9:45 am. It was the time posted for all Spring Training invitees, roster and non-roster, to be suited up and ready to go. They took the field shortly thereafter to a throng of media, photographers, reporters, autograph seekers, and fans.
I guess we can really consider today as the first day of Spring Training because almost everyone (Alfonso Soriano is sick with the flu and excused so as to not spread it to everyone else in the clubhouse) showed up, put on their pinstriped pants and numbered jersey, and began to work as a team. Derek Jeter’s retirement parade officially began today with over 1000 fans packing the stands to glimpse the Captain in action.
Familiar faces also took to the field, albeit in a different context. Hideki Matsui enjoyed being on the “special instructor” side of things almost as much as he did being back in Yankee colors. Girardi assumes Matsui will definitely play a key role in encouraging someone who idolized him growing up — Masahiro Tanaka, who has been taken under the wing of fellow Japanese starter Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda asked the younger right-hander to be his throwing partner last week.
Donning #24 this year is Scott Sizemore who is hoping to earn a roster spot. He mentioned that wearing this number might mean “big shoes to fill”, but I think some Yankee fans who might have felt abandoned by a former #24 might be glad to have a new someone to root for. Of course, long-term Yankee fans still hold #24 as belonging to Tino Martinez. But until it’s retired, that number will float around until it finds someone to take into history.
Actually, the main part of the full-squad work-out day is for all the players to connect with each other and get to know one another more than just a name and a story. Gardner gets to meet his new fellow outfielders Beltran and Ellsbury. The plethora of utility infielders get to know each other and imagine what an infield will look like with a new rotating player at 2nd and 3rd, plus a shortstop understudy (as it were). Pitchers gnawing for a bullpen spot will be joshing around the pitching area with the hopeful catchers.
And that’s what matters more than anything else at the end of the day — the team dynamics. Teams win games, teams win championships. Sure, they won’t all get along with everyone else, but there is something for building a friendship base and camaraderie within the clubhouse that is a strong bond. That bond will spill out to the field and allow for the players to work together, trusting each other, and anticipating both needs and actions. And when you have a team that’s so tight and so together, you get a World Series Championship.
So bring on the great bonds of friendship, the team spirit, the clubhouse camaraderie… we want that 28th Championship.