NYC Sandlots Got Game! Yankees and Mets Just Need to Look

BRONX, NY – Both of New York’s teams are enjoying the view from the penthouse as they sit at the top of the standings in their divisions. A quick look at the rosters of both the Yankees and Mets shows millions of dollars being spent for players who established themselves with other teams.

Once upon a time the Yankees scouts found a player in their own backyard. He became the greatest baseball player to come out of NYC. The Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig, starred at Columbia University before he teamed with Babe Ruth to form the best Dynamic Duo ever.

Another player who wound up a Hall of Famer, was snatched by the Minnesota Twins. Their NYC area scout was a retired detective named Herb Stein. He heard about this stud through a fellow scout named Monroe Katz. Rod Carew was born in Panama and was brought into the United States to live with his mother at the age of 14. They lived in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Carew attended George Washington H.S. He never played baseball there, but left his mark with a semi-pro team called the Bronx Cavaliers. Katz’s son Steve played on that same team with Carew.

Stein’s Twins were playing the Yankees up in the Bronx, and he brought Carew into the stadium way before the game to take batting practice. The manager of the Twins, Sam Mele, saw what he needed to see from the youngsters bat. He told Stein to get Carew out of there before the Yankees could see him, and the rest is history.

Many years later, a team called Hank’s Yanks, with a roster of disadvantaged youths, got on the map with its talented individuals. The late Hank Steinbrenner sponsored this group which attracted numerous scouts from other teams. The Yankees did sign two of its players, pitcher Leonel Vinas and infielder Matthew Duran. Almost ten other Hank’s Yanks wound up getting picked up by other pro teams.

Years later it happened again. The latest Hank’s Yanks player was signed by the Cleveland Indians Guardians (they’ll always be the Indians to me.) Outfielder George Valera is on a fast-track route to The Show. He’s currently playing at the AA level in Akron, and at the age of 21 the next level of AAA is soon to happen.

When Valera was 12 years old his elders brought him to Hank’s Yanks manager, Sandy Kyrkostas, after they saw a recruiting ad in N.Y. Newsday. Krykostas was blown away. “He played like a man,” Krykostas states. “George has the same swing today that he had at age 12,” he continues. Kyrkostas knew he had something special on the team from his first encounter with Valera. “He was hitting moon shots and was a leader on the field,” the proud manager raves.

Back in 1991 there was another New York player that the Indians Guardians signed right out of high school, Manny Ramirez, and he turned out to be pretty good too.

The moral of this story is, the two Major League teams that call New York their home need to give their local scouts a metro card and guide them to the sandlots where the MABL, Queens Alliance, Zorrilla, Metro, and Pancho Coimbre leagues, which are located right in their vicinity.

Queens Alliance squad, the Harlem Shaskys, led by #00 COACH – aka Short Matt – who will be dropping his thoughts here tomorrow.
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About Aristotle "Mugsy" Sakellaridis 43 Articles
Aristotle "Mugsy" Sakellaridis is the junkiest of baseball junkies. He plays in 4 leagues, well past his 40th birthday, and spends the winter in Florida shagging flies at Yankees minor league complexes. He's also a retired Riker's Island police officer - having worked the night shift for 20+ years.