Molina reflects on closing the Cathedral
Catcher has had whirlwind experience since hitting final homer
TORONTO -- Jose Molina took the field behind the plate on Tuesday at Rogers Centre, but his cleats were in Cooperstown. It's been an eventful two days for the Yankees' backup catcher.
Since hitting the final home run in Yankee Stadium history on Sunday, Molina's cell phone has been hit by an avalanche of well-wishers, each congratulating him on completing a historical trek that began with Babe Ruth's first home run in the Bronx on April 18, 1923.
"Just to be part of these things that happened is amazing," Molina said. "Sometimes it's hard to explain it. You don't want to say much, you just want to enjoy the moment. I had to think about it because I got a lot of calls from my family, brothers and parents. Everybody was congratulating me."
The Baseball Hall of Fame also received the bat that Johnny Damon used in the Yankees' 7-3 victory on Sunday, though Xavier Nady got a nod in a way -- Damon had broken all of his bats, so he borrowed Nady's lumber to hit a three-run homer in the third inning.
Derek Jeter will also be represented at the Hall, as they obtained his spikes from the Sept. 16 game in which he passed Lou Gehrig as the Stadium's all-time hits leader.
Most of the Yankees traveled north with the club in a late-afternoon charter flight on Monday, leaving Yankee Stadium behind -- perhaps for the final time. But they will keep the memories.
"I think the Yankees did a wonderful job," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "There were some really neat things that took place that evening -- watching Bernie [Williams] come back, watching Don Larsen grab dirt from the pitchers mound -- it shows you how important that place really is."
Molina said one of his most impressive recollections was joining the club at the mound to listen to Jeter address the crowd in a speech before joining a slow, meandering walk through the outfield, waving their caps and looking up into the night sky.
"People didn't want to leave the Stadium," Molina said. "They wanted to stay there, looking at the field. Remember, this is a tradition -- 85 years. It's just special."
Most took souvenirs from the evening. Jason Giambi, the owner of the Stadium's final hit, glowed when asked what he'd laid claim to. The slugger has requested his Yankee Stadium locker, as well as four seats and a first base used in the final game.
"It didn't hit me until I started dressing for the last time," Giambi said. "That's when it hit me that, no matter whether it be across the street or whatever, that this was going to be the last time I put my uniform on in this place. It was incredible, it really was."
That hit -- a seventh-inning bloop that fell into left field -- could be Giambi's last wearing a home Yankees uniform. The club will almost certainly buy out Giambi's option for 2009 for $5 million after the season, and then will evaluate him as they would any other free agent.
"To get to put on the pinstripes for seven years, I'm one of those few people on this planet who gets to live out their dream every single day," Giambi said. "To come [to Yankee Stadium] and play with the greats. When you these guys come walking in, whether it be Tino [Martinez] or Whitey [Ford], all the way back, the history of the game is incredible. It really is."
Mariano Rivera came prepared with a large bucket and filled it to the brim with dirt from the pitching mound. Girardi kept dirt from the catchers' area behind home plate, since that was where he spent the majority of his time.
Robinson Cano saved the uniform he wore in the game, as well as his spikes and a scoop of dirt. He plans to have it arranged in a frame for his game room, overlooking a pool table.
Brian Bruney wanted two seats; rookie Phil Coke took photos just to prove to himself that he was there. And as for Jeter, he hasn't yet revealed what he took from the Stadium's final evening.
"I can't imagine for Mo, Jeter, [Jorge] Posada, Andy [Pettitte]," Molina said. "Spending so many years there. I will still miss the time, but I think for them it will be a lot harder. All their life, they've been playing on the same field. That's where the memories are."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.