Girardi greets fans to benefit charity

Girardi greets fans to benefit charity

NEW YORK -- While the line of approximately 20 people who eagerly stood outside Chipotle Grill on 45th Street knew exactly what was in store for them on Monday afternoon, many regular patrons of the Mexican grill were shocked once they stepped inside the Manhattan eatery.

"It's Joe Girardi!" Connecticut resident Joe McDonald exclaimed as he bent over to point out the Yankees' manager to his 4-year-old son, Chris.

"What a day to take off work," said McDonald, who unassumingly entered the restaurant for a quick time-out from an afternoon of holiday shopping for his wife.

And considering the high-end stores surrounding Chipotle, Monday's event was definitely a bargain.

Girardi, who was joined by his wife, Kim, spent about 90 minutes talking, laughing and taking pictures with fans, who were treated to an autograph and a brief meet-and-greet session in exchange for a $5 donation.

The donation entitled customers to a gourmet burrito or an order of tacos, a bowl or a salad and a fountain drink, with 100 percent of each donation going to support the mission of Girardi's charity, "Catch 25." The charity raises money and awareness for Alzheimer's and cancer research, as well as children's educational programs.

"I wound up getting, like, three lunches because it was only five dollars," said Bronx resident Janine England-Reed, who got an autograph for her husband and later returned to Chipotle with friend Courtney Doherty in tow.

"It's just awesome that not only is [Girardi] tying his name to the charity, but he's actually giving up his time and coming here to do this," Doherty said. "I think it's really great."

Not content to just sit at the autograph table, Girardi and his wife hopped behind the Chipotle counter and donned aprons and food-service gloves, each triumphantly making their own lunch while interacting with customers and workers alike.

"I think it's really important that you reach out, because we have an opportunity to do it," Girardi said. "People want to have hope, and I think a lot of the money that's raised gives people hope that their lives are going to be better."

A self-described Chipotle fan, Girardi and his agent, Steve Mandell, drummed up the idea for the event, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET and also offered each customer a chance to win an assortment of Girardi autographed items.

"It's great -- it's an opportunity for us to raise awareness for our charity," Girardi said. "And we appreciate all the people coming out and donating money."

While the mission of "Catch 25" is raising awareness and finding treatments and cures for ALS, Alzheimer's, cancer and infertility, Girardi's charity also provides scholarships and financial aid to those struggling with those afflictions. Through donations and numerous benefits throughout the year, "Catch 25" strives to help those living through difficult situations.

"This is a great deal," longtime Yankees fan Craig Bonder said of donating his lunch money. "It's cheaper than what a regular burrito costs. What a nice guy."

Added Michael Glover: "It's the highlight of my day. [Girardi is] a really nice guy."

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.