Yesterday was my second day at Yankees Spring Training camp in Tampa, Florida. The weather was scorching hot. The pitchers went through several plays similar to the ones done on Sunday, like fielding bunts and making pick-off throws. Also, Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira took grounders at first base, then took some swings off of a tee. Later, I went down to the backfield and found CC Sabathia hitting — yes, hitting — ground balls to his son. After the practice ended, I assumed my day was over. But I had just begun my adventure.
I met a man named Ray Negron, who is a special consultant for the Yankees. He also wrote several books for kids, including The Boy Of Steel, The Greatest Story Never Told about a friendship between Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, and One Last Time: Goodbye To Yankee Stadium. Ray also played professional baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a short time. After I told him that I write for Sports Illustrated Kids, he told me seven words that changed my whole day: "We're taking you to meet Hank Steinbrenner." I was shocked, as I had had no idea that I would meet the owner of the Yankees — today or ever!
We went upstairs, where I met Jennifer Swindal-Steinbrenner, George Steinbrenner's daughter and Hank's sister. After speaking briefly with her, I went into Hank's office. I asked him several questions.
First, we talked about what he thought of the team's free agent signings. He told me that he was glad that they signed four of the top five free agents in Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, leaving former Yankee Robinson Cano as the only member of the top five free agents not to sign with the team. He said he likes that Tanaka, McCann, and Ellsbury are all hard-nosed players who give it all on the field day in and day out. He also said that he loves Beltran's smooth style of play.
I wondered how he and the Yankees use stats in order to look at players to sign, trade for, or draft. He said that stats and scouting are two things that they mainly use, as stats show a player's skills on a sheet of paper while scouting gives them a chance to see players in action.
For example, he said that there are some players who you could bet a million dollars that they won't get a hit when they step in the batter's box, and then not get a hit. However, there are some players (he used Don Mattingly and George Brett as examples here) that would get a hit in that scenario. This is because they don't crack under pressure, which is something scouting shows.
Afterwards, I asked him what it will be like in two years without Derek Jeter. He said what he told the Associated Press, which was that it will be strange not seeing the Captain out at shortstop.
As I was walking out of the complex, I noticed that the Yankees had recently put up Mariano Rivera's number, 42, in their mini version of Yankee Stadium's Monument Park (Rivera had his number retired last September). I had not seen this the day before, and it was a great way to end a thrilling day, done by the closer himself.
Photos and video courtesy Max Mannis
Max Mannis is an 11-year-old special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Catch his posts on advanced baseball statistics. To learn more about SABR and to join, visit www.sabr.org.