NEW YORK (AP) -Bernie Williams may no longer be a member of the New York Yankees, but fans still cheer him on as if he were.
Appearing as the guest speaker at Iona College's graduation commencement Sunday held at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Williams was serenaded with cheers, whistles and applause for nearly 30 seconds, with many of the graduates as well as a few hundred guests standing and pumping their fists.
``Don't be afraid to take risks. Make the most of your journey. Make it fun an exciting,'' said Williams, who shook hand with several graduates who stopped by his seat on the way to getting their diplomas.
After 16 seasons with the Yankees - the only organization the 38-year-old outfielder has ever played for - Williams is currently out of baseball.
While he didn't talk directly about his future in baseball, Williams did reflect on his time in New York and how that could help the new graduates.
``My experience over 17 years playing with the Yankees, these are a few of the things that I've learned. You've got to have a plan of action,'' said Williams, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. ``You have to stay focused on the things you can control and don't get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.''
Brought back in 2006 as a reserve, Williams played much more than expected after long-term injuries to outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, hitting .281 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs in 131 games.
Williams contemplated all winter whether to come back and play in 2007 with teammates hinting he would only do so for the Yankees. But New York offered Williams only a minor-league deal, with the opportunity to earn a roster spot in spring training - which he declined.
Williams spoke to Iona's Class of 2007 for close to 10 minutes. He was not made available to reporters after the ceremony.
Williams, named to five All-Star Games and won four Gold Gloves and four World Championships while with the Yankees, also focused much of his on his accomplishments as a musician. He released a classical guitar album last year.
``I know there's certain things regarding your job or whatever you may end up doing, but I'm here to tell you, don't let your job define who you are. Your relationships will define who you are,'' Williams said. ``No matter what you choose to do in life you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody's life.''
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