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Yankee visit a center(field) hit

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Add another steal to legendary Yankee speedster Mick “The Quick” Rivers’ resume: the hearts of Bronx’s senior citizens.

The two-time Yankee World Series champ, now 64, spent the morning of Oct. 17 at Centerlight Healthcare on White Plains Road, flashing his ever-present smile while leading the seniors in a series of exercises and games.

“I enjoyed it, and they enjoyed it too,” Rivers said. “Life’s too short to not enjoy yourself.”

Rivers visited the Bronxdale health facility as part of the Yankees’ cross promotion with Centerlight. The facility has a sponsorship deal with the ballclub.

Centerlight emblems are displayed in Yankee Stadium, and Centerlight patients received $5 tickets to Yankee day games this season, said Thomas Ciavarello, day manager at the healthcare complex and de-facto emcee of each day’s activities.

“We are very excited to have Mickey,” Ciavarello said. “From what I can see, he’s been personable, and that means everything in the world.”

Energetic fielder

Rivers was known during his playing days as an energetic centerfielder with burning speed and a knack for getting on base.

That energy shone at last week’s event, as he led the seniors through group stretches and buzzed around the room during a game in which teams competed to “name that Mickey.”

The session ended with Rivers reminiscing about his playing days and taking questions from the crowd.

Among the highlights: he hated hitting against Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, but enjoyed coming to the plate against legendary hurler Catfish Hunter; yes, he’s still quick, but maybe not as quick as back in the 1970’s; he’s disappointed in the current Yankees but has a hunch that the team will turn the tide around soon and be back in the playoffs.

“The Yankees have had down years before, but they’ll come back with different ballplayers,” Rivers said.

Birthday surprise

The former centerfielder was interrupted mid-speech with a surprise birthday cake. Rivers is set to turn 65 at the end of October.

“I was real surprised by the cake. I felt good about that,” Rivers said. “Somebody cares about me as much as I care about everybody else here.”

The event ended with the seniors lining up for pictures with the Yankee legend. Ciavarello, the day manager, said that the pictures would eventually line the room’s walls, to remind the visitors of the few quick hours they spent with the man known around the league as Mick The Quick.

“We can tell that they enjoyed it, since everyone wanted a picture,” Ciavarello said. “This is a big Yankee place.”

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394
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