It’s an opening day of new beginnings at Yankee Stadium. Thursday afternoon will bring renewal, however, not only for the award-winning rookie, who has never graced a major league field, but also for the biggest Superstar in pinstripes.
Hit ninth and play shortstop: Anthony Volpethe 21-year-old Jersey boy who impressed the Yankees by winning the team’s most important job in spring training and is now getting a chance to test his well-documented coolness in front of a fanbase in hopes he’ll fill the missing piece a championship is club.
Batting second and playing midfield: Aaron Judge, the 30-year-old reigning American League Most Valuable Player, being hailed for his 2022 season but also being reminded of what might have been had he not agreed to one Nine-year, $360 million contract hand back.
Thursday’s opponent: The San Francisco Giants, the club judge who rooted as a kid and tried to court him freehand last winter, only for Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner to earn Judge the highest-ever salary for a position player along with guaranteed a new title: Team Captain.
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Like Derek Jeter before him, Judge is not expected to have a navy blue “C” on his shirt, just the expectations that come with being the club’s most visible and revered figure. And in his first game of this new era, Judge will have at least one additional task: helping Volpe through what can be a dizzying afternoon, from the shouts of the Bleacher creature to his first nine innings in the bigs.
“To have a chance to have your first opening day at Yankee Stadium in front of family and friends, man, what an opportunity,” says Judge of Volpe. “I’m happy for him. He’ll be nervous, he’ll be nervous, but from what I’ve seen at camp, he doesn’t mind the stuff.
“Just go out and have fun. And make sure you have an appeal for the bleacher creatures. I need to talk to him about it – but he probably knows.”
There are a few reasons for this.
Initially, Volpe grew up as a Yankee fan in Watchung, New Jersey, about an hour from Yankee Stadium. He’s heard both the upbeat version of “New York, New York” (after Yankee wins) and the more reserved Sinatra (after losses). And knowing that the right fielders will yell at every member of the starting lineup early in the game until everyone publicly acknowledges the crowd.
Yet Volpe thoroughly impressed Yankees across camp with what Gerrit Cole described as “elite” preparation along with his burgeoning talent. Volpe leaves little to chance, be it how he reacts to the crowd to a walk-up song he has chosen but has yet to reveal less than 48 hours before the game.
Then there’s the issue of ticketing for a player who’s just received his first major league paycheck.
“I’m definitely going to lose money on this game,” said Volpe, who wasn’t at all excited about the prospect.
See, he’ll likely be surrounded by dozens of family and friends, as befits a kid who grew up hearing the No. 7 for Mickey Mantle and yet still edits his permanent number since all those single-digit Yankee numbers are long gone in the are retired.
That includes No. 2 for shortstop Derek Jeter, whose first inaugural day in 1996 preceded a World Series title and a career in the Hall of Fame.
No one has charted such a course for Volpe yet. But, knowing he was in a three-way derby with fellow Oswald Peraza and incumbent Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Yankee veterans were keeping a close eye on their shortstop candidate this spring. And if there’s any way that Volpe could be Jeterian, it’s the strong base he sprang from.
Easily transfer to Kalamazoo, Michigan in Somerset and Morris counties, New Jersey.
“It comes down to the people he surrounds himself with,” says Cole. “Getting a chance to see his mum and dad, his group of friends, some of the prospects he’s played with – they only have good things to say about him.
“Seeing the support he has around him and this tight-knit group is what you need to navigate adversity over a long season, especially in New York.”
The Yankees should be in an uphill battle to retain their AL East title as wildcards Toronto and Tampa Bay seek promotion, while second division clubs Baltimore and Boston are also looking for a win. New York will be without expected rotation stars Carlos Rodon and Luis Severino and outfielder Harrison Bader early in the season.
But they will have Judge, whose influence didn’t suffer when video of his arrival in San Francisco during hot oven season was widely circulated. According to multiple reports, the Giants were the first to offer him $360 million.
The Yankees fitted in, preventing Judge from immediately returning home with a new club, a prospect he immediately grasped when he first reviewed the 2023 schedule back in August.
“I don’t know who was (in charge) at MLB. I saw it last year in the middle of the year and I was like, ‘Somebody in MLB is messing with me,'” he says.
Cole couldn’t bring himself to believe that one of his first pitches of 2023 would be Judge rather than trailing the 6-7 slugger in outfield.
“I almost thought that could happen,” he said, “but I pulled away from the edge.”
There are no what-ifs at Volpe, just pure anticipation. Yankees manager Aaron Boone says Volpe “in a way prepared his whole life to be prepared for this” and is as equipped as any player to handle it. They enjoy seeing his physical abilities while knowing that his much-discussed “make-up” will face many tests given the many pitfalls that a 162-game season entails.
It got to him quickly; Volpe is still sending back congratulations since his promotion was announced on Sunday. The judge says the boy can slow it down because he appears to be 27, not 21.
And has a plan to capture everything on his mental highlight reel and hopefully deliver some tangible ones.
“I don’t want to think too much about it,” he says, “or how I want it to be.
“I just want to be in the moment and enjoy every second.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Yankees’ opening day is the perfect stage for Anthony Volpe and Aaron Judge
Source : sports.yahoo.com