Having already demonstrated that even the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks couldn’t keep him away from the ballpark, is there any surprise that GOP presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani remains fixated on the Yankees, even while campaigning in what oughta be considered enemy territory? “Talking about baseball humanizes Giuliani, supporters say, the same way Ronald Reagan™s love of jelly beans or Bill Clinton™s saxophone medleys showed a fun, personal side of the candidate.” writes the wishful thinking Matthew E. Berger of MSNBC. “Baseball allows the mayor to connect with voters on something other than policy issues or the latest attack on the opponent.”

Giuliani has obviously recognized the value of his baseball shtick. Speaking to college students Thursday outside of Chicago, he asked the crowd whether they respected him œfor telling the truth about his support for the Bronx Bombers.

Other New York City mayors would wear a cap with the Yankees logo on one side and the Mets symbol on the back. œBut I thought the hat looked stupid, he said, so he stuck to his Yankee cap and thought he™d be respected by Mets fans for his honesty.

œIt didn™t work, he told the students. œEvery time I went to Shea Stadium, they booed me. But they actually voted for me; Queens County voted for me.

And Giuliani also uses baseball as part of his daily barrage on the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, making fun of her support for both the Yankees and Chicago Cubs, and her decision to œalternate sides if the two met in the World Series.

œI became a Yankee fan growing up in New York. You can understand that, right? Giuliani asked the Chicago crowd Thursday. œShe became a Yankee fan growing up in Chicago. You believe that, right?

At times, talking baseball has allowed Giuliani to deflect from the issue of the day. While eating egg-white omelets at a Derry, N.H., diner on Wednesday, he discussed for 45 minutes the depth of the Yankees bullpen. Reporters wanting to ask about social conservatives lingering concerns about his candidacy could only stand by and watch.

Now that the playoffs have begun, his alignment with the game could even get him some free publicity, and maybe some new supporters. Campaign officials won™t say whether he plans to attend any playoff games or hold œwatch parties with primary voters or donors. But if Giuliani has his way, he™ll be there.

œYou™re darn right I™ll make some playoff games, he said Monday. œI have to.