Jorge Posada makes debut at Yankees Old Timers' Day

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada peppered line drives around the Yankee Stadium outfield, first from the left side, and then the right.

The switch-hitting backstop seemed plenty comfortable to one of his old teammates -- a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, no less.

"Tim Raines, he said, 'You look like you can play," Posada recalled. "I said, 'There's no way, man. They're throwing too hard right now."

Posada, a 17-year major league veteran, had no trouble catching up Sunday. He, Raines and 31 other former players gathered at Yankee Stadium for the 71st Old Timers' Day, Posada's first since retiring after the 2011 season.

The five-time World Series champion called it "strange" to strap on the catcher's gear, but he seemed at home behind home plate. Posada attended this year at Tino Martinez's urging.

"I want to be here for the fans," Posada said.

Posada, Don Larsen and Whitey Ford got some of the biggest ovations, and Raines wasn't far behind. The Yankees held a special ceremony to honor the former left fielder, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next month. Former manager Joe Torre presented Raines with a pair of seats from old Yankee Stadium, where the player known as "Rock" helped New York win World Series titles in 1996 and '98.

Raines said he's had an "unbelievable" buildup to his induction this summer. He said he won't write a speech for his big day, which comes after he was voted into the Hall on his 10th and final time on the ballot.

"I'm just going to let it go and see what comes out," he said. "It should be OK."

A few Old Timers managed to rekindle some big league magic. Bernie Williams laced a double down the right field line and scored the game's only run, and 71-year-old Reggie Jackson ripped a ball to Jesse Barfield in right field. Mickey Rivers, still quick at 68 years old, chased down Rickey Henderson's liner in center and caught it with a basket catch at his hip.

Not everyone found their old form. Left-hander Sparky Lyle tripped over himself trying to field Rivers' dribbler leading off the game, and Willie Randolph face-planted going after a popup behind first base.

"It's because I laughed at Sparky," Randolph said.

The Yankees hosted this midsummer get-together while in first place for the first time since 2012, and Posada said he sees some similarities to this club and the '96 championship team.

"The things that I like the most about the team is they don't quit," the five-time All-Star said. "Score 8-0, and they still give it a fight to try to score some runs, and I like that."

Posada also said he was eager to see slugger Aaron Judge in the upcoming All-Star Home Run Derby.

"I haven't seen him hit in batting practice," Posada said. "I heard he puts on a show."

Posada is the first of New York's "Core Four" to return as an Old Timer. He hopes to have Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte out there with him soon, although he guessed that Rivera or Pettitte would be next in line.

"Not Derek," Posada said with a laugh. "One of the other two."