Rookie initiation Day

The Rookies took part in the Yankees' annual rookie initiation day in the Bronx
09/24/2007 8:18 PM ET
By Jennifer Royle /

(l. to r.) Chamberlain, Kennedy, Duncan and Hughes.(AP)
NEW YORK — Yankees fans have watched the abundance of young and impressive rookies dominate on the mound, the field and at the plate all season. But if they stuck around to see them depart from Yankee Stadium after Monday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays, they would have seen them in a whole new and unforgettable light.

It was initiation day at Yankee Stadium, a tradition that forces the rookies to dress up in costume for the last regular-season road trip. Credit clubhouse and equipment manager Rob Cucuzza for his brilliant creativity that has put players such as Hideki Matsui dressed as a pimp, Chien-Ming Wang in a cheerleading uniform and last year's rookies, Jeff Karstens and Sean Henn, in look-a-like George Steinbrenner gear. This year, with close to a dozen rookies to dress, including the strength coach and Kei Igawa's translator, Cucuzza came up with one of the more amusing themes, "The Wizard Of Oz."

I don't really know what I see," said Joba Chamberlain, dressed in a full lion costume with a bushy wig and mittens as paws. "I look around and see a lot of people who look just like me. I don't care what I look like. I hope it looks good though. But it's so hot. This thing is 100 degrees."

Chamberlain, known for his playful and sarcastic personality threw air punches while yelling, "Put em up, put em up," a famous line from the classic film. He later asked Chase Wright, dressed as Glinda, the good witch of the North that consisted of a pink prom-like dress with a blonde wig, crown and wand, for his phone number as the fellow rookie walked past his locker.

"Follow the yellow brick road boys, we're in!" yelled Chamberlain."

Complete with "We're off to see the Wizard" music blasting throughout the Yankees clubhouse, media members, coaches, veteran players and clubhouse staff taunted and teased the rookies until they boarded the team bus for Tampa Bay. But as expected, the rookies didn't mind being the centers of attention.

"I feel I look the best I have in years," said Matt DeSalvo, who was dressed as one of three Munchkin lollipop kids with red circles painted on his cheeks. "I think I'll wear these pants more often."

The Cast Members
Ross Ohlendorf - Prison guard 1
Kei Igawa - Flying monkey 1
Matt DeSalvo - Lollipop munchkin 1
Chase Wright - Glinda, good witch of the East
Tyler Clippard - Flying monkey 2
Phil Hughes - Tin Man
Joba Chamberlain - Cowardly Lion
Bronson Sardinha - Prison guard 2
Edwar Ramirez - Wicked Witch of the West
Ian Kennedy - Dorothy
Alberto Gonzalez - Lollipop munchkin 2
Shelley Duncan - Scarecrow
Dana Cavalea (strength coach) - Emerald City Mayor
Yumi Watanabe (Igawa's translator) - Talking tree
"A little bit," answered Wright when asked if he was in touch with his feminine side.

Phil Hughes, one of the quieter rookies of the bunch, had a hard time figuring out how to put on his Tin Man costume. Media members overlooked as the starter struggled to get dressed.

"Which way do these pants go on?" Hughes asked. "Why couldn't they just give me regular pants?"

While the rookies were playfully enjoying one of the funner moments of the season, nobody enjoyed it more than the vets.

"This is pretty creative," said Derek Jeter. "They've been getting creative over the past few years. It's a good opportunity to have a little fun with them. Fortunately, I missed it so, I didn't have to get dressed up. We didn't dress up then."

Next to Chamberlain, perhaps Shelley Duncan enjoyed the event the most, wearing the scarecrow outfit and playing the role as if he was a character in a play.

"I feel great," Duncan said. "My costume is really light and breathable. Cozy. I feel like I look good. I'm really happy.

"A lot of my fellow Oz members... they look really good too and this is a very glorious moment for me. Chase Wright... she's beautiful. Extremely. A princess in my eyes. But the one I really care for is Dorothy. Dorothy Kennedy means a lot to me. Without her she would never lead me to the wizard and that's the most important part of the mission, to find what we're looking for. And we will."

Joe Torre made a brief appearance in the clubhouse to witness the rookie team photo and couldn't keep a straight face. Alongside Jorge Posada, the ring leader of the veteran group, coaches Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly and Tony Pena couldn't hold back their laughter. The rookies were then forced to sign autographs outside of the press gate before boarding the team bus. And Posada made sure each and every one signed at least ten.

"Ian, you have to go sign more," Posada yelled to Ian Kennedy.

"This is by far the best one," said bench coach Don Mattingly.

Jennifer Royle is an editorial producer for She can be reached at comments