It’s one thing to sit home and judge the Yankees from afar, but if you have the opportunity, head out to a game this spring for a whole new perspective on this year’s club.
For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you know that I was in attendance for yesterday’s Yankees versus Blue Jays game in Tampa. To the best of my ability, I moved around the recently refurbished George M. Steinbrenner Field, capturing as much footage as I possibly could.
I began my day perched in the brand new right field pavilion, where I grabbed a couple of Bronx Bomber Dogs and tater tots, and comfortably sat down at a wrap around countertop eating area that was nicely situated under a large canopy. From here, I was lucky enough to watch the starting pitcher for the day, Luis Severino, and his battery-mate Gary Sanchez warm-up before the affair.
The first thing that struck me about Severino is just how big he is in person. Reports are that he dropped 10 pounds this winter in order to stay more fluid — and if his two innings of scoreless ball are any indication — then it worked.
You could tell that Sevvy’s first outing of the spring was all about trying out his new “stuff,” which included a dancing change-up that kept the Blue Jays’ B squad totally off-balance.
Through three games this spring, no Yankees starter has allowed a single run.
As for Sanchez, his electric throwing arm was out in full force. In the third inning, reliever Johnny Barbato struggled to find the strike zone, allowing two men to reach base. But they wouldn’t stay there for long, as Sanchez gunned both down with ease. And this despite the fact Barbato allowed both runners superb jumps from first base.
Starlin Castro is another guy that is larger than I expected. He has the build of a shortstop but as exemplified by his monster three-run homer, is able to hit with more regularity playing second base.
If you didn’t know Matt Holliday was 36-years-old, you’d swear he’s playing like he’s 28. There’s an extra giddy-up in his step wearing pinstripes. Perhaps it’s because his offseason workout routine focused less on power lifting and more on muscular endurance — the Yankees’ new clubhouse leader looks poised for a stellar campaign.
Chase Headley made a couple of great defensive plays in the first inning, but his bat has yet to arrive at camp.
The same can be said for Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. Though it was Ellsbury’s first official game due to his late arrival following the birth of his daughter, the “rally killer” didn’t look sharp. His bat lagged through the strike zone and his cautious approach up the baseline led to a patented 4-6-3 double play.
Billy McKinney showed off a bit of his impressive skill set with a two-run shot later in the game. McKinney took an inside pitch and turned on it — sending it high over right field wall for an exclamation point to win.
I wrote last week how McKinney is only in camp due to Tyler Austin‘s injury but is hungry to enter the upper echelon of the Yankees prospects conversation. So it’s nice to see a young player take advantage of an opportunity.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see many of the Baby Bombers, as manager Joe Girardi had the bulk of his starters play into the fifth inning. Hopefully, on Mar 9, I’ll get a glimpse of the future when the Yanks take on the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
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As for the rest of the $40M worth of renovations to the Yankees’ Spring Training complex — they did a wonderful job modernizing a stadium that really needed some sprucing up. The two-story gift shop is a fan’s dream come true — though the prices are not. How can an authentic Yankees hat cost $50 when it’s $30 in the mall? That’s outrageous, even for stadium pricing!
Two beautiful bars sit down each foul line looking like something you’d find in a downtown nightlife district. They were packed from first pitch to last.
Mojitos and margaritas in team mason jars — Mardi Gras looking funnels of mixed drinks — and refillable beers at a discounted price are sure to be a hit the rest of the Grapefruit League season.
There’s a ton of reasons to come out Tampa this spring to see the Yankees play. But the main reason resides on the playing field. I know we’re only three preseason games in, but there is an energy surrounding this club that has been missing for a long time.
The excitement that began at last July’s trade deadline has carried over into 2017, and there is no reason to believe it will subside anytime soon. With competition for playing time only beginning to heat up, this Spring Training has a different feel to it. Maybe Joe Girardi was right when he said this team reminds him of the 1996 club he was a part of. No one expected that team to win the World Series either.
Who really knows what will transpire from now until October. The one thing you can bet on is that it’s a great time to be a Yankees fan.