Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-03-12 13:07
by Alex Belth


Former Yankee pitcher, and personal favorite, El Duque appears to be a happy camper for the Expos this spring.

According to a report in Newsday, Montreal GM Omar Minaya said:

"First day, 8 a.m., and he's out there running laps before everybody else," Minaya said yesterday before the Mets-Expos game that ended in an 11-inning, 6-6 tie. "He's been a leader for us right from the start."

Hernandez, who was sharp pitching three scoreless innings in his first spring-training start for Montreal and makes his next start tomorrow, smiled easily and, through an interpreter, was loquacious with New York writers. "I never felt I had to impress anyone here. That's just the way I work," said Hernandez, who has admitted he is several years older than the 33 it says in the Expos' media guide. "The people in New York know I work hard and I always come out to the park early."

..."He's been throwing great. He's the El Duque I've always known," [Minaya,] the former Mets assistant GM said. "The leadership and the work ethic are there. Some men are perceived leaders and some men are leaders with scars. El Duque is a leader with the scars to prove it. When there was a big game for the Yankees, he wanted the ball. Wanting the ball is leadership."

El Duque has also been in constant contact with fellow Cuban refuge, Jose Contreras, offering him counsel through what is undoubtedly a difficult transitional period:

"The change is very harsh, in speaking English, not understanding things, having your family far away, the pressure from the press, the money they're paying you," HernZndez said. "There's a lot of things you have to overcome little by little."

Contreras listened. Leo Astacio, Contreras's translator with the Yankees, said: "He just kept nodding. He appreciated it."


The Times has a story today about Mariano Rivera and his wife Clara. Last fall, Clara gave birth to a son, Jaziel. She had to have a Caesarean, and as a result began hemorrhaging. It was a frightening situation but she pulled through just fine.

Rivera, a deeply spirtual man, still gets misty-eyed when he talks about it.

Just to prove that all jocks aren't self-involved jerks, dig this:

A few weeks later, Rivera invited about 20 members of the hospital staff who had cared for his family to a celebration at his home in Purchase, N.Y. It rained that night, and Rivera parked cars to keep his guests dry. "I'm thankful that my family survived because of what you did," Rivera later told the gathering. The speech nearly caused him to weep.

"As a worker or an employee, it's special when people show appreciation," Cruz said. "Our staff was very humbled by being included in the night at the Rivera home. It was beautiful."

A beaming Rivera said: "They took care of my wife and son like they were their family, so I wanted to do something for them. They told me no one had ever done anything like this for him."

This story hit home for me, because my girlfriend is going to have major surgery tomorrow. Emily has Crones, and while the procedure is not life-threatening it will take up to 9 hours, and is a major ordeal. She will be at Lennox Hill hospital in New York for a week to ten days recovering after that. All of my thoughts and love will be with her, of course, and I can only hope that she is in good hands.

I won't be able to treat all of her doctors and nurses to a dinner at my house, but I may send them a note of thanks all the same.

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