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“El Duque” Orlando Hernández throws out first pitch at Rockland Boulders game

Former Yankees, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and John Flaherty.

Former Yankees, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and John Flaherty.

Before the start of a historic three-game series between the Rockland Boulders and Cuban National Team at Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, New York on Friday night, former New York Yankees pitcher, four-time World Series Champion and American League Championship Series M.V.P. in 1999 “El Duque” Orlando Hernández threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Catching the pitch from Hernández was a fellow Bronx Bomber in John Flaherty who played for the Yankees from 2003-05, founder and limited partner of the Boulders and YES Network studio and game analyst.

“It’s great having “El Duque” and Cuban national team and Boulders fans have been waiting for this and it’s a beautiful night,” John Flaherty said. “For me, watching “El Duque” on the mound and throwing the first pitch was a real treat and seeing him interact with the players and fans was even more important.”

I asked “El Duque” Orlando Hernández how it felt to throw out the first pitch. “I feel very good and a special day. I had a very good catcher and brought back a lot of good memories and thank god for this moment.”

“El Duque” went on to say he felt good being back in New York, his first time being on this field and a great environment. Hernández answered questions about the impact of the series between Tampa Bay Rays and Cuban National Team earlier in the year in Cuba, following Cuban baseball, Spanish speaking translators in Major League Baseball and memories as a member of the New York Yankees.

“I think the impact on people was good but I think they should do it more often,” Hernández said. “The people were happy and excited. Seeing those (Cuban) jerseys brought back an important memory in 1998 which was first game at Yankee Stadium and pitching in front of fans in New York. The difference then the tears were flowing. My fondest memory of New York Yankees is when they signed me and went from being a Yankee fan to being part of the Yankees.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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