Derek Jeter’s Baseball & More, For a Price

How would you like to eat lunch with Federico Castellucio, the actor who plays Furio on ""The Sopranos,"" at his restaurant, Attilio’s Pasta Kitchen, in New Brunswick? Or maybe you would rather take a tour of the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair with Yogi Berra as your personal guide? Or perhaps collectables are more your style, like an autographed Derek Jeter baseball or Tom Glavine hat? Or how about a script autographed by the cast of ""The Sopranos?""

These and many more items will be up for grabs – for a price – at the Rutgers University Touchdown Club’s inaugural Sports and Celebrity Auction on Friday, September 10, at the Rutgers Athletic Center on the Livingston Campus. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Rutgers football program. Chris Carlin, of WFAN Radio and the Rutgers Football Radio Network, will be among the celebrity auctioneers.

""This is really my brain child,"" says Plainsboro resident Joseph Lemkin. He is a member of the Rutgers Touchdown Club, serving as chairperson of the event. ""I got the idea from the Rutgers basketball booster club, which has a small auction every year right after one of the home games. I thought that if we can make it a special event we might make it exponentially better.""

A 1990 graduate of Rutgers, Lemkin says that gathering the items for the auction was surprisingly easy. ""I put together a tailgate party for the Touchdown Club last year and wrote letters to some of the former Rutgers players who made it to the NFL,"" he says. ""They sent me some items. I found that if it’s a charitable cause, and you have the right contact, you get things sent to you."" Lemkin’s connection with ""The Sopranos"" started with a letter he wrote to actor James Gandolfino, a Rutgers graduate.

A bankruptcy lawyer and commercial litigator for Duane Morris in Princeton, Lemkin and his wife, Risa, who works at Princeton University, have a three-year-old daughter, Lara. Lemkin grew up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in the shadows of Giants Stadium. ""I never played football, and I was never much of a fan of pro football,"" he says. ""But when I got to Rutgers I found the experience was very different. I felt a real affinity for the team.""

In addition to sports and entertainment memorabilia, the auction will also feature items that include an overnight spa package at the Borgata in Atlantic City, vacation packages to San Diego and Santa Fe, and a golf threesome at the famed Baltusrol Country Club (site of the 2005 PGA championship). A near complete list of available items can be viewed at www.touchdownclub.rutgers.edu/auction.htm.

Although the Scarlet Knights have not been a football power in the recent past, there have been some signs that the fortunes of the team are on the upswing. A 2002 game against the University of Miami – a longtime powerhouse – is a case in point. Despite being heavy underdogs, Rutgers led for three quarters before finally fading in the fourth. ""I just happened to be in Miami watching that game on television with a room full of Hurricane fans,"" says Lemkin. ""I was the only guy cheering for Rutgers.""

-Jack Florek

The Rutgers University Towchdown Club’s inaugural Sports and Celebrity Auction will be held on Friday, September 10, at the Rutgers Athletic Center on the Livingston Campus. A silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. and a light dinner will be served. The live auction will commence at 8 p.m. Tickets for non-Touchdown club members are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Touchdown Club members are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information, call 732-932-3254 or 973-334-6051.