TAMPA, Fla. — This time, Yankees players were spectators at Steinbrenner Field during a team-building event.
Hours before Wednesday night’s exhibition game, several Yankees clubhouse, front office and public relations staff participated in an on-field competition.
“And with Swish involved, it takes on new life,” Yankees reliever Zack Britton said, referring to guest instructor Nick Swisher, who served as MC and practice batting pitcher.
Using a megaphone, Swisher led the contest, which included strikes, fielders and base runs from first to third – capped off with a mandatory head-first slide.
“It was awesome,” manager Aaron Boone said of the show. “I had a lot of players, coaches who said it was one of the best things we’ve done.”
Britton was one of the initiators of the contest, inspired by a similar event his ex-manager Buck Showalter – now the Mets skipper – hosted back in the days of the Baltimore Orioles.
“You’ve got a face with a name now,” Britton said of the staff members who don’t normally appear on the pitch or in the clubhouse.
And the players really got into it, cheering on the attendees while standing on the sidelines.
“Our players loved it,” Boone said. “I hope it’s something that binds us a little more as a group, as a team and as an organization.”
Boone said the idea of such a competition was floated in recent springs, but gained momentum a few days ago.
“I thought that was really cool,” Boone said. “And no one has been hurt. So far.”
For Wednesday’s exhibition game, which the Blue Jays won 11-3, Boone presented this Yankees roster:
1.Josh Donaldson, 3B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
6. Joey Gallo, LF
7. Aaron Hicks, C
8. Gleyber Torres, SS
9. Kyle Higashioka, C
“I’ll try to flirt with some things … but I like our lineup (Wednesday),” said Boone, who played with variations on the batting order.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who wasn’t in the lineup, will be the regular shortstop – though Boone insists LeMahieu will get his regular bats floating around three spots on the field.
Boone has more choices for the top spot this year, and “there’s a part of me that wants to have a DJ in the middle of our lineup, behind some of our guys on base,” Boone said.
Still, LeMahieu will “probably” lead “a bit” in 2022. And even though the entire infield “is healthy for 162 games, they’re all going to have a lot of batting attacks,” Boone said. .
Update from Rachel Balkovec
Rachel Balkovec, ready to manage Class A Tampa, “is about to be back on the court,” according to Kevin Reese, director of player development for the Yankees.
The first full-time female manager in affiliate baseball, Balkovec, 34, was hit in the face by a baseball during a batting cage drill on March 22.
She did not suffer a concussion, according to the Yankees, but was prescribed about a week off.
Class A season in Tampa begins April 8, and “knowing Rachel like I do,” Reese expects her to be in the dugout and leading her team by then.
Kevin Law Award
Top-rated Yankees shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe, of Watchung, and right-hander Hayden Wesneski have been named winners of the 2021 Kevin Lawn Award, signifying the organization’s top minor league player and pitcher.
The award is named after the son of longtime Yankees vice president and chief operating officer Jack Lawn. Kevin Lawn died in 1999.
Pete Caldera is the author of Yankees beats for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Yankees analysis, news, transactions and more, please subscribe today and download our app.