Batboy tell-all: Secrets of the Yankees
Opening Day 1998 is my first day on the job and I arrive at Yankee Stadium not knowing what to expect. Before long, a thin teenager with curly brown hair approached and introduced himself as Joe Lee. A former batboy for the Yankees, he was then a clubhouse assistant. After we shook hands, he said, "You know you can't start working here without being named."
Being named? I followed him back into the clubhouse, and the first player I met was Derek Jeter.
"Hi," I said. "My name is Luis Castillo."
Jeter frowned, narrowed his eyes, and said, "Nah."
I was thinking, no what? Why did he say no to me? But I didn't say anything, I just stood waiting. Jeter looked me up and down some more.
"That's it!" Jeter said. "Your nickname is Squeegee . . . You look like a squeegee." He smiled.
"That's tradition," Joe Lee said, putting his arm around my shoulders and leading me away. "He names everybody. As leader of the team he has to give everyone nicknames."
"I got a strange one!" I said. But I never had a chance to ask Derek Jeter why he named me Squeegee. I knew what a squeegee man was, though. They're guys who clean car windows for money, wearing baggy clothes and white jumpers and looking skinny in their clothes. That's how my uniform looked that first day.
At least I had been initiated and was now an official member of the team.
COMPLETE YANKEES COVERAGE
Every time Jeter walked into the clubhouse in street clothes, he would breeze by the young batboys, and the 14- and 15-year-old clubhouse attendants, and greet them with an offhand "How're you doin', biatches?" Bee-atch-es. You'd turn around and say to yourself, Hunh? Was that Derek Jeter who waltzed past, the team captain, the man who is -- in the public eye -- a model of correctness and good taste?
But this greeting wasn't meant to annoy anyone; on the contrary, it was intended to be a funny way to start our workday together. There's no question in my mind that Jeter's easygoing personality traits -- the way he joked, teased and bonded with players -- were something extra, almost in contrast to the aggressive fielding that fans had come to expect.
One day, for instance, Bill Clinton walked into the clubhouse with four Secret Service agents. This was after he had been out of office a few months, but everyone still acted as if he was the commander in chief. Players were saying, "Hello, Sir," and being polite as hell with him until Jeter -- in full uniform, on the way out to the game -- paused just long enough to say: "Hey, Mr. President, you staying out of trouble?"
Jeter didn't even stop to have a chat, he continued out to the field. The confused expression on Clinton's face said it all: Here was a man so shot up with confidence that even running into the president didn't make him miss a beat.
As for Jeter, staying out of trouble came naturally. When we went to bars you would find him sitting at a table with his personal trainer and a few other guys, sipping his drink. He would let his eyes play over the crowd, commenting only in the way his gaze lingered here and there on a woman he found attractive or interesting. His preference was for women who had a nice smile and personality.
But he never used the tricks of the trade, like other players did, to try to attract these women. After checking out the scene at a club, he would tell his personal trainer which girl he liked. He would ask the trainer to go up to the woman and tell her that Derek Jeter wanted to talk with her. Then he would leave the bar first and wait for her. I would often see groups of women giggling and leaving with the trainer, who would lead them to their rendezvous with the captain. In this way, Jeter avoided scandals and gossip and kept his meetings secret.
Because A-Rod was the leader or "the man" on other teams, he probably felt a need to compete with the leader of the Yankees; but here in New York this was Jeter's team and A-Rod had to take a back seat. Over time, however, A-Rod must have sensed that, despite their rivalry, there were things about Derek Jeter that were worth copying.
I had to chuckle at how he aped the captain. For example, Jeter and some of the other guys were terrific tippers. Roger Clemens gave me $3,000 at the end of the year. Posada gave me $7,000. A-Rod might come in with $1,400. Sure, it's still a sizable amount, but when he found out that other players were tipping higher, he had to imitate them, and he bumped his tips up. In fact, he had to make sure he was the best tipper in the league. He even tipped me $100 a week to make sure there was a creatine shake waiting for him after each home game.
A-Rod irritated the other players because he was so high-maintenance. He required his personal assistant to position his toothbrush on a certain part of the sink, specifically the edge near the right-hand cold water tap, leaning with bristles up over the basin. The first time he ordered me to do this, I couldn't believe my ears when he said, "And put some toothpaste on it."
Probably the strangest thing we had to do for A-Rod was lay his clothes out on the table so he could get dressed. You had to lay out these items in a predetermined order: socks at the head of the table, followed by undershorts, undershirt, shirt, pants, and then shoes. I had to carry his clothes from his locker to the trainer's room, where he liked to get dressed away from the prying eyes of the media.
A-Rod was different in another, childish way that made players laugh behind his back. When you watch games at home you sometimes see players come into the dugout after they hit a home run. If you've ever wondered what they're saying, it's usually things like "Way to go!" or "Good job!" Not A-Rod. After he hits a home run, he comes into the dugout and brags about it. Usually he's speaking Spanish to one of the other Latino players, and if he hit a home run he wouldn't shut up. "Wow, did you see I hit a home run?" he'd say. "That pitcher threw me a ball right over the plate and I smashed it over the fence. Did you ever see anything like that before?"
One cool evening we were in Boston and I saw him coming out of the Whiskey Park Bar, near the Public Garden. I happened to be wearing a suit because it was a swank watering hole and I was going to meet a couple of other players, including Bernie Williams. A-Rod was on his way out, with two blondes on his arms. When he saw me, his eyes lit up and he said, "Wow, look a you! I never saw you in a suit." As he passed he reached into the breast pocket of my jacket, and I thought he was rearranging my pocket square. "Have a good night," he said, breezing by with his lovebirds.
Since he was married at the time, I was under the impression that he was walking the ladies out to their car, or perhaps stepping outside to sign some autographs. Perhaps, gentleman that he was, Mr. Rodriguez was planning to escort these young women to their suites, or convey them to their chaperones.
At any rate, when I got to the bar I happened to look down into my breast pocket and was surprised to find two hundred-dollar bills.
There was a love/hate relationship between the team and George Steinbrenner, which took its most outrageous form with the system we called the "Red Alert." It worked like this:
As soon as his car appeared, Rob Gomez, manager of stadium operations, picked up his walkie-talkie and punched in the code for the security officer on duty downstairs. As George got out of his car, Mr. Gomez relayed a message to Craig Foley, the security guard standing in front of the clubhouse.
"Red alert. Boss in the house."
Gomez would calmly turn, smile, and wave to the Boss. Upon receiving word that Steinbrenner had entered the elevator, Mr. Foley would stride down the hallway, open the clubhouse door, and sound the alarm.
Whoever was in the room -- whether it was batboys, coaches, trainers or players -- would spread the word to everyone else.
Called from man to man, player to player, room to room, the alarm would spread like wildfire. You would see clubbies jump out of their chair and hang up the same piece of underwear six times. You would see coaches put down newspapers and start scribbling notes on clipboards.
George would get out of the elevator and walk down the hall. When the clubhouse opened, everyone would be working -- and George would love it. You could tell by the big smile. The Red Alert system had worked again.
We could also have a little fun at the Boss' expense. Just before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series against the Mets, Fox News was setting up wires and microphones in the Mets' visiting clubhouse. If we won that game, we would win the series, and it would be big news. By the time they had everything squared away, they had done a professional job of using black tape to conceal all the wires so that nobody would get hurt.
After the seventh inning, George was looking pink in the face and nervous. The score was tied 2-2. David Cone, who wasn't pitching that day, happened to cross through the room. There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Spotting a microphone taped under the table, Cone stood looking at it. "Oh, my, my, my," he said, as if speaking to himself.
"What's the matter?"
"Can you believe this?" Cone said. "Can you believe they'd do something like this -- "
"Don't you see it? They taped a microphone under there."
"Who? Who taped a microphone?"
"Are you ser--"
"They've got the room bugged."
George was red in the face. The prankster had him going now, for sure, and Cone was having fun. For Cone, this was almost as good as winning games. George went nuts. He had taken the bait -- hook, line and sinker.
He started looking around for something, then turning to us, yelled, "Somebody get me a pair of scissors!" He wanted to cut the wire!
Yes, we were like a big family, and George was the father figure we all feared. Joe Torre used to take a lot of guff from him, but he never let it interfere with his game plan. "This is what the Boss wants," he would tell players in closed meetings. "But this is what we're going to do." And there would be smiles.
Matsui: Rally ho!
It was before Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, a game that we would lose. The series was tied 3-3 at that point, and it was particularly disheartening since we had won the first three games. Unknown to us, Boston's comeback was not to be stopped.
At any rate, at the end of the meeting it was traditional for Joe Torre to ask Jorge Posada what we were going to do. He would reply, "Grind it!" This time -- I guess to make Hideki Matsui feel more part of the team -- Torre turned to him at the end of the meeting.
"What are we going to do?"
Hideki paused for just a second before replying.
"Kick ass. Pop champagne. And get some ho's."
Joe dugout habit
Even during the rockiest and most difficult years of his being manager, Joe Torre was usually focused and kept his nose to the grindstone. There was only one thing that distracted him from work, however, and it wasn't women -- it was horses.
I found out about this quirk of his during a late-season game. Torre called me over in the dugout, and from the dark look on his face I thought it was something serious. He waited until I was close and then lowered his voice. "Go down to my office," he said. "I want you to check the score on the Off-Track Betting channel and see who won." I was stunned. It was during a game! I had never before been asked to leave my post.
"Make sure you find out the exact track and horse," he added.
I ran down into the clubhouse and found the attendant, Joe Lee.
"Joe, Mr. T just asked me to find out something about which horses won," I said. "What's he talking about?"
Lee was chewing gum and looked unimpressed about the whole thing. "Yeah," he said. "Don't you know why he's got that TV in his office? It's usually just tuned to one channel."
"What's that, the YES Network?"
"No, the OTB station."
Lee led me into Torre's office and showed me how to decipher the race results. I jogged up to the dugout and gave them to Torre, who grabbed the paper and studied it like his life depended on it. When he had discovered the information he wanted, he turned to Don Zimmer and showed it to him. The older man's eyes lit up, and before I left they were talking excitedly not about the next batter but the OTB results!
From "Clubhouse Confidential" by Luis "Squeegee" Castillo with William Cane. Copyright © 2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press LLC.