Like it was for all of you reading this, life was different for me when CC Sabathia made his first start for the New York Yankees back in 2009. I hadn’t yet graduated college; that was a month or so away. I hadn’t yet established my career; that took longer than I thought it would. I hadn’t yet started writing for TYA, let alone RAB. I hadn’t yet met my wife, much less gotten married and had my son. Now, through combinations of choice and circumstance, my life and CC Sabathia’s career have changed immeasurably. There has been one constant about him, though.

Regardless of the year, regardless of the team’s success or his own, CC Sabathia has been and continues to be one of the easiest players to root for in my ‘career’ as a Yankee fan. It’s always easy to root for talented players and Sabathia exemplified that. He did so not just through his early career and peak, marked by high-velocity fastballs and nasty sliders, but later in his career when he reinvented himself as a soft-contact pitcher. Many pitchers can try to do that, but Sabathia is one of the few who was successful in doing so; that’s impossible without great talent. It also takes great perseverance, another trait easy to root for.

Many might have called it a career after losing their stuff as much as Sabathia did, after going through the rough stretch he did from 2013-2016. CC persevered off the field, too, battling an addiction and winning. That victory is more important than anything he did on the field and he should be lauded for it, as well as his charity work and devotion to his family.

He was also–and still is–endlessly devoted to his Yankee family: his teammates first and foremost. From the minute he arrived, he undertook labors of love to both change the clubhouse culture and guide young players into becoming what they are today. If he follows through on his desire to stay with the Yankees in some capacity beyond 2019, I think he’ll make an excellent roving instructor and adviser. Nearly every player–young or old, rookie or veteran–could learn something from CC Sabathia.

Those are all big picture reasons why it’s easy to root for Sabathia, why he’s so beloved in New York and elsewhere. But I have another reason to feel a connection to him. He was on the mound when my wife and I took our son to his first baseball game. He wasn’t yet one and will not remember that game. Hell, we didn’t even spend much of our time in our assigned seats. But we were in them when CC got a strikeout to end the seventh inning. And my son smiled and made a happy noise right at that moment, joining in with the rest of the crowd.

Whether or not he grows up to like baseball, I will never forget that moment. Of all the joys I’ve experienced watching CC Sabathia pitch for my favorite team, none will top that.

Thank you, CC, for so many wonderful memories of watching you pitch. Thank you for being so easy to root for. Thank you for being you.