ST. PETERSBURG — One by one, the Yankees filed off the Boeing 757 jet on Thursday evening, thanking their captain for a smooth flight. That exchange occurs countless times during a baseball season, but with Clarke Schmidt’s father behind the controls, this trip was a family affair.
Dwight Schmidt, a veteran Delta Air Lines pilot of more than 20 years, guided the Bombers’ charter flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Tampa International Airport. The elder Schmidt said that he lobbied for the trip when he spotted the Yankees’ tail number pop up on Delta’s systems: DL8883.
“It was a lot of fun,” Clarke Schmidt said. “It was kind of interactive; I think a lot of guys got to see things they never got to see, as far as going up to the cockpit and doing stuff like that. They were texting me after, saying, ‘That was really cool.’”
The trip was largely uneventful, though the flight took off about two hours late due to heavy runway traffic at Newark. That provided some of the Bombers’ players and staff with an opportunity to tour the cockpit, getting a peek behind the scenes.
Gerrit Cole, Kyle Higashioka, Aaron Judge, Wandy Peralta and Anthony Rizzo were among the players who stopped by to chat, swapping their usual baseball talk to discuss flight paths and turbulence.
“It’s just different when you’re able to do something in my profession to help them out in their profession,” said Dwight Schmidt. “It was a magical experience. It was absolutely one of the most fun things I’ve gotten to do.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he believed the team “got a real kick out of” seeing Schmidt’s father at the controls.
“It was cool walking on and seeing him there,” Boone said. “He did a nice job, soft landing, and gave everyone a good rundown. I went up there at the start, and he gave me a little flight lingo, what we were potentially encountering as we took off. He’s a lot of fun, a good dude.”
Boone added that he volunteered to help fly the plane, an offer that was kindly rebuffed. During the Yankees’ recent series in Atlanta, Boone accepted an opportunity to test a flight simulator at Delta headquarters, practicing virtual takeoffs and landings at New York’s LaGuardia Airport that included fly-bys of Yankee Stadium.
A former naval aviator in the Marine Corps, Dwight Schmidt said that he has piloted the Yankees’ charter once before — for the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, in August 2021. However, Schmidt was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre the day before that memorable contest in the corn field.
“That was set up because I was trying to see Clarke, but if you remember, Clarke was kind of on the Scranton express,” Dwight Schmidt said. “I missed him on that one, so that’s why this one was so special.”
Schmidt said that Peralta is one of the Yankees who is fearful of flying, so the team hoped that Schmidt’s father could relay some words that might help the lefty conquer the skies. Dwight Schmidt promised Peralta that he would try to keep his chair on a “low back massage setting” during the flight.
“We felt like we chipped away a little bit,” Schmidt said. “There was less rocking than I normally see from him in his seat. I think he was a little bit more calm.”
One added bonus of flying the team to Florida: Dwight Schmidt will be in attendance at Tropicana Field on Saturday, watching Schmidt make his 26th start of the season.
“He’s really a very even-keeled young man,” Dwight Schmidt said. “Aviation and baseball are so eerily similar in things; you’ve got to have a short memory. Clarke and I grew up always talking about compartmentalization; you’ve got to put things behind you in the moment. That’s what he’s done.”