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Far From Home, Mariner Fans Given Real Bronx Cheer

They would enjoy the best and endure the worst of what baseball in New York can be.

Two young women from Moses Lake, Wash., 19-year-old Jessica Ferguson and 18-year-old Michelle Ferraro, work as nannies on Long Island. When their team, the Seattle Mariners, was here two weeks ago, they were in Yankee Stadium the night of Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter.

“We got hassled because we were rooting for the Mariners,” Ferguson remembered. “Some nice guys sitting near us felt sorry for us and gave us their tickets for Wednesday night’s game.”

After the Mariners sprayed 19 hits that night in a 10-5 victory, the two waited outside the players’ entrance, hoping to get snapshots of their favorite Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez.

“The Mariners’ bus driver was great,” Ferraro said. “When he found out we were from Washington, he got the players to get off the bus to take the pictures with us.”

They couldn’t have been happier. They had their pictures with the Mariners. But now, driving the Wolfe family’s 1989 Mitsubishi out of the nearly empty Kinney parking lot, they heard a thump, thump. The two front tires had been slashed. But not to worry.

“This little man in his 30s came up to us,” Ferguson recalled. “He had what looked like an I.D. tag around his neck and he said: ‘The Yankees pay me to help you. I’ll put your spare tire on, then I’ll get you another tire. Give me $5 for changing the tire and $10 for the new tire.’ ” Ferraro only had $5, so Ferguson gave him a $20 bill, all the money she had.

“He told us, ‘Don’t worry, I won’t cut out on you. I’ll be right back,’ ” Ferraro said. “Then he told us he was cold, could he borrow Jessica’s blue jeans jacket while he went for the tire. Jessica gave him her jacket and he went off down the street alongside the garage outside the stadium.”

Never to return.

By now it was after midnight. The area was dark and deserted except for the Deegan traffic hurrying by and a few cars driven by late workers leaving the ballpark.

“We were leery of everybody,” Ferguson said.

The driver of a tow truck offered to take them to a telephone, but just then a police car suddenly rolled up. Two 26-year-old officers, Nick Visconti and Vincent Varvaro, were on the way back to their Bronx Task Force headquarters on Sedgwick Avenue.

“When we told them our story,” Ferguson remembered. “One of them said: ‘You got scammed. That guy probably slashed your tires to set you up. You’ll never see him again.’ When they looked at the spare, one said, ‘That’s just a doughnut. You need two real tires.’ “

While Varvaro removed the doughnut, Visconti drove to an all-night tire shop. “It’s less than five minutes away,” Visconti said. “I got them two used tires. Used but good.”

When Visconti returned with the two tires, Ferguson asked how much they owed him. “He told us: ‘They were $40. Here’s my address. If you want to send it to me, fine. If you can’t, don’t worry about it,’ ” Ferraro said. “I wrote him a check for $40.”

On hearing their story the next day, Ferguson’s employer, Bob Wolfe of Port Washington, N.Y., phoned both the Yankees and Kinney parking’s main office.

“Here’s a guy going around with a phony Yankee I.D. tag,” Wolfe recalled, “but neither the Yankees nor Kinney seemed to care.”

In another two months, Ferguson and Ferraro will be going home to Moses Lake, probably before the Mariners return to Yankee Stadium in mid-August, with a story to tell about their long night in the Bronx.

“Nobody got hurt, we’re thankful for that,” Ferguson said, “but the worst part is that we don’t have the pictures we took with the Mariners players. When I gave the guy my jeans jacket, my camera was in the pocket.”