TAMPA — All spring long, Anthony Volpe somehow stayed completely focused on working hard, playing hard and getting better, not pulling off the upset of Yankees spring training.
His outstanding all-around play day after day didn’t lead to restless nights thinking or worrying about whether he was beating the competition for the wide open starting shortstop job, 2022 starter Isiah Kiner-Falefa and fellow prospect Oswald Peraza.
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That changed after the Yankees’ 6-2 win over Blue Jays on Sunday.
Before Volpe was told by Aaron Boone that he’s made the team, a lot of anxiety finally set in.
Volpe didn’t play, but he watched the game from the dugout. After it was over, a coach told Volpe to “hang around” the clubhouse.
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Volpe knew what that meant. He knew he’d had a great spring and Peraza didn’t hit much. He knew that Kiner-Falefa was out of the running by the second week of March when he was switched from shortstop to utility infielder/outfielder.
Volpe had a few minutes to sit there at his locker and wait for the verdict. Did he do enough putting up great offensive numbers while making every defensive play, or would his lack of experience lead to more Triple-A seasoning? He just got to Scranton late last season and played only 22 games there.
Waiting, Volpe’s heart started beating faster. He was nervous.
Then when Volpe was summoned to the manager’s office, the heartbeat sped up even more.
“I was probably pretty blacked out,” he said. “If I had a heartrate monitor, it was probably my max.”
Boone didn’t help matters initially. He wanted this big moment for Volpe and the Yankees to be a good story, too.
Boone was sitting back in his chair at his desk when Volpe walked in a took a seat in front of him. General manager Brian Cashman, bench coach Carlos Mendoza and hitting coach Dylan Lawson were sitting in the office, too.
Leaning forward, Boone spoke up:
“All right, it’s a difficult conversation to have to have because you came in and played your ass off. We talked at the start of this being a competition and you killed it. But at the end of the day, you’ve got 20-something games of Triple-A.”
Volpe looked Boone in the eye the whole time waiting for the bad news.
“There’s always room for development,” Boone added before pausing a moment and adding, “But I think that development should happen in the big leagues.”
Volpe smiled from eye to ear trying to process what just happened.
Boone then walked around his desk to bearhug Volpe, who then got hugs from Cashman and the coaches.
“You earned it,” Boone told Volpe three times.
This was moving for Volpe, who grew up in New York dreaming of being a Yankees shortstop.
At 21, the job is his, and come Thursday Volpe will be out there starting on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium playing against the Giants while Peraza is headed back to Triple-A.
“Incredible,” Volpe said. “I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to put into words.”
After getting the life-changing news, Volpe was informed parents, Michael and Isabella, and other family members were waiting in the Yankees dugout. There were lots of hugs, but not many words.
“My parents were pretty emotional,” he said. “To have that moment with them is something I’ll never forget.”
How did Volpe pull this off?
“Hard work,” he said. “I tried to be as prepared as I could. There were so many people in the organization and out of the organization that helped me work as hard as I wanted to and they were honest with me and open. Regardless of the result, I was happy and confident with all the work I put in.”
Volpe crushed it all spring. In 17 games, he’s hit .314 with six doubles, a triple, three homers, five steals, eight walks and a 1.064 OPS. He also made every play in the field.
All along, Volpe says his mind was on the present. Work hard, then do it again the next day and don’t think about what the Yankees will decide.
“Being out on the field with all the guys helped me take my mind off everything I really can’t control, but for it all to come to fruition like this is pretty crazy,” Volpe said.
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Randy Miller may be reached at [email protected].
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