Sandra Rodriguez is a lifelong New York Yankees fan who was treated to a special afternoon by the players she’ll soon be cheering for.
The Manhattan resident was among the senior citizens served lunch by the Yankees at the Encore Senior Center at St. Malachy’s Church in Manhattan on Jan. 18.
“They were so nice,’’ said Ms. Rodriguez, 68. “They’re hopeful, so full of life and enthusiastic. They had a positive attitude and outlook on life.’’
The visit to St. Malachy’s was part of the Yankees’ first Winter Warm Up, four days where current Yankees and top prospects in the organization met with the team’s fans in the community.
Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro visited St. Malachy’s with top prospects Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams. Yankees general partner/vice chairwoman Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, the daughter of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, also was present at the event, which was organized by Encore Community Services and St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters.
“The seniors really enjoyed it. After they served the meals, they interacted with the seniors. It was our monthly birthday party and they stayed and danced with the seniors as well,” said Hector Arias of Encore Community Services, which provides services to senior citizens in the Clinton and Times Square neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Ms. Rodriguez, who was one of the seniors to dance with the players, returned home to call friends and family, including her daughter Colette Rodriguez of Orlando, Fla. Ms. Rodriguez said seeing the Yankees brought back memories of visiting spring training camp when she lived in Tampa for 14 years. She returned to New York in 2013 and soon began going to the Encore Senior Center.
“It was a thoughtful thing to do,” Ms. Rodriguez said of the Yankees. “We were all excited and happy about everything. We were excited to have a dance there, but we were happy to see something everyone enjoys, like baseball and the Yankees.”
The Yankees reached out to Joe Sano, executive director of St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters, who suggested that the players visit Encore Senior Center. St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters, a nonprofit that serves more than 1.2 million meals per year to the poor and hungry, donated food for the lunch.
“The elderly are sometimes forgotten people and they would appreciate this. They loved it,” Sano said.
The Yankees were at St. Malchy’s on the third day of Winter Warm Up. Catcher Gary Sanchez made sandwiches and spoke with customers at Bullpen Deli in the Bronx to highlight the first day on Jan. 16, and the Yankees held a one-hour town hall with 300 invited fans at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square the next day. On the final day, the Yankees toured and ate lunch at Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, visited pediatric patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, watched the Knicks and Washington Wizards play at Madison Square Garden and called season-ticket holders to thank them for their support.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to be here in this amazing city with all these people,” said Adams during the town hall.
Ms. Rodriguez is eagerly awaiting the start of the 2017 season and seeing the players she met in pinstripes. Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Tampa on Feb. 13.
“I wish them all the best,’’ she said.