The New York Yankees put “The Judge’s Chambers” to phenomenal use on Sunday and delivered an unbelievable experience for representatives of the Niskayuna Baseball League.Way too often, we forget what the game of baseball truly means and on a Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, the New York Yankees reminded us what it’s all about.
Visiting Yankee Stadium were little leaguers from the Niskayuna Baseball League, who traveled roughly two and half hours from the city of Schenectady, New York, to partake in the Yankees’ Youth Parade Game. While a trip to the ballpark is a fun day for any group, Joe DiCaprio, who visited with ballplayers that ranged from the tee-ball level (Age 4) to majors level (Age 14), got a little more than just a trip.
Account Executive of the Yankees’ Group Sales and Service Department Staff Ben Neistat called to ask DiCaprio if he and his little leaguers would be interested in sitting in “The Judge’s Chambers” as part of the Youth League Day.
That’s right, the 18-seat section in right field installed for fans of rookie sensation Aaron Judge was offered to DiCaprio and his young group for the afternoon.
“Honestly, my initial reaction after being asked was that of shock,” DiCaprio said. “I had to let the news process a bit, and let it sink in. I’m a huge Yankees fan myself, so the awe factor hit me as much as it would an eight-year-old kid.”
“After that, my mind immediately went into planning and excitement mode at telling the kids,” he added. “I randomly selected players, and to hear, then see, their true and honest excitement, well, that’s a memory I will cherish forever.”
Armed with navy blue gavels and rocking black judicial robes with the interlocking NY logo on the front and Judge’s No. 99 on the back, DiCaprio, his kids (Will, Jake, and Grace) and the rest of the group were enjoying the experience of a lifetime.
“So, at this point in the game, I’m pretty amped up,” DiCaprio said. “I’ve got a cold drink in my hand, it’s a beautiful day, I have my three kids and ten other little players in ‘The Judge’s Chambers’ at Yankees Stadium, the game is close, kids are happy, I’ve got a day off of work the following day. Life is good and I’m thinking, ‘How can this day get any better?'”
Well, the baseball gods positively listened to that question as Judge stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the third inning trailing by one with the bases loaded and two outs. On a 2-1 count, the 6-foot-7 outfielder connected on an 89.6 mph fastball from Oakland Athletics’ starter Andrew Triggs and blasted it into the right-field seats, just a few rows away from where DiCaprio’s group was sitting, for his 15th home run of the season and his first career grand slam.
“I honestly thought the ball had a shot to land in the Chambers themselves,” DiCaprio said. “It wound up landing a few rows in front of us and then after that, pandemonium. The little league players in the chambers are jumping up and down holding the ‘All Rise’ signs, they’re yelling and cheering and screaming. I’m doing the same thing. The whole chambers section just erupted. I have this very cool snapshot in my head of that scene, and it is something I won’t ever forget for the rest of my life.”
DiCaprio’s experience also challenges the many who claim that manufacturing a section of the ballpark in honor of a rookie without a full season under his belt was a little hasty. Those critics simply take it at face value, without considering what it now emotionally represents for the group from a small town in upstate New York.
“The set-up is hilarious with the wordplays and puns, and the robes, gavels, wigs, signs, all those things,” DiCaprio said. “I think it’s a wonderful blend to engage adult and kid fanbases alike. I love the whole concept and think the sky’s the limit with it.”
Joe DiCaprio, in addition to managing the Soule Family Dentistry Royals, is also an elementary school principal with 18 years in public education. He, especially following the events that transpired on Sunday, believes the lessons taught by the National Pastime — despite the rise of a digital-driven society — is a fundamental element in life.
“The game of baseball is one of the best things we can do to promote that engaged family time with one another,” DiCaprio said. “It’s our national past time, and the pace and style of the game allow for conversations between at-bats and innings, quality time outdoors, and oh, by the way, a chance to watch one of the greatest organizations in the history of sports.”
The trip wasn’t a fundraiser for the league nor was any profit made off of it to benefit the team. What it did benefit, however, were the memories of the little leaguers in the ballpark on Sunday. It could very well be a once in a lifetime experience, but it will surely be one these kids will never forget.
“I have had countless emails, texts, and phone calls from the families that attended, expressing their appreciation and sheer enjoyment they all had,” DiCaprio said. “They had fun with their kids and extended family, simply because they were together. And that, to me, is worth any price of admission.”