08/17/10 10:24 PM ET
Yanks make fan's trip to Stadium special
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
"It's not how much you can gather, it's how much you give," Lang said.
Girardi nodded. "That's the essence of HOPE Week."
Spend 60 seconds with Jane Lang and it quickly becomes abundantly clear. Although she was born without sight, Lang has always had a keen sense of perspective.
The subject of Tuesday's HOPE (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Week event, Lang has never allowed her blindness to impair how she views the world. The 67-year-old from Morris Plains, N.J., has learned how to make the two-hour trek to Yankee Stadium via public transportation with only the assistance of her seeing-eye dog, aptly named Clipper.
On Tuesday, though, Lang didn't make the trip to the Yankees' 6-2 win over the Tigers solo. She had a whole team with her.
Lang was surprised at her door on Tuesday morning by Girardi, relievers Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Chad Gaudin, and former Yankee Tino Martinez to make the trip with her. Girardi handed Lang a bouquet of flowers, but she was too excited after the fact to remember where she had put them.
"When we opened that door, that was great," Robertson said. "She was so excited. I think we totally excited her."
"I can't believe it," Lang said then and throughout the day, as surprise followed surprise.
Lang's retinue was joined at the train station by nearly 100 friends and her two sons, Dan and Bill -- who drove all the way from Atlanta on Monday to share the special day with their mother.
"This is a day I could never have dreamed of," Lang said. "Never."
Following the Yankees' victory, Lang was led onto the field to shake hands and exchange hugs with the players, many of whom made a point to find her. Then, Girardi took her by the hand and led her around the bases, pausing so that she could step on each bag. Just before they reached second base, Mariano Rivera jogged out to hand Lang a game ball.
"It's great for her. She's a huge Yankee fan; it's the biggest part of her life right now," said Dan Lang, Jane's oldest son. "We knew she'd be excited. We know her well enough. I'd like to think she's equally surprised to see Bill and I come from Atlanta to see her."
Lang's daughter Sharon and her granddaughter Miranda were also there to take it all in.
"We have a very close family," said Jane's husband, Pete. The two, who met at The Seeing Eye when Jane started training with her first guide dog in 1965, will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary next month. "The kids keep in close touch with us, and they know how important this is to mom. To have our whole family here together for this surprise event is just beyond belief."
Lang has been coming to roughly 30 Yankees games a year for over a decade with Clipper and her former guide dog, Laramie. She was decked out for the Tuesday game in a Derek Jeter T-shirt adorned with her customary Yankees pins, with "NY" earrings and Yankee sneakers to boot. Sitting in one of the handicapped sections on the field level concourse, Lang listens to the game on the radio while taking in the atmosphere of the Stadium, a place she affectionately calls her second home.
"I feel safe there, and I feel a part of it. I feel like I belong," Lang said, adding that she sees the game in her own special way. "I love doing it. It's my way of being free."
She's made a lot of friends at the Stadium over that time, leading to her nomination for HOPE Week. When Pete got the call that Jane would be one of this year's honorees, he didn't know how to react. He also didn't know how to keep it a secret.
"I fell out of my chair," Pete said. "I told a lot of lies about where I was going and what I was doing and why I was on the computer so much. ... It was right down to the wire. She did not know. It was awesome."
After taking the New Jersey Transit Morris-Essex Line into Penn Station, Jane Lang and Clipper led everyone over to Herald Square, where they hopped on a reserved car of the D train for the ride to 161st Street and Yankee Stadium.
"Jane's unbelievable. I can't believe that she does this," said Robertson. "I can't imagine not being able to see everything going on, and she does it without fail."
Once at the Stadium, Lang and her family recharged their batteries in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar before receiving special tours of Monument Park and the Yankees' Museum and taking in batting practice on the field. One of Lang's favorite players, Paul O'Neill, dropped by to lead her tour of the monuments, and she later compared getting to hold relics of the Yankees' past from the museum to Christmas.
Before settling into her seat, she was honored in a pregame ceremony and brought out the lineup cards to home plate. She still couldn't believe the honor as she took in the game with her family and friends in special seating behind home plate.
"I'm still in a state of shock," she said. "I feel like I'm sleeping, and if I pinch myself I'm going to wake up."
She also channeled another Yankee of yore.
"I've always thought I was the luckiest person in the world," she said. "Today I know I am."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.