New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, best remembered for his tough talk and rough persona, touched at least one local baseball player.

Jason Troilo, a 1990 Kennett High graduate who spent five years catching in the Yankees organization, called it "a sad day" after Steinbrenner, who led the Yankees to seven World Series championships during his 38 years as owner, died after suffering a massive heart attack.

Troilo made it all the way up to AAA Columbus (Ohio) in the Yankees system, and fondly remembers the first interaction he had with Steinbrenner shortly after being drafted by the Yankees out of James Madison University.

"A week or two into my first season -- I look up and George Steinbrenner is in the stands," said Troilo. "He was shaking hands with parents and later he welcomed us all to the organization. I always thought that was really cool, especially considering we were players who had only been in the organization for two weeks. He had a lot more important things to worry about than us.

"He had a notorious reputation for being a tough owner, but through the years I found him to be nothing but generous to his players. He was focused on a well-run organization, and all he wanted to do was win baseball games."

Local baseball fans reacted to Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday with respect for a man who helped bring the Yankees organization back to prominence.

When Steinbrenner took over the Yankees in the early 1970s, the team was stuck in a drought that had seen them go 11 years without winning a World Series.

"All I know is if George Steinbrenner would've owned the Phillies all those years, we'd have a whole heck of a lot more championships," said Bob Burton, owner of Burton's Barber Shop on State Street in Kennett Square, a building in which the walls are filled with baseball memorabilia. "Steinbrenner always spent tons of money, that's one of the things he was known for, but he did that because he did whatever it took to win.

"He was a very, very colorful guy. He wasn't much of a gentleman in the earlier days -- I wouldn't have wanted to work for him I can tell you that. But he got results. He ran a team to win, and I don't have a problem with that at all."

Baseball is one of the favorite topics of conversation in Burton's, and finding a Yankees fan inside the place isn't always the easiest thing to do.

"I used to like the Yankees," said Ben LaCorte, who cuts hair at the shop, "but only because I grew up living in Toughkenamon with all those Italians and they'd beat the hell out of you if you didn't."

Steinbrenner, who had 15 different managers in his 38 years as owner, was poked fun at on shows such as Seinfeld for his controversial style.

"There's a lot of pride with the Yankees," said Chuck Hagerty of Kennett Square. "You have all-stars coming into that team all the time with long hair and beards and Steinbrenner always immediately made them cut the hair and shave the beard. That was his organization and he ran it in a professional manner.

"All he wanted was a winner and he would do anything to get one. You have to respect that. This is the end of an era that will never repeat itself."

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