Every year, Major League Baseball says goodbye to handfuls of players who have decided on retirement. I get a bittersweet feeling for most players - upset to see them go, but understanding with their decision. The most recent retirement that I spent time grieving over was that of Mike Mussina after the 2008 season.

And I thought getting over that was hard.

I recently discovered the news that my beloved Yankee of many years, Andy Pettitte, is retiring.

At 17 years old, I still consider myself a "new" baseball fan, though I have been a fan for as long as I can remember. There is still so much in the game that I have not experienced: for example, I've only known the Yankees as a dominant, winning team. And one constant in these winning Yankees that I've known and loved has been Andy Pettitte - and perhaps I have taken Pettitte, and the winning, for granted.

I loved Mike Mussina. I appreciated how much he meant to the team, and I enjoyed watching him pitch. But I don't think I'd refer to Mussina as "one of those guys who's in my 'favorite players of all time' group."

Andy Pettitte is in that group.

In my earliest years as a Yankees fan, my favorite players were Tino Martinez and Andy Pettitte. Tino, although he did retire as a Yankee, bounced around for a few years before calling it quits. After Andy left Houston, he played four more seasons in pinstripes, so to me it felt like he never really left. Andy's retirement marks the end of an era for me. He was my first favorite.

I admired Andy Pettitte when I was a young child for typical kid reasons: I had his rookie card, I thought he was cute, I liked his windup, etc. But as I grew as a fan, I admired Andy for his talent. No doubt, Andy Pettitte is the greatest postseason pitcher in the history of baseball, with 19 wins and 5 World Series rings. Another aspect of Andy's game that I thoroughly admired was his ability to win even if he didn't have his best stuff out on the mound. Andy was a true gamer, a grinder, a real ballplayer.

Andy Pettitte is not only a great ballplayer - he is a wonderful man. He has always been the ideal teammate and family man. I believe him when he said he used HGH for two days to recover from an injury back in 2002. I would hardly call him an "abuser." Unlike others in the Mitchell Report, Pettitte used the drug minimally in order to get back to his team quickly - not for personal advantage. Was it wrong? Definitely. But since his intentions were not bad, I forgive him.

There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Pettitte belongs in the Hall of Fame. Career 240 wins, over 100 games over .500 for his career record, and his postseason success should allow him such an honor. But when the time comes, if voters disagree, then fine. Pettitte will probably have his jersey number 46 retired by the Yankees, alongside the numbers of the some of the greatest players in the game's history.

But no matter what will happen in the future, I know one thing for sure: I was not the only one whose favorite player was Andy Pettitte. It will be difficult for many fans like me to move on knowing that there will be no more Andy Pettitte.

Andy, from myself and the millions of fans like me, thank you. I don't think we'll ever see a guy like you again.

Thanks for the memories, and enjoy retirement, Andy.

by Virginia Califano

pinstripepartisan@fanvsfan.com