USF takes the field with Yankees

The USF baseball team took to Legends Field to play the New York Yankees on Friday. More than 10,000 fans watched the Bulls’ 11-4 exhibition loss. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REEDThe USF Bulls had the experience of a lifetime, as they faced the New York Yankees at Legends Field on Friday afternoon.

The final score was 11-4 in favor of the Yankees, but both teams got much more than a win or a loss out of the game. The Yankees got to take their first swings of the season, and the Bulls got the chance to play against the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

USF coach Lelo Prado had nothing but positives to say about his team and its opponent.

“We saw too many at-bats,” Prado said, laughing. “What can I say? They are great professional hitters. They are great at what they do, and that is why they make a lot of money. I didn’t say anything to anyone (before the game). I knew (the players) would be nervous but they did very well, and I’m proud of them. This will be something that they can build on and become better players.”

Shawn Sanford started the game for USF and Joba Chamberlain started for the Yankees. It wasn’t until an hour and a half before the game that Sanford found out he would be the starter.

“I’m starting today? I’m a little overwhelmed and excited,” Sanford said. “It’s going to be an honor. I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”

Chamberlain pitched two perfect innings. He threw 22 pitches – 15 for strikes – and struck out two.

Sanford only pitched an inning, but it was an eventful one.

Sanford was trying to “get the ball inside and good” on the Yankee hitters, but when Jeter came up to the plate – the combination of his batting stance – which had him leaning over the plate – and Shawn’s determination to dominate the inside resulted in a hard fastball hitting Jeter in the arm. Sanford appeared stunned.

“When I hit Jeter, I didn’t know how to react,” Sanford said. “(New York centerfielder Johnny) Damon made light of the situation afterwards by messing with us in the dugout. It was pretty funny. He came over and told me ‘You just hit a future Hall-of-Famer.'”

Every Yankee starter left the game after the fourth inning, and the Bulls took advantage.

Pinch-hitter Eric Baumann took a 1-2 pitch from Kei Igawa in the sixth inning that he blasted for a Grand Slam, making it a 9-4 game. Those were the only runs given up by the Yankees.

The crowd of 10,516 rooted for USF throughout the game and appreciated the effort of its players. At one point they rose up to give Baumann a standing ovation as “U-S-F” chants were heard for the first time in the game.

“Unbelievable. It’s something I will never forget,” Baumann said. “Something I will be able to tell my grandkids when I get old and bust out whenever I’m with my friends.”

After the game, Yankees designated hitter Jason Giambi offered his thoughts on the Bulls.

“[USF] is a young team,” Giambi said. “They have a couple of fast kids at the top of the lineup that get on base. They are pretty good. I believe they are going to be one of the best college teams this year.”

USF redshirt freshman centerfielder Ryan Lockwood said playing the Yankees “was an exciting experience.”