Yankees Fan Feature Friday: Eric Katz

It's Fan Feature Friday! This week, I'd like to introduce Eric Katz.

Meet Eric Katz

When did you first become a Yankees fan? How old were you? What year was it? How did it come about?

I first became a fan when I was a very young kid in the 90s, perfect timing right? Living in New Jersey for my first five years of existence was integral to my allegiance to the Bronx Bombers. Even when I moved to Illinois and had both the White Sox and Cubs close by, it was always the Yankees for me. Growing up alongside my dad’s side of the family, all diehard Yankee fans, there wasn't much of a choice.

The most influential person in making me a Yankee fan for life, however, was my Godfather John. My Godfather repeatedly sent me Yankees memorabilia, photos, shirts, jerseys, and hats for both Christmas and my birthday every year. I remember my first shirt being a David Cone “shirsey” that I often wore everywhere I went.

The Yankees are what my Godfather and I bond over. Whenever we call, text, or see each other in person, the Yankees come up in our conversations. Our fandom for the Yankees created an unbreakable bond for us. We took in a game together at the stadium in 2010 and we're hoping to do the same this coming season.

Who is your favorite player of all-time? 

My favorite player of all time is David “Boomer” Wells. He wasn’t a Yankee for very long, but he had a very memorable two stints in the Bronx. Name another player who had pitched an inning wearing a game-used Babe Ruth hat, paid the fine with $1 bills, asked for Babe Ruth’s number, pitched a perfect game with a bad hangover, won a World Series, and was later brought back for a second stint because the pros outweighed the cons?

Despite his antics, David Wells always seemed to come up big when the Yankees needed him most. He is a big reason why the Yankees had arguably the greatest team ever in 1998. His performance in the 1998 ALCS is what makes those moments so legendary in Yankees lore.

Pitchers have one of the most difficult positions to play in baseball. You ultimately control whether your team wins or loses because the ball is always in your hand. David Wells was one of the most successful Yankee pitchers despite a short career in the Bronx. On top of that success, he added his name to the list of the best characters to come through the organization.

David Wells' perfect game was performed at a 1:00 p.m. game, just hours after an all-night binger with Jimmy Fallon and the SNL cast that lasted until 5:30 a.m. 

“I remember pulling into the ballpark, and Coney’s locker was right next to mine, he goes, ‘Wow, you stink, you better go hide.’ And then Jimmy wakes up at 1:30-2:00 in the afternoon and he turns the tv on, I’m on and he thought it was a rerun.” — David Wells

Who is your favorite most underrated player? 

My favorite most underrated player would have to be Mike Mussina. Even though he started his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Mussina had a great career in New York. I don’t believe he’s appreciated enough by the fans.

People talk about Clemens, Pettitte, Rivera, and others but they forget Mussina was the anchor of that staff from 2001-2008. He was one of the most consistent pitchers ever for the Yankees. Heck, he even won 20 games, finished sixth in the Cy Young voting, and earned a Gold Glove all in his last season at the age of 39.

It’s too bad we never won a World Series with him in the rotation as he arrived a year after the 2000 title and retired a year before the 2009 ring. Unfortunately, he had to endure the heartbreaks of the 2001 and 2003 championships and the excruciating collapse in the 2004 ALCS. Nevertheless, a truly forgotten great. He’s a hall-of-famer now, but I wish he could’ve experienced the taste of World Series  champagne in the Bronx.

What is your most memorable moment as a fan?

My most memorable moment as a Yankee fan was when they won the 2009 World Series against the Phillies. At that time, my grandfather—a big Yankee fan—had just passed away. Wehoped and prayed that the Yankees would capture their 27th title at the time. That entire side of the family roots for the Yankees, and with everyone mourning my grandfather's passing, we just wanted something to cheer about. I can't recall a time when everyone was at my grandmother’s house not screaming and yelling at every pitch.

We also had family friends who lived in the Philadelphia area who were Phillies fans. We had a bet going  with our Phillies friends that if whoever's team lost had to buy the other family World Series Champion hats.

Not only did the Yankees win it all, but we gained some serious bragging rights on family and friends in Philadelphia. On top of that, they lost the bet and had to buy us the hats!

What would you like to see in the 2023 season? 

Aside from winning the World Series, I really just wanted to see Aaron Judge back in pinstripes. Judge gave us a once-in-a-lifetime season. Without Judge’s heroics, this team wouldn’t have gone as far as they did this past season. I’d have a hard time seeing the Yankees offense being good without him. He also is truly meant to be a Yankee.

If you could sit down with any former Yankees player, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you talk about?

There are so many great players that have come through the organization making this question tough. However, if I could sit down and talk to any Yankee it would be with Mickey "the Mick" Mantle. I’d ask him about how he managed to have a hall-of-fame career despite playing through so much pain. Favorite misadventure? Which championship team was the best he played on? Did he truly believe Roger Maris had a shot at hitting 61 home runs? And was there any significance behind selecting number seven?

Extra Innings

Eric writes for Belly Up Sports and is a member of several segments of the South Florida Tribune podcasts.

On-Deck and is a member of several segments of the South Florida Tribune podcasts.

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Jonna M. Perlinger