Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Menechino playing with heavy heart

NEW YORK (AP) -- Playing the three-time defending World Series champion New York Yankees is difficult enough without dealing with tragedy.

Oakland Athletics second baseman Frank Menechino doesn't have that luxury. Menechino, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., lost a childhood friend in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

"You have to separate the two," Menechino said Tuesday. "You can't worry about the towers when you're playing the Yankees."

Making that task easier for Menechino is the fact that he was able to come home during baseball's break shortly after the attacks and see his friends and family.

Menechino visited home Monday night, but planned to spend the rest of the trip in the team's Manhattan hotel. He'll have 33 of his friends cheering for him during Game 1 of the best-of-five series Wednesday night.

"It was weird flying into La Guardia last time, flying by the city and see where everything happened," he said. "I saw all the smoke and the big hole. It was weird. It was kind of scary to fly. It's not as bad as this time."

Menechino said it's difficult to talk about his friend, Nicholas Rossomando, who grew up three blocks away.

Rossomando, a 31-year-old firefighter, is missing and presumed dead after rushing to the scene of the attacks last month.

"I grew up with the kid. I was real close to him," Menechino said. "I know how he is. He wouldn't want us to sit here and grieve. He wouldn't want us to be sad. He'd want us to respect New York City and do what we can do to win. He'd be cheering for me."

Rossomando was a member of the FDNY's Rescue 5 unit and was one of the first firefighters on the scene of the attack.

But Menechino said his friend wouldn't want people feeling sorry for him.

"He chose to be a firefighter," Menechino said. "He knew the risks he was taking. He would want to be remembered as a firefighter who did his job and was a hero."