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CC Sabathia is every Yankee hater's favorite Yankee

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 5: CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees reacts as he walks off the mound after getting the last out of the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on June 5, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** CC Sabathia (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

It's really easy to hate the Yankees. They're baseball's Evil Empire after all. Twenty-seven (count 'em) rings, October baseball seemingly every year and an unforgiving fan base have all made the Yankees one of America's most despised sports franchises.
And because any player who throws on the pinstripes is guilty by association, even the fun Yankees can be hard to root for sometimes. Guys like Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens and Robinson Cano were all awesome to watch, as are current Yanks like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Luis Severino, but non-Yankee fans like myself always feel slightly uncomfortable actively pulling for a Yankee. That was, until CC Sabathia came along.

Sabathia, who is set to announce his retirement after the 2019 season, has slowly become every Yankee hater's favorite Yankee. While many of his teammates sometimes take "being a Yankee" way too seriously, Sabathia balances respecting the franchise's history with his joyful and fun-loving personality. Picture any other Yankee in your head and you probably think of them with a straight face or a scowl, but I bet that your mind immediately pictures Sabathia with a big ol grin on his face.

Some Yankees who play with intensity can come off as incredibly annoying for the rest of us, but the ferocity and competitive spirit he brings to the mound comes off as endearing. In his final regular season start of 2018, Sabathia was ejected in the bottom of the sixth inning for deliberately throwing at Rays catcher Jesús Sucre's leg after Andrew Kittredge threw at Andrew Romine. The catch is that CC, who at the time was in the middle of a one-hitter, was only two innings shy of reaching an incentive-based bonus in his contract that would have netted him $500,000. 

After the game Sabathia said, "I don't really make decisions based on money, I guess." The team ended up giving him the half-mil anyway. The whole episode really hammered home just how awesome Sabathia's teammate-first attitude really is and why people all around the league revere him. Even Carlos Gómez, who was on the Rays when Sabathia threw at Sucre, said that he respected what the veteran lefty did.

But Sabathia is more than a great teammate, he's a great person. His PitCCh In foundation that he runs alongside his wife, Amber, encourages and empowers inner-city kids across America through recreational and educational programs. The organization's celebrity softball game at Yankee Stadium last year raised over a million dollars for charity.

Sabathia's celebrity status has also allowed him to expand his interests beyond the ballfield. His "R2C2 is UNINTERRUPTED" podcast with Ryan Ruocco is one of the best player-driven pods in all of sports and gives a great behind-the-scenes look at what being a big leaguer is like. 

Because of all these things and more, Sabathia has been able to rise above the common disdain that comes with being a Yankee. Non-Yankee fans like myself can get exhausted by all the things that make Yankees fans love their team so much: The strict adherence to tradition, the no names on the back, the intense sense of superiority or the constant winning. Sabathia still embodies all that stuff to Yankee fans no doubt, but he's so easy for the rest of us to appreciate too, because he's having so much fun at the same time. My hope is that throughout 2019, as Sabathia rides gloriously into the sunset, that Yankee haters and Yankee fans can come together to appreciate the man who has gifted us all with so much baseball joy.