For Cubs coach Mike Borzello, it’s not just another game
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2012 11:52PM
Members of the Houston Fire Department’s honor guard perform before the Cubs-Astros game Tuesday in Houston. | Pat Sullivan~AP
CUBS AT ASTROS
The facts: 7:05, CSN+, 720-AM.
The starters: Travis Wood (5-11, 4.42 ERA) vs. Fernando Abad (0-3, 5.30).
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:55PM
HOUSTON — This time of year, even all these years later, Mike Borzello can’t escape the images, the sounds, the faces.
‘‘The constant visitors,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s what I thought about all day. Just the constant visitors, the family members, the little kids who lost their mom or dad. … still wanting to be at Yankee Stadium.’’
Borzello, a first-year member of the Cubs’ coaching staff and native of New York, was the Yankees’ bullpen catcher, living in Manhattan 30 blocks from Ground Zero, when he awoke to the sound of sirens on that morning 11 years ago.
‘‘A lot of sirens,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s always a lot of sirens and noise in New York, but for some reason this seemed louder.’’
Over the next several hours, Borzello watched the Twin Towers fall from Tino Martinez’s high-rise, and searched and found Yankees rookie Nick Johnson safe at his New York hotel.
Over the next seven weeks, he learned first-hand how much baseball meant — which is to say nothing, and in that city at that moment, everything.
Trapped in New York during the baseball stoppage following 9/11, the Yankees visited hospitals, fire stations, police stations and makeshift centers for those looking for lost loved ones.
‘‘We went to a fire station where there were like three firemen left from that station. The rest were all gone,’’ Borzello said. ‘‘Visiting with them, you realized how important [the team and game were] because they were still talking about baseball. They were thanking everyone for coming, and crying, and still finishing with, ‘You guys gotta win, you gotta win for so-and-so.’ ’’
Borzello remembers the two little girls who showed up before a game as guests of the team, daughters of one of the pilots whose plane went into the World Trade Center.
‘‘It was just constant emotion like that,’’ he said. ‘‘You were so up and down. You were up for the baseball, you were down for the emotions of 9/11. And just when you focused on baseball, something like that would happen, where two little girls would show up and it would make you realize how trivial baseball was, and yet how important it was at the same time for all those people.’’
And it’s why Borzello will never complain about all those times he’s asked to stand during a season for the playing of ‘‘God Bless America.’’
‘‘As monotonous as that can get throughout a 162-game schedule, if you were there,’’ he said, ‘‘you understand what’s behind it, and what it stands for.’’