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Rihanna turned 30 on Tuesday and to celebrate the superstar’s birthday, I threw it back on the radio show to one of the most embarrassing moments of my career. It was May 2008; my program was only airing in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the time. Good ‘ole Cousin Tony was in town visiting and we had a lot planned – a trip to New York on Saturday to see the Yankees and then a doubleheader on Sunday: PNC Field for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game against the Pawtucket Red Sox and then up the road to The Pavilion At Montage Mountain for Kanye West’s “Glow In The Dark Tour” featuring N.E.R.D., Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna.

I was also scheduled to interview the “Pon De Replay” singer before she took the stage. Our record label rep, Nicki, brought me and my colleague Adam backstage for our chat. I had a five minute window.

The interview started on a great note; Rihanna was in a fantastic mood. But the worst thing possible happened after one question: the MiniDisc I was using died. I brought backup batteries and extra discs. After I replaced each I attempted to restart the interview. And by the fourth restart, sitting across from *Rihanna,* I made the call that we would just film and use the audio from Adam’s digital camera, which he thankfully brought.

There are a few things I’ll always remember about that experience: how kind Rihanna was, how patient Nicki was, using MiniDisc for the final time in my career and taking up so much time in the process that Rihanna couldn’t do another interview scheduled after mine. She went right from our photo-op to the stage, and slayed it.

The last noteworthy moment came as I walked out of Rihanna’s dressing room. We saw and snapped a photo with her boyfriend, who happened to be there… Chris Brown.

Yeah, I would definitely have to say that throwing out the first pitch and kicking back in the Yankees’ farm team’s dugout pre-game was the highlight of my 31st birthday weekend.

Disclaimer: my birthday weekends almost always involve the Yankees. Ironically, the most memorable was the year people seem to forget the most: 21. I hit legal drinking age on June 6, 2006. The Yankees hosted the Red Sox at the old Stadium and I had bleacher seats, which provided a great view when Melky Cabrera robbed Manny Ramirez of a home run. The Yanks went on to win.

Actually, I can’t ever remember my team losing on my birthday or on the game I attended nearest to the date. For number 30 last year, I watched with friends and family in the Bronx as the Yankees beat the Angels. Coincidentally the exact same thing happened this year on June 6 but because my birthday fell on a Monday I didn’t attend; I do have a job after all.

That’s what led me to celebrate on Saturday, and with the Yanks in Baltimore for a three-game series, I took a bus to Scranton, Penn. My radio show airs in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and thus it made perfect sense for me to make an appearance at PNC Field and throw out the first pitch before the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders hosted the Columbus Clippers.


PNC Field is only a couple of years old and is absolutely gorgeous. There are great seats throughout the park, a club and suite level, a solid selection of concessions and even a lawn area similar to what you would see at an outdoor concert venue. Pre-game festivities include giveaways and a live band, and the in-game experience is a lot of fun.


It also doesn’t hurt that the RailRiders have a bunch of solid prospects and familiar faces on its squad, from 2009 World Series champion Nick Swisher to promising outfielder Aaron Judge.

Another great thing about the RailRiders: its management is making a conscious effort to link the rich history of the Yankees to its Triple-A franchise. This year, the minor league team is staging a “Legends Series,” where past Yankees come to the park and sign autographs. And on Saturday, former Yankee greats Bucky Dent, Chris Chambliss and Roy White were all in attendance.


Yeah, I wasn’t just happy to be there, I was pretty excited.

The RailRiders marketing staff, which by the way could not have been more accommodating, brought me down to the field around 3:20. A little over 10 minutes later, the PA announcer addressed the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we direct your attention to the pitcher’s mound for today’s ceremonial first pitches,” he echoed throughout the ballpark. “First up, Ralphie from 97.1 BHT!”


And with that, I slipped my phone in my back pocket, gave a quick wave to the crowd and fired a strike to Barry, Director of Game Entertainment.

Little did I know, the fun was just getting started.

As a group of little leaguers began to proceed around the warning track, the marketing staff was kind enough to allow me to sit in the dugout for pregame ceremonies.

This led to me sitting in on the manager’s spot of the bench, right next to the bullpen phone, while chewing Double Bubble with Dent, Chambliss and White, who were also there waiting to throw their first pitches.

I clearly had the look of someone turning 11, not 31, based on one RailRiders staffer saying, “You’re having the time of your life, huh?” I replied that I loved baseball and was a diehard Yankees fan. “Well, you get to do all of the cool entertainment stuff. We have the sports.”

And on the weekend before my birthday, I felt pretty fortunate that I sometimes get to experience both.

some quick politics news…

– a source with the first lady’s press office confirmed that laura bush will visit the area tomorrow. as of now, the only visit on her itinerary is this fund raiser.

– senator john mccain will visit scranton on monday.

– senator hillary clinton will campaign in PA for senator barack obama, and will be with president clinton while in the commonwealth.

you’ll know when i know.