Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dream Almost Reality

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dream Almost Reality

Article excerpt

It's just 76 miles from Waterfront Park in Trenton to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, an hour and a half if you don't speed or you don't hit a traffic jam. It's also the distance that separates a lifelong dream from reality for Ryan Flannery.

Flannery grew up just about 10 miles from the Bronx in Carlstadt, starring at Becton before moving on to FDU-Madison. And now, at 26 years old, he finds himself just 76 miles -- really just a phone call away -- from the dream of playing for the Yankees and the much more unlikely, more pressure-packed reality of being one of the arms counted on to help the Yankees move on some day soon from Mariano Rivera.

Flannery has eight saves this season for the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees' Class AA affiliate, and with a split-fingered fastball that has confounded hitters in the Eastern League, the 6-foot-4, 245- pound right-hander is on the radar for what might be the highest- profile and pressurized job in baseball history.

Rivera, almost universally acclaimed as the greatest reliever in the game's history, is nursing torn knee ligaments, possibly lost for this season and promising to return to finish out his career in a better fashion. And just down the road, refining his game, is Flannery, trying not to think that he could be in the mix.

"Yeah, it's like filling the shoes of a great quarterback," Flannery said. "I'm going to do the best I can and hopefully one day I make it up there.

"But that doesn't even cross my mind. It was great watching him growing up. He's the best closer ever. But I don't even think about replacing him. Whatever happens, happens. I just do whatever I can to help myself."

As he gets closer -- in levels and in distance -- it's hard not to think about it. But Flannery grew up a Yankees fan, admiring Rivera, but never thinking about this role or this reality.

"I just wanted to play," he said. …

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