in the 200 level. Good luck!
Lanzillotta gets balls at games. He got his first one when he was 12 years old. He stretched too far while leaning over the rail for a foul grounder. He felt his legs start to move and he was going to faceplant on the field.
His grandfather was hanging on for dear life after two strong hands latched onto him. Lanzillotta pulled in the ball and his grandpa caught him. Lanzillotta said it was like a big fish.
Lanzillotto tried to give his grandpa the ball. He initially refused to accept it. He said it was your ball. Lanzillotta wouldn't give up, so his grandpa accepted the gift. Lanzillotta found out about his grandfather's will when he died. Major League Baseball balls are very important to him.
Lanzilletta went to his move as the game went on. When the left fielder warmed up, he would spend the entire five minutes pestering the starter to turn around and throw the ball into the stands. Over the years, he has gotten about 10 balls doing that for three hours.
At one point, he brought his son over to his seat and taught him how to chirp himself. Singh says that some people around them were annoyed by Mike's hardcore approach. Mike was determined to get that child a ball.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. threw a ball up into the air, but it landed 25 feet away, and someone else grabbed it. The man was getting discouraged. Even though he was dancing, no one paid attention and he stood up from behind his laptop and recreated the dance.
The whole game was insisted by Lanzillotta. "We're getting you a ball, trust me," he said.
The game was over by the time the BlueJays were up by one in the sixth. Singh said he would go to the bathroom. He stopped to grab some food when he noticed the dog line was almost gone.
When he got to the front of the line, Singh told himself that he was going to order two hot dogs.
His stomach ordered him to order more.
He decided he didn't want to go too far and ordered two.
The cashier asked if she could help the person.
Singh took over his voice and asked for six dogs. He ordered six hot dogs instead of two and the cashier put them in a carrier.
The men scarfed down their first dogs as the Yankees came to bat. The pitcher blew through the Yankees lineup for the first 15 outs.
When Judge came to the plate in the sixth, he got the first two Yankees. Manoah has owned Judge more than any other pitcher in baseball, as Judge is 1-for-16 against him.
It was a long fight. Judge went for strike one and then went for strike two and then went for strike three. Manoah threw the same pitch three times in a row, all at the knees.
With a full count, Manoah was ready to throw a high 90s pitch. A football field away, Rodriguez cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled for his favorite player as Lanzillotta ate his first dog. He was thinking about trying to grab a second dog when the bat hit him.
He wouldn't be the same person.
The ball flew off the bat at a rate of 114.9 mph. Lanzillotta, a very good slow-pitch softball outfielder, felt almost immediately that the ball was screaming at him, so he yelled, "I got it!" I received it!
It was silly to say it. Foul balls and home runs are free for all at MLB games. The call caused everyone to back off.
Almost everyone. After Lanzillotta told him he would get him a ball, he threw in a caveat. Unless it is a home run ball, we will get you one. The home run balls are special.
Cesar felt mandated by fatherly law to try to swoop in and beat Lanzillotta to the ball because it was a home run ball. Cesar didn't have a chance of grabbing the ball because there were too many people in between.
The ball hit the ground. The ball whistled in to land on a rope.
He was distracted by the lack of hands and arms trying to catch the ball as it flew into his hands. To get into the space between him and Singh, he had to lean a bit to his left. It wasn't hard.
Singh let his friend take it in. He says Lanzillota never failed to grab the fly ball and called him off many times.
Lanzillotto whiffed. The ball flew through his hands and hit Singh in the cheek.
Lanzillotta says he didn't feel any pain from the rocket hitting his hands, but Singh did. It could be an inch or two higher. Singh doesn't want to think about what might happen. He says he's going to trust his own hands.
They were trying to figure out where the ball had come from. They've seen a lot of times where someone has a beat on a ball and it plummets 10 rows south, or bounces down into the lower deck and someone else picks it up.
They didn't see anyone trying to get it. Everyone seemed to be looking at them. They want to be more specific.
Lanzillotta's eyes moved to the ground, where he saw the four loonie dogs, loaded up with condiments, all tucked into one corner of their carrier across from the homerun ball. The beer spilled onto the hot dogs, but nothing seemed to have touched the ball. Lanzillotta said that right into the fricking tray. The dogs are the true heroes.
The cameras on the cell phones captured what happened. Lanzillotta looked down at the ball that hit his hands and then bounced off his friend's cheek, at the dogs that should have been in a carrier, below the seats that were not theirs, and he felt like that ball had been sent from. It was crazy how the stars aligned that day.
He raised his hands in joy after grabbing the ball. He realized how much that particular home run ball meant to him. In an act of kindness seen by millions, Lanzillotta lowered his arms and stretched them out towards the camera.
Lanzillotta extended the ball past Singh's poor face on the video. Singh got hit in the cheek by the ball, looked down to see his dinner ruined, and then his friend gave it away right in front of his nose.
The man rushed to get close to the man. He moved past his father, who had initially looked at his son in a way that made him cringe. Cesar hopes we might get a ball. He received the ball.
"I told you we'd get one!" yelled Lanzillotta as the crowd roared loudly.
But he heard his voice. He was so happy when he got to Lanzillotta that he cried. Lanzillotta palmed the back of his head after touching him on the back.
"You're going to be in my shoes one day and I can make a kid happy," Lanzillotta said. You'll pay it forward if I promise you.
"I promise," he said as Lanzillotta put his hand on his cheeks. The man hugged his father. They cried at the same time.
For about 30 seconds, the whole section was Kosher. The game began again after everyone sat down. Lanzillotta and Singh wanted to replace their beer before the stadium stopped serving alcohol after the game.
There was a person who volunteered to go. Within 60 seconds of the ball hitting the ground, Lanzillotta left his seat and headed for the beer stand. Lanzillotta thought that it was weird that a few fans smiled and waved at him. I don't think I'm familiar with them.
They were familiar with him. The video of Lanzillotta getting ready to order his beer went viral on the interwebs and within the stadium, which had shown the whole thing on the board. Rogers Centre was now famous as well as the internet.
The Yankees went on to win the game, 9-1, as Lanzillotta came back to his seat. He was shocked by all the traffic around his seat. The people were there to see him and his friend.
The reporters wanted to interview them both, and the media reps had a lot of stuff for them. The adult son of a season ticket holder was sent up to the second deck to see if he could use his tickets.
Is it really that special? Beer was in each hand.
It was that special. People around the world appreciated the kindness.
He has to watch the video to remember what happened. His 9-year-old brain couldn't process the wave of emotion that caused him to black out.
He starts rubbing his hands under his eyes and making a noise when he talks about it. "I know it's normal to cry." I felt like I cried too much.
A few kids teased him after he got emotional. When he pulled out the Judge baseball, they quieted down. He brought it to school so everyone could see it.
He was exhausted by the end of the school day because of the amount of people he was surrounded by. One teacher told him that he cried when he watched the video.
He was excited after leaving school. His dad had tickets to the finale of the three-game set between the Yankees and BlueJays. When he got home, his parents found out that he was going to be sitting behind the Yankees' bench.
As he was celebrating in the living room, his father said, "And we're going down in the dugout, too."
Right after the mom shrieked, Judge spoke.
He asked who his favorite player was.
As he turned around and tugged on the back of his jersey, he didn't say anything. Judge told reporters that seeing little kids wearing his number gave him goose bumps. I dreamed of that. I was in his position at one point. That was a great moment.
Judge dropped to a knee in the bench, but he was still a few inches taller than his opponent. "Don't cry, because I'll cry too," Judge said. Don't worry, enjoy it. Was the ball brought to you?
Judge took a pair of batting gloves out of his back pocket after he signed the ball. When Cesar and Derek tell this part of the story, he disappears and returns with a plastic case. The Judge's gloves are inside.
Judge told him he hoped he used them someday.
Judge stood up to take pictures with the rest of the group after he hugged him. He turned towards Lanzillotta, who seemed to be enjoying his moment so much that he forgot he was a part of it. Judge took out a pair of gloves. He wanted Lanzillotta to have the actual batting gloves from the night before, since he'd given a brand new set to him.
The group exchanged small talk after the phone flashes stopped. Judge chatted with the parents of Cesar Jr.
Judge looked toward Lanzillotta at the end of the get- together. In the postgame scrum the night before, Judge had seemed genuinely lit up by the idea of a Blue Jays fan being so kind to a young Yankees fan, and his exuberance showed through when he got to meet Lanzillotto.
He wasn't as excited to meet Lanzillotta as he was to meet him.
Judge told him that it was a special thing that he did. You made a difference with your kind gesture. It's not important what uniform you wear. The goal is to bring people together. I would like to thank you.
He hesitated as Lanzillotta finished that story. His voice goes quiet when he says thank you. Pause for a long time. It was to me.
He starts the story again because there is more to it. He buttered him up so he could tell Judge something he didn't like. Lanzillotta told him that he had been good for the fantasy team. It was the right time to speak up.
They gave us tickets to go to New York and sit in the Judge's Chambers. Lanzillotta spoke.
Judge said he knew.
If we come to New York, please give us your information. Lanzillotta said he would be chirpy from the stands.
The judge got a laugh out of it. Don't worry, I can deal with it. The Rodriguezes went to their seats after they shook hands and said farewell. Lanzillotta was given a signed jersey from George Springer by a Blue Jays rep before the game. Springer became a fan of Jay after getting a signed jersey.
For the next three hours, the Rodriguez family cheered for the Yankees, while the Lanzillottas cheered for the Blue Jay's. The two groups made eye contact during the game. The Yankees' 11-game winning streak came to an end at the end of the nine-inning game.
They all met up on the way out of the stadium. Cesar said "Mike, thank you" the last time he spoke to him. You have no idea what this means to us.
They parted ways. It wasn't the end of the story. The beginning of Chapter 1.
The Lanzillottas traveled to the Bronx in August to sit in the Judge's Chambers. The Rodriguezes had travel paperwork issues that didn't get fixed in time.
The Yankees gave Lanzillotta's wife, two kids, and friends a ride. They got to hold one of Babe Ruth's bats while they were at the stadium.
As game time neared, he was a little uneasy. He decided he had to be true to his fan base when he decided to wear his Blue Jay gear. He was concerned about the Bronx crowd.
He didn't know if his seats in the Judge's Chambers section would be better or worse.
Lanzillotta and his crew were given complimentary robes from Judge's Chambers before the game and he slid it over his jersey. He could wear his Blue Jays stuff and it would be covered up.
He took off his robe because he felt like he was cooking. The Yankees welcomed Lanzillotta to the Judge's Chambers by putting up a message on the board. He looked at the reception to see that it was warm. It looked like we had the immunity idol.
Lanzillotta asked his daughter if she wanted to get a ball. He said that it's difficult to get one, but that it's fun. She was inside.
They went down to the rail and yelled at the players as they finished their warm ups. At some point in the middle of the game, they got loud enough that the right fielder turned toward them and launched a ball into the bleachers.
Lanzillotta groaned when Merrifield left his hand. The ball was going to fly over their heads into a sea of Yankees fans behind him when he launched it, but his daughter had lit up when he launched it. As it whistled into the stands, she reached her hands up and both of her heads watched as it went by. A man in his 20s caught it.
Lanzillotta told her that they would try again, and they retreated up the stairs to their seats.
The young man in the Yankees shirt made his way down his row towards the stairs. He was in the aisle when they got to him.
The Yankees fan said nothing compared to what he did. I hope your daughter likes it.
He gave it to the little girl and both Lanzillottas thanked him. It was a life-affirming moment that he would never forget.
Lanzillotta would hug his daughter as a sweeping needle drop played them back to their seats.
Lanzillotta couldn't hear her excited words as they made their way through a sea of fans, half cheering on the Yankees and half booing the Blue Jay's. Lanzillotta soaked it all in.
He says it was the best he's heard.