New York Yankees loyalists flocked to the sunny, and sometimes wet, sands of Tampa this past Saturday (March 19) to catch Major League Baseball’s most successful team square up against the Atlanta Braves. However, this particular spring training game was unlike any other for two lucky and especially well deserving American servicemembers: Commander Victor F. Rivera and Technical Sergeant Tiffany J. Fenimore, both lifelong Yankees fans with affectionate ties to the organization going back generations.
Both Rivera (United States Coast Guard) and Fenimore (United States Air Force Reserve) were hand selected by their regiments to represent Tampa and St. Petersburg’s servicemen and women in a once in a lifetime experience that included spring training tickets and a rare opportunity to have dinner with two-time World Series champion and retired Yankees player, Mickey Rivers.
The experience organized by East Coast chocolate confectioner, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, kicked off Saturday afternoon at the Yankees’ George M. Steinbrenner Field; a venue used yearly by the organization for preseason activities. The game had an electric start in the first-inning with a magnificent diving catch by Yankees’ center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, helping set the tone for a 3-2 win over the Braves.
After the game, when asked what the Yankees organization meant to him and family, Rivera elaborated on his longstanding love for the team and who he has to thank for it.
Rivera: “In 1920 (at the age of 7), my wife’s grandfather, Mario (Pipo) had the fortune of meeting George Herman “Babe” Ruth in Havana, Cuba, forever leaving a lasting impression on him. Mario’s love for baseball and the Yankees has had a major influence on the entire family. I met my wife Sandra in High School in 1985 and we married in 1987. Since joining the family, one thing was clear to me; everyone in the family loves the Yankees. (Editor’s note: Rivera’s extended family drove out to attend the game.) In contrast, I grew up in Puerto Rico and as a kid loved to play baseball. Growing up, I remember looking up to several of the Yankees greats, especially Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, Thurman Munson, Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle, Ed Figueroa and, of course, Mickey Rivers.”
Following the game Rivera and Fenimore prepared themselves to meet Mickey Rivers, a player they both excitedly grew up watching, over dinner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in downtown Tampa. The dinner served as a wonderful opportunity for the three to reminisce over great moments in Yankees history and bond over their shared military service.
When asked how being a proud American servicemember has affected their outlook on life both Fenimore and Rivera eagerly responded.
Fenimore: “The events of September 11th were impactful on my decision to join the U.S. enlisted ranks after completing my studies and receiving two bachelor’s degrees. I remember smelling the smoke from the towers and seeing clouds of debris blowing over the city in person and on television. It is one of the driving forces behind my continued resolve to defend my nation. Every time I see my own efforts or those of my military brethren impact the community on a global level, I know I have made the right decision. I joined the military to defend those who could not defend themselves; I live every day trying to do that exact same thing. I live for the good, I deny the unjust, and I strive to improve myself, my family, and my community.”
Rivera: “I have served proudly for 26 years and I look forward to a full 30 year career in the U.S. Coast Guard. If I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing! The Coast Guard has influenced my outlook on life by giving me a bigger sense of responsibility for the safety and care of others. I am extremely proud to be a member of the U.S. Armed Forces!”
As for lasting impressions of the night, Fenimore remarked.
Fenimore: “My fondest memory of the evening will be Mr. Rivers’ enthusiasm for autographing a small wooden bat I had kept for almost 20 years, after receiving it at Yankees Stadium as a child. The entire experience will be kept close to my heart as I watch the new season of Yankees baseball unfold and reminisce about the good ol’ days; and the great men who played in my neck of the woods.”
BallerStatus would like to give special thanks to Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews for their sponsorship of this event and article. Peanut Chews is proud to continue their heritage of supporting American servicemen and women; dating back to World War I.