Nine-year-old Nicholas Ziff with the nifty crew cut announced confidently to Ken at a Bernie Williams’ performance in Longboat Key, Fla., Sunday night, “One day I’m going to play first base for the New York Yankees.”
“Keep practicing, Nick,” encouraged Ken, kneeling next to him on the beach to snap a photo, as he has uttered to other little boys who have shared their dreams of playing professional baseball. Hey, you never know. A dream – of any caliber – begins with a passion, an idea and certainly a declaration. When something invades your soul, gets into your veins and plants itself permanently, there’s no reason on earth why it cannot materialize.
Little Nicholas may change his mind about playing baseball as he grows up, or maybe not. Surely many a Major Leaguer had declared the same sentence of confidence during their Little League days. Williams had the passion to play baseball and music – and has done both beautifully. Derek Jeter wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees when he was a little boy, just like Nicholas – and we know the rest of that story. Ken knew his baseball future at age five.
With enough diligence and hard work, dreams can transform into reality. Anything can begin with a strong affirmation. If Nick repeats that sentence enough times, and believes in his baseball talent and the ability to make it happen … mark his words. Maybe one day we will see Nicholas Ziff, a Yankees fan from Sarasota, playing first base in Yankee Stadium.
It’s all about holding the vision. Keep practicing, Nicholas – and keep affirming your dream.
If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing the quaint village of Cooperstown in scenic upstate New York, please add it to your “must do” list. Cooperstown satiates visitors for its lovely location on Otsego Lake, its’ line of dazzling impeccable Victorian homes, and its diverse collection of shops and restaurants, to name a few characteristics.
For baseball fans, add to the mix the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum on Main Street and surely Cooperstown bats a home run in perfect getaways.
(Now I sound like a travel brochure.)
Ken, the kids, and I have visited Cooperstown twice – in support of Ken’s pals Eddie and Cal, former Orioles teammates inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 (Eddie Murray) and 2007 (Cal Ripken Jr).
For a switch, we had opted to stay in a Bed & Breakfast versus a hotel. Online I had found a charming, pretty, and well-kept house on Chestnut Street called the Rose and Thistle, less than a mile from the Main Street bustle.
Perfect choice. Two Yankees fans own it. Steve and Patti D’Esposito from New Jersey had moved upstate in 2002 to try their hands at innkeeping, after working Manhattan’s rat race their entire careers.
Let me assure you … this couple is in the perfect occupation.
We stayed for several nights at their inn and were hit with hospitality, warmth, and graciousness unequaled at any hotel. Plus we met who we’ve since labeled “The Cooperstown Gang” … a group of the most die-hard baseball fans I’ve ever encountered in the 18 years as Mrs. Singy: Larry, Joan & Henry of N.J. … Pat & Jim of N.Y. … Scott of CT … and Agatha, Steve & Steve Jr. of N.J., most Yankees’ fans, with some Braves, Dodgers, and Mets in the mix – who meet year after year at the Rose and Thistle to celebrate baseball and the Hall of Fame’s inductees.
This bunch of extremely friendly folks welcomed the newest family, the Singletons, to their annual gathering with open arms (it didn’t hurt one of us happened to be a baseball announcer for the NY Yankees).
“They are baseball junkies who are pranksters, and loveable like family,” said Patti of her Hall of Fame Weekend crew.
When Patti and Steve had announced to them that Ken Singleton would be staying at the inn, “Jim started to stutter and shake,” said Patti, “and almost spilled his coffee. Henry was close to tears upon meeting Ken and said it was the best experience in his life. Larry was impressed with the amount of time Ken spent with our guests – he said he didn’t want to wash his shoulder after Ken hugged him!”
Our welcome by this lovely group was astonishing. A splendid weekend! Steve slaps a scrumptious abundant breakfast on the large dining room table like your stomach wouldn’t believe … and the D’Espositos treat their guests as family, even hosting a “porch barbeque” after the induction ceremony is over (which the group attends of course).
As we departed the inn after our first visit, they promised to save us the top floor room for Cal Ripen Jr’s induction in 2007 – and do you know – they did? We revisited Cooperstown again, stayed at their wonderful B&B, and reacquainted with The Cooperstown Gang during an equally wonderful weekend, if not better.
“Everyone was humbled and honored to be in the Singleton family’s company,” said Patti.
Yet it was our family actually who felt humbled to be so welcomed, and able to stay connected via e-mail to such a wonderful baseball bunch – the Cooperstown gang.
(And if I was writing a travel column, the Rose and Thistle would be awarded five stars! Visit their beautiful inn, The Rose and Thistle. Tell them the Singletons sent you.)
Although as a player Ken has experienced three All-Star games (1977, 1979, 1981), he had the unique opportunity to broadcast the 1998 game in Denver for Major League Baseball International.
I tagged along on the excursion, sucked into the city’s energy as it pumped out baseball adrenaline. Every nook and cranny was filled with souvenirs, activities and keyed-up baseball fans in full celebration mode, clearly thrilled to be in such close proximity to their favorite Major Leaguers, and to taste the flavor of Denver.
I met Derek Jeter for the first time during the enormous outside/inside All-Star gala sponsored the evening before by the Colorado Rockies and Major League Baseball. Quite impressive that gala (and Derek, who had brought along his sister).
Being the host of an All-Star game gives a city a chance to strut its stuff, so you can envision how many bells and whistles were included that night … an evening to celebrate Major League Baseball’s finest and most popular players and their families, and a chance for the host team to throw the party of the year.
“It’s not only about the game,” says Ken. “Cities want to put on a good show. They want people to come back.”
On game day, working in the booth alongside Gary Thorne (now a Baltimore Orioles play-by-play announcer), Ken’s challenge was to deliver the All-Star game to listeners in more than 200 countries around the world, most of whom are not familiar with the sport.
“We had to explain things well,” said Ken. “We couldn’t take for granted that people knew what we were talking about. When doing regular games, we know that fans are more aware of what’s going on.”
E-mails flowed in during the telecast for Gary and Ken to address as they announced the 69th All-Star Game from Denver’s Coors Field.
“We received a lot of questions about strategy,” remembers Ken. “Such as, ‘Why does a player sometimes bunt and sometimes not?'” The duo would address questions on-air as thoroughly as they could in between plays, to explain the American game to foreigners in New Zealand, Australia, China and around the world.
Ken had the special opportunity to further announce for MLB International, a championship game in 1997 between the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins; the World Series the same year between the Marlins and the Cleveland Indians; and in 1998 the World Series between the Yankees and the San Diego Padres (which the Yanks of course won in four consecutive games).
Since Minor and Major League players come from far and wide (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, to name a few) and baseball’s popularity continues to grow around the globe, the role of Major League Baseball International (formed in 1989) focuses on worldwide growth of the sport through broadcasting, special events, sponsorship, licensing, etc. They have offices in New York, London, Sydney and Tokyo.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” said Ken, “to know that people around the world were enjoying and learning the game.”
Robert A Modica: Ken, somewhere I read that the Red Sox believe
Diasuke Matsuzaka’s injury is from being extensively used in the
baseball classic. Is there a limit in innings a pitcher can pitch, or
is it left up to the coach on how he wishes to use them? And do you
think the players are getting in the best of shape, playing in the
classic as apposed to Spring Training. Always a Yankee!!!!!
Ken Singleton: There is no real limit to the innings a pitcher can throw. Now, as opposed to the past, there is more of an effort to protect pitchers arms by monitoring their innings. I think stressful innings the WBC as opposed to the gradual getting ready in Spring Training can cause injury. Pitchers are very competitive and may try to reach back for a little extra on a fastball when they are not quite ready to do so.
Jerry Kohut from Woodbridge, N.J.: “How does Ken feel about the in-studio hosts using the term RBI instead of RBIs? “I have never heard any of the former player analysts say RBI unless it was one. Why do they insist on not using the plural? None of the Yankee announcers have said it. I’ve never heard Scully or Mel Allen say it when I was a kid. I grew up saying RBIs and I’ve never heard the singular use of this until a few years ago. This is a totally new phenomenon.”
Ken Singleton: “I agree with Jerry. It is RBIs; that’s the way I say it most of the time. They might do this because RBI is already plural – runs batted in. There are a lot of things in baseball that might not be quite the proper English. Jerry’s right – only recently some people started saying RBI. I don’t know why.”
Kathleen Hannan from Tarrytown, N.Y.: “Did Ken ever think about managing?”
Ken Singleton: “Others have often asked me the same question. No, I’ve never thought about it. Managing does not provide much in the way of job stability. I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years and not many managers last that long, particularly in one job.”
Chris Warbach from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: “How did Ken hook up with YES? He was an Oriole. Why doesn’t he do Orioles games? Although I’m glad he’s with us….”
Ken Singleton: “It’s kind of a long story but the reason I don’t do Orioles game is, when the opportunity arose, they picked someone else. Basically the management from MSG wanted me to work their games. They approached George Steinbrenner and told them I’d be good. Steinbrenner wasn’t sure because I had never played for the Yankees; instead I had played for their rival.
He eventually said OK – Mr. Steinbrenner knew I was from Mount Vernon, N.Y., (born in Manhattan) and he gave a local guy a break. So I went with the Yankees and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. At first, many Yankees fans wondered how someone who never played for the team could do the games, but I’ve been doing Yankees telecasts for 13 years now, counting MSG, and they’ve forgiven me for all the bad things I did to their team.”