Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?
The Wall Street Journal has this article about what it's like to play for the Yankees. It quotes Andy Phillips, Kevin Reese, and Kevin Thompson, among others.
Andy is the hitting coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide, of course. Reese is still a scout for the Yankees (remember, he quit the Yanks' AAA team to become a scout instead). And Kevin Thompson went back to school and got his degree. He hopes to start his own hedge fund.
By TIM MARCHMAN
When you think of the New York Yankees in the Derek Jeter era, you'll picture parades, shiny rings and trophies, piles of cash and Don Zimmer rushing Pedro Martinez. You'll also picture players so famous it's hard to believe they're real even when they're standing a foot away from you. It's what the Yankees are.
For most of their players, though, the Yankees are something else, too—a brief experience that ends as suddenly as it begins. For a player like Adam Warren, who pitched one game this year after four years in the minors, a short run with the Bombers might prove be the highlight of an entire career. It makes you wonder if the true Yankee experience might not be about briefly making it in New York before moving on to something else, memories in tow.
"At my job right now, everybody wants to talk about, 'How was it, how was it?'" says Kevin Thompson, who played 32 games for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007. "It was great, man!"
Former Yankees love being Yankees. They'll talk about personalities: Jeter is probably even more revered by his former teammates than by fans. They'll also talk about moments, like the Yankee Stadium roll call—"the greatest feeling of all time," says Thompson—or having 15 reporters in front of your locker tell you that you've made the starting lineup. What they really like to talk about, though, is the pressure.
"You expect to be the best," says Andy Phillips, a coach with the University of Alabama who had about a season's worth of at-bats with the Yankees from 2004 through 2007. "I think that's what you take from it, more than anything, is a level of expectation that's unmatched anywhere I've ever been."
"Everything is expected to be done top notch," says Kevin Reese, who grew up a Yankee hater, hit .385 over a dozen games in 2005 and 2006, and now works for the team as a scout. "We're always expected to win."
Maybe this matters and maybe it doesn't, but takes of Yankeedom make life in the organization sound a lot like prep school, with someone always there to remind you that how you dress, walk and talk represents where you come from, and tells people whether you want to succeed.
"We all strive to be part of something special," says Phillips. "Yes, there is an expectation to win. Yes, there is an expectation of success. But there's also an enjoyment in that. And it's still baseball."
The whole thing, players agree, is surreal. A breakfast invitation from Jeter, or a front row seat from which to enjoy the walking circus that is Alex Rodriguez, does not make it less so.
As a Yankee, you might think about a player like Mitch Jones, who hit 39 home runs for Trenton and never made it to the Stadium, and realize how much success has to do with chance, and having the right opportunity at the right time. Or you might find yourself swelling with the confidence that comes with Jeter and Rodriguez pretending that you are just as dangerous as the star with the eight-figure salary whom you are temporarily replacing. Either way, you will probably end up comparing the Yankees to everywhere else you've ever been.
"When I went over to the Oakland A's," says Thompson, "it was night and day. There were no reporters in there. No one cared. When I went to the Pirates, no one cared. Not that the players didn't care, but the markets really don't care. It's like, 'OK, you lose, you win, but it's just a game.'"
Think of the Yankees, and you might not picture Warren, or Reese, a successful pro scout, or Phillips, who's helping to build the baseball program at a great sports school, or Thompson, who after he got tired of standing around in the sun on hot fields went back to school to finish his bachelor's, and now hopes to start his own hedge fund.
For all the piles of money, demonstrative gestures toward internationalism and pennants waving above the field, though, this is mostly who the Yankees are, and have been: Basically normal people, as amazed by their surroundings as you would be, who try to enjoy everything while they have the chance, and do their part to show they belong. There are a lot of myths in baseball. The idea that pinstripes carry a certain weight isn't one of them.
And as players like Warren, David Phelps and Dewayne Wise do their bit to kick in toward another slightly improbable run, this is probably worth keeping in mind: Yankees fans may, from time to time, get cynical. Their proxies on the major league roster mostly don't.
"Years later, you look back," says Phillips. "And just kind of shake your head, that you were part of that."
A version of this article appeared July 20, 2012, on page A22 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Short Happy Life of a Yankee Nobody.
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