Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager and vice president, had four reassuring words for long-suffering Mets fans June 22 at the 75th CYO Club of Champions Tribute.
“Not going to happen” was his emphatic response when the name Jose Reyes and the possibility of him wearing Yankee pinstripes, perhaps a Mets fan’s worst nightmare, was broached during a brief discussion with journalists in the foyer of the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria where Cashman was about to be feted with the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award.
“I think we have an everyday shortstop in Derek Jeter, and I think we have an everyday shortstop that would be playing for a lot of clubs in Eduardo Nunez, so the Yankees don’t have a need now nor in the future for a shortstop, in my opinion,” he added.
Cashman, who played CYO basketball while growing up in Washingtonville, and attended Georgetown Prep in Rockville, Md., and The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., received the Mara award in recognition of his “exceptional sportsmanship” and leadership.
Also honored were best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark, who received the Terence Cardinal Cooke Humanitarian Award for her outstanding commitment to youth; Archbishop Dolan and Frank J. Bisignano, the chief administrative officer at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Archbishop Dolan, who each received Gold Medal Awards in recognition for their commitment to youth.
Cashman joined the Yankees in 1986 at age 19, working as an intern in the teams’ minor league and scouting department. In February 1998 Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner named him general manager, making Cashman the second youngest person in baseball history to hold that position. The team went on to win World Series championships in his first three seasons.
He gave some of the credit for his mailroom to boardroom success story with baseball’s most storied franchise to lessons he learned during his Jesuit education.
“Those guys are tough on you,” he said of his Jesuit instructors and the lessons they imparted at Georgetown Prep. “There was lot of discipline, a lot of heart, a lot of compassion but you had to be prepared.” In accepting his award, Cashman recalled his own days playing CYO basketball at St. Mary’s in Washingtonville, Orange County.
“I know the whole purpose behind (CYO) is teaching you how to win and how to do it properly,” Cashman said. And he noted that the Yankees had the same ethos. “I know our Yankees teams, when Joe Torre was the manager and we had that crazy successful run, people would say that they found it hard to hate the Yankees because we went about our business the right way in terms of winning.
“I think that also showed when we lost to the Boston Red Sox in ’04,” he continued. “The Red Sox opened the ‘05 season in Fenway Park with the Yankees. They got their rings and raised their world championship banner right there in front of us. So we had a decision to make internally, how would we handle this? Do we sit in the clubhouse? Do we watch the ceremony? So we all talked about it. And our team stood. Our team applauded and our team took its medicine as the Red Sox did something spectacular. Unfortunately, it happened against us. But we lost the right way and that is obviously what CYO teaches.”
The Waldorf ballroom was packed for the landmark 75th CYO celebration. When CYO director Alec McAuley asked how many in the room had taken part in CYO activities as youngsters, the vast majority of guests raised their hands.
In accepting her award, Ms. Clark recalled a conversation she once had with Cardinal Cooke.
“He said, ‘Mary, you went to Villa Maria Academy and I grew up near there and we used to walk slowly passed the gates of the Villa. We thought you girls were so elegant in your uniforms.’ And I said, ‘Your Eminence, I could not have set foot in that school if I had not been a scholarship student,” she said. “ So for all the good, the scholarships, after-school activities and helping (children) in their developing years to find the right path…the sportsmanship path, the path that will lead them to becoming great men and women, I thank you.”
In his closing remarks Archbishop Dolan described why CYO is so important, both to youngsters and to the Church.
“First of all sports is an analogy for life itself. St. Paul reminds us that the quest for salvation is like a sport, that we’re running, not for earthly glory, we’re contending for eternal salvation,” he explained. “Secondly sports teaches virtue, and the Church is big on the teaching of virtue; discipline, obeying the rules, solidarity, teamwork, the reward of honor and loyalty...and finally, we don’t mind admitting it, but sports are a good way to keep kids close to Christ and his Church. That’s the reason we’re in it and we do it well and I’m proud of it and simply put, everybody, we couldn’t do it without you.”