Mattingly returns favor to young fan Helps bleacher hero who helped him beat Orioles

August 17, 1993|By Jim Lyons and Larry Sutton | Jim Lyons and Larry Sutton,New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- At last! A New York sports hero who likes the press, loves the fans and would do anything to see his team make the World Series.

Meet Tim McKenzie, a 16-year-old superstar -- from the right-field seats of Yankee Stadium.

McKenzie "helped" Don Mattingly hit the game-winning home run Sunday. He snatched the ball before a Orioles outfielder could get his outstretched glove on it, helping the New York Yankees stay tied for first place in the AL East.

Mattingly returned the favor yesterday. He autographed the ball after meeting McKenzie outside Yankee Stadium's gates.

"To Tim: Nice Catch," the Yankees first baseman wrote.

A moment of true Fan Nirvana. Especially for McKenzie, a high school senior from Durham, Conn., and a Mattingly admirer for years.

"I worship Don Mattingly," he said. "I love the guy. His attitude is just great. He's a leader. He never publicly goes nuts over a bad call. He stays cool."

NTC The autograph capped a wild 24 hours for McKenzie, who went from ordinary fan to celebrity the moment he caught the ball Sunday afternoon.

Fellow fans asked for his autograph. Neighbors dropped by his house to offer congratulations. Newspapers, radio stations and television stations called for interviews.

"I'm kind of shocked about the whole thing," the high school senior told the New York Daily News.

Mattingly powered a Ben McDonald forkball toward the right-field wall. McKenzie, racing toward the wall, leans over and catches the ball as it makes its way to the stands. Mark McLemore, the Orioles right fielder, says McKenzie interfered with the play. AL umpires disagreed, ruling that the ball was headed into home-run territory anyway.

McKenzie's view?

"I was afraid the stadium guards were going to chase me out of there for catching the ball," he said.

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