So before I talk about this Red Sox series, I’ve got a quick story for you.
I’m down in the subway station a few weeks ago, headed to the Bronx for a game.
Just, you know, like we do in New York.
And as I get closer to the platform, I see that the train’s about to leave — I know I’ve gotta hustle a little bit to make it, so I go into a light jog or whatever. No big deal.
I get on a few seconds before the doors close. I sit down, and then I look up and notice two guys on the platform in a full sprint heading for the train. Just totally haulin’ ass.
These guys … they don’t make it in time. The doors basically close right when they get there.
And now both of them are screaming at the conductor person a few train cars down. Like….
“Let us on, man. Open the door!!!! Come on. Let us in!!!”
They’re yelling down to him, but they also keep looking right at me through the window. And then there’s like a half-second pause and one of the guys is just like.…
I didn’t really know what was going on — I was still new to the city at that point. But they just keep on yelling at the guy who controls the doors. And eventually all the yelling ends up working. When the MTA person finally opens the doors back up for them, these guys make a beeline right for me.
In a second or two they’re sitting next to me, and it turns out….
They basically just want to talk baseball.
Everything I had just seen — the running, the doors shutting in their faces, the yelling — it was all about the chance to talk some Yankees baseball. Pure and simple. It wasn’t like, Hey, can you sign this or that? Or, Can you get us tickets for tonight? This was just two die-hard baseball people — two guys in their 20s, like me — New Yorkers, Yankee fans through and through.
So we’re sitting there talking and it’s just kind of blowing my mind how much they know about the game. They’re running down stats. They’re going into strategy. And, you know, it’s New York, so they told me what’s what: Gave me some advice on my swing, shared some tips, that kind of thing. We talked for about 20 minutes, and that was that.
It wasn’t some earth-shattering conversation, but it was pretty damn cool, and those guys were so amped getting off that train. You could see it on their faces. I’m pretty sure they’ll never forget that experience. You know what, though? What they probably didn’t realize at the time was that….
Neither will I.
Because that right there, to me, was like the perfect Welcome to New York moment.
A few weeks later, I hit this triple at Yankee Stadium against the A’s in the AL wild-card game. You may have seen it. But it was literally the first triple of my major league career, and also one of the most amazing, insane, intense experiences I’ve ever had on a baseball field.
Now I have to say, for starters, I’m not trying to rewrite history here: I definitely deserved all the ribbing I got in the clubhouse after that game from my teammates for acting like it was going to be a home run. But, I mean, what can I tell you….
I thought I got all of it.
I really did.
So, you know, I did a little hop and pointed to the sky. What can I say? Sometimes you get carried away. I am who I am. I was totally in that moment and loving it and having fun. And it was just like….
Oh my God, I did it. I really did it! This is the game for us if that ball goes out.
But then I’m jogging to first and I’m looking out to right and I see Piscotty keep running along the base of the wall like he thinks he has a shot to make the catch, and at that point it’s basically like….
Oh no. Please. No.
So I start jogging a little bit faster. And then, right as I reach first base, I just see Stephen jump up, and I hear that smack against the wall and I know I’m going to have to get on my horse and just run like crazy. It was … rough. And, I mean, thank God that ball bounced away from him, and those two runs scored, and I somehow got to third base. But I was frickin’ dying from lack oxygen when I got there. It almost felt like I was going to pass out or something.
In looking back on that moment, it probably also didn’t help with my breathing situation that I was screaming my head off at the time.
I never thought I’d be here.
I mean, yeah, sure, getting a huge hit in a playoff elimination game is the kind of thing you always play out as a kid in the backyard. But I can tell you that I didn’t think I’d be out there doing stuff like that, or playing in the greatest rivalry in baseball, as a New York Yankee. And even beyond that, when you’re a guy like me you just never truly know if you’ll ever get a shot to do something special on a big stage. I’m not a superstar player. I’ve never had anything handed to me in this game. Ever. I’ve worked my ass off, and put the time in, and I’ve always just hoped that it would someday pay off for me. But you just never know.
I was kind of stuck down the depth chart in St. Louis, and after you get traded to a team like the Yankees, with all the big-time players we have here, you can’t help but wonder if you’re ever gonna get a shot to fully prove yourself.
For me, I was just super fortunate because from the second I got to New York everyone treated me like I absolutely deserved to be here. Walking into the stadium as a Yankee, and setting foot in that clubhouse for the first time, is something I’ll never forget. And I’m not afraid to admit that I felt a little bit star-struck in that moment. Everywhere you look it’s MVPs, Rookies of the Year, All-Stars, players who have put up crazy numbers in their careers — guys I’ve been watching on TV for a long time. So … it’s just a lot to take in.
More than anything else, though, I just kind of said to myself….
You gotta step it up now, kid.
This is New York.
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
I mean, at first, yeah, it was a little bit … I don’t want to say scary … but there’s a lot of pressure here. There’s tons more media, the spotlight’s always on you, and that takes some getting used to. But after a couple of days with this team, I felt like I’d been here forever. There’s a real brotherhood here, and in a lot of ways I almost feel like a bunch of the guys in our clubhouse really could be my older brothers. Guys have just taken me under their wing and are always trying to help me — CC, Neil Walker, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge … it’s really like I could almost name every player on our team.
And the really cool thing is that a lot of the younger guys here, I already knew a little bit. Miggy beat me in the home run derby in 2015 at the Florida State League All-Star Game, so I still get on him about that. And I got to play against Judgey that year, too. So I knew the kind of young talent this team has, and it’s been really fun to bond with everyone during August and September as we got ready for this playoff run.
At the same time, though, these guys keep me honest. For sure. They don’t let me get away with anything. They’re constantly on my case because I lift so much. It’s like….
There goes frickin’ Voit. Meathead. Off to the weight room again. Frickin’ Voit.
And it’s literally everyone, too. Like every guy on the team. They absolutely kill me for my cut-off shirts. Like, just no mercy.
But it’s cool. I can own that. I’ll be the team meathead. It’s fine.
Jim McIssac/Getty Images
So now it’s the Red Sox.
Tied up 1–1. Coming off a huge win up at Fenway. And it’s….
Back to the Bronx.
This series is right there for the taking. And I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about what it’s gonna be like at the stadium.
They won the division at our place, and it’s definitely left a bad taste in our mouths, so we want to make it clear to the entire world, right here and now, what New York is all about. This is everything to us right now, and with guys like CC and Gardner and Sevi around, you hear all the stories about this rivalry and how much these games mean. So even though I haven’t been here very long, I understand. I get it.
Sox fans have already been jumping on my social media and leaving comments about how much I suck, and how I’m a fluke, and … other stuff that I can’t mention. So it’s definitely real now. It’s super intense.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Playing on the same fields where legends have played, for this type of team, with a bunch of guys you love and respect, against your biggest rival? For a chance to move one step closer to the World Series? I mean … are you kidding me?
It really doesn’t get any better than that.
This is just so much frickin’ fun.
And you know, from the very first time I stepped on the field as a Yankee I’ve basically just wanted to have fun and take every advantage of this opportunity. I remember saying to myself before those first couple of games: This is your shot, man. This is it. Go show the world what you got, and have the time of your life.
So that’s what I’ve tried to do each and every game since.
I’m literally having the time of my life right now.
And I think that’s maybe why some people have enjoyed watching me play. They can tell that I’m loving this, and that I’m enjoying the moment. It almost sounds corny to say, but you never know how long you’re going to be able to play this game, and I fully intend to enjoy every second of this. I’m not going to be one of those guys who looks back on his career and is like, Hmm, yeah. Damn. I kind of wish I would’ve enjoyed playing more and really taken it all in.
No way. Not me, man. Not me. I am going to enjoy this playoff run with all I got.
Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
And you know what else? Yes … I’m going to celebrate the awesomeness of it all, too. Like, hell yeah I’m going to celebrate when cool stuff happens out on the field, and maybe hop around sometimes, and point to the sky, and scream my head off — even when a sure home run only ends up being a triple.
You can ding me for that if you like, but I actually think that’s what baseball fans want.
And I know that’s what our fans deserve.
That level of emotion. That passion. So that’s what I try to give you all.
And you guys always show your appreciation in a big way.
When I walk up to the plate, and I hear that LUUUUUUUUKE chant go up, I mean, I’m telling you … it feels like I’m walking on clouds. It just makes me truly believe that I can do anything.
It makes me feel loved.
To know that the stadium has my back regardless of the outcome is incredible. It means the world to me. To all of us, really. We all feed on that energy for sure.
I mean, I’ll never forget how loud the stadium got the during that wild-card game when Sevi got a couple of big strikeouts in the first inning. It felt like an earthquake. Literally. Like I swear I could feel the stadium shaking. And it had us all completely pumped.
Well now we’re coming back home again. And we got the Red Sox in town.
Earthquake in the Bronx?
Nah, this is the Sox we’re talking about. We need to make more than just the Bronx shake. This time around, let’s make it so loud at the stadium that the whole entire country can feel it.
And then let’s go and win number 28, New York.