|Dan Reischel throwing a ball to Aaron Judge, as he and his father, Frank, have a catch with the Yankees center fielder. Photo by Jason Schott.|
On Friday afternoon, Yankees HOPE Week concluded with the Bronx Bombers honoring Dan Reischel at Yankee Stadium, as he completed his journey of playing 162 games of catch to combat the isolation that permeated the depths of the pandemic.
This is the 13th edition of Yankees HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel), a week-long community program that gives recognition to remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.
Over each of the five days, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family, or organization worthy of recognition and support, providing honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments. For more information about this initiative, which is spearheaded by Jason Zillo, Yankees Vice President of Community & Media Relations, visit hopeweek.com.
|A check was presented by the Yankees Foundation to the NYC Parks Department to maintain the grounds of Heritage Field, which is on the site of the old Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Yankees players Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Michael King, Joey Gallo, and Lucas Leutge joined Dan Reischel and his father, Frank, on the field at Yankee Stadium as they play Dan's 162nd game of catch, ahead of their big game with the Boston Red Sox. Dan's wife, mother, and four children were on hand, and local youth baseball players got the incedible opportunity to play catch with the Yankees players in the Yankee Stadium outfield.
|Gleyber Torres (center, facing ahead) and Michael King (second on left, throwing) playing catch on the Yankee Stadium outfield. Photo by Jason Schott.|
|One of the youth baseball players (left) got to try on Anthony Rizzo's big first baseman's glove. Photo by Jason Schott.|
|Anthony Rizzo floats one to the youth baseball player he switched gloves with. Photo by Jason Schott.|
|Gerrit Cole waiting to receive a throw. Photo by Jason Schott.|
After the group catch, everyone went to visit Monument Park and the Yankees Museum to continue to celebrate the connective, intergenerational nature of baseball. Reischel and his family, and the local youth players, will then be guests for batting practice, and Reischel and his father will throw out tonight's first pitches.
|Aaron Judge floats one up to one of the youth baseball players so he can see what it's like to make a catch near the fence at Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge said of how special this event was, "It's five minutes, you know, people don't understand how just a little bit of playing catch like that with someone special, with your father or friend, somebody you don't know at a park, you know, just little moments like that, you know, mean the world, especially during the pandemic, and everything else happening, you know, get a chance to just share moments like that when we're trying to socially distance and be apart, that's the way you kind of keep families together and keep memories that could last a lifetime."
On the meaning of HOPE Week and why Reischel was a deserving honoree, Judge said, "It's all about highlighting special organizations and special people, and what Dan was able to do, and to finally end it at Yankee Stadium is going to be a special moment. The smiles on these kids' faces, how excited they were, how about Dan and his Dad, Frankie, how excited they were, it's just a special day and excited to be a part of it.
"That's where it all starts, you know, it makes me think of the times I played some catch with my Dad out in the front yard, out on the baseball field. My Dad would get done working, he's tired, just wants to hang out and rest up, but he always took the time to spend five, ten minutes with me outside, and those are memories I hold on to, to this day."
|Frank Reischel (right) throwing one to Aaron Judge, as he and his son have catch with the Yankees star. Photo by Jason Schott.|
DAN REISCHEL (Provided by New York Yankees):
As the COVID-19 pandemic kept people isolated throughout 2020 and much of 2021, Dan Reischel, happily married father of three boys and a girl in Limerick, Penn., thought deeply about the relationships that were being strained and the things in life that brought him his greatest joy and purpose.
"For each of us, some unfortunate byproducts of the pandemic were varying degrees of isolation and decreased connections with others," Reischel said. "Baseball has always been a touchstone for me and my family, and at the start of 2021, I thought that playing catch could be a socially-distanced way to begin bringing some of these connections back."
With that in mind, he embarked on a project - to play catch with 162 people, a number that represents the number of games in a baseball season. Some were family, some were friends, and some were complete strangers to whom he reached out, but all had the common thread of holding the game of baseball deep in their hearts, whether through playing when they were younger or simply being a fan. The only goals were catch and conversation, which would generally veer into stories about their favorite moments experiencing the game they love.
Reischel, who grew up in Ronkonkoma on Long Island, is a diehard Yankees fan and always insists on wearing his Yankees gear during his catches. He had to temporarily pause his efforts over the winter to care for his wife, Megan, who last December and January underwent a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy to combat her increasingly severe multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed 14 years ago.
"Whenever I have asked someone to play catch, the answer has always been yes, and oftentimes they have been completely surprised seeing as they haven't done something like that in decades," Reischel said. "Playing catch is such a different pace than what we're used to. It's like stepping back in time, and the stress in our lives just fades in the background. People open up in a way that is just incredible."
"Of the many catches that stand out to me, I had known my father-in-law for years, but it wasn't really a close relationship seeing as he and his wife live out in Indianapolis. His father passed away in September, and I played catch with my father-in-law the evening that his father was laid to rest. He told me stories about how they used to drive to Cincinnati and watch the Big Red Machine. Even though he and I never really had that father/son-in-law bonding in the 18 years I had known my wife, there was something about making that ask and tossing the ball around that truly brought us together for the first time."
|Dan Reischel throwing one to Aaron Judge. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Along the way, Dan has tried to incorporate meaningful spots to have his catches - a park near where Lou Gehrig used to live in Larchmont, N.Y., on the site of the old Yankee Stadium,m and at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. He has also played catch with complete strangers, such as former Yankees pitcher Bobby Shantz (age 96) who lives nearby, celebrated former Little Leaguer Mo'ne Davis, and Larry and Lindsay Berra (Yogi's son and granddaughter), who played catch with Dan at the site of the Yogi Berra Museum.
"What I've found through this journey is that the game of baseball is for everybody, and I have been intentional in trying to play with as diverse a group as possible," Reischel said. "It's black and white and Asian. It's gay and straight. It's male and female."
"That is what has stuck to me - that baseball belongs to all of us. It's a universal language that allows us to connect not only with the kid inside us but with others on a common ground that transcends all those things that frequently divide us."