As the New York Yankees continue to play the 2013 season in the Bronx, another borough is set to watch their team begin a new season. The 2013 Staten Island Yankees of the short-season A New York Penn-League will begin play on Monday, June 17th against the Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets). This is a team that has the potential to bring a lot of buzz to Staten Island with the potential of all three New York Yankees’ 1st round draft picks playing for the team at one point in this two-month long season.
On Saturday, the team held a simulated game for the fans as part of its “Night Under the Lights” event. Before the festivities began, select members of the media, including Yanks Go Yard, were allowed to speak to some of the players of this year’s team and second-year manager Justin Pope in the clubhouse.
Last year, the 2012 Staten Island Yankees left a lot to be desired. The team went 30-45, their fewest win total since 2004. Pope is looking to turn it around and is looking to the last twenty games of 2012, where the team went 14-6, as a way to build some success to start the 2013 season.
“Last year, we dug ourselves in a deep hole,” said Pope about last year’s slow start.
Pope also emphasized his goal of having the veteran players lead in improving the chemistry in the clubhouse as well as learning to play the game more aggressive, hard, and “teaching guys the Yankee way.”
There is no rotation and no lineup set for Monday’s opener, but some of the players are already excited to get this season started. This includes outfielder Brandon Thomas, the 6th round pick out of Georgia Tech, who signed with the Yankees on Friday. Thomas discussed how the competition he faced in college, which included a trip to the regionals in 2013, helps prepare him for pro ball.
“We faced a ton of good competition in college,” replied Thomas in regards to the one thing he takes away from his college baseball experience.
Some of the new players are just looking forward to playing in Staten Island and at Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George. Pitcher and Staten Island native Dillon McNamara talked about how he grew up going to games when the ballpark opened in 1999, and now he is getting ready to make his pro baseball debut in that very ballpark Monday.
I asked him about who his favorite pitchers were and who he emulated his pitching style. He told me how his favorite player is “The Sandman”, Mariano Rivera. However, he also emulates his style after New York Mets’ phenom pitcher Matt Harvey.
Some players, like infielder Austin “Bubba” Jones, recalled back to playing in front of no more than 50 people. Now, they get ready to take the field that is just a ferry ride away from New York City.
There are veterans to this team that are looking to help the new guys out as well as improve their game to further their chances of being promoted within the Yankees’ farm system.
Starting pitcher Andrew Benak talked about providing guidance to the new players while also performing better than his near 4.00 ERA last season. “I am looking to learn the ins and out and improve as a whole,” answered Benak. For Yankees’ fans new to this name, he is a pitcher with a fastball, slider, and a changeup who aims to get batters in out in three pitches or less.
Yanks Go Yard will be your home for Staten Island Yankee coverage throughout the season!