Yankees manager Aaron Boone described it as a “goosebump moment.” But for this fan, Anthony Volpe projected even more than that.
Saturday’s Yankees game had transgressed through an as-advertised pitching duel between Gerrit Cole and Toronto Blue Jays starter Sean Manaea. The Yankees bats were quiet, and Anthony Volpe was hitless in three attempts when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning of a scoreless tie.
This time, his at-bat would cause Yankees manager Aaron Boone to gush afterward of it being a “goosebumps moment” when Volpe deposited a pitch into the second row of the porch in the right field Stadium porch giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead going into the top of the ninth inning.
Volpe’s teammates gathered around him to push him up the dugout steps for a “curtain call” before adoring Yankee Stadium fans. The 21-year-old Volpe, with youthful innocence, stood waving to the crowd instead of exercising the traditional doffing of his cap to the fans. (Video Here
Volpe later told the New York Daily News, “It was pretty crazy. I didn’t really know what was going on, I guess, and I didn’t want to assume to go out or anything like that,” Volpe said with a smile. “I didn’t even know where to go.” But it hardly mattered.
With the Stadium still vibrating, Volpe took his position at shortstop as Jimmy Cordero (1-0) got George Springer to hit into an inning-ending double play in the top of the ninth as Volpe leaped like a gazelle to complete the relay throw to Anthony Rizzo, and the Yankees improved to 11-0 this year when facing a series loss, with veteran DJ LeMahieu delivering a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Yankees: Gerrit Cole Sums It Up
Despite Gerrit Cole’s grit and determination to complete six innings of work on a day when he lacked command of his best stuff, Cole knew it was Anthony Volpe‘s day in post-game comments labeling Volpe as a “stud” and a “winning player” before describing what he meant by that.
“He’s a great complement to the clubhouse,” Cole continued. “He’s a great defensive player and obviously put a great swing on a good pitch today and gave us a jolt that we needed.”
Even at his tender age, with less than three seasons of minor league ball under his belt, Anthony Volpe displays those rare innate baseball skills seldom seen on a baseball field.
His ability to be in the right place at the right time, to deliver a walk when it was most needed by the Yankees, to steal both second and third base as he did the other night to set up his team with a run in scoring position with less than two outs. Or to hit a dramatic home run as he did yesterday.
Do We Dare Even Think It?
Do I dare think it? Do I dare even say it, but haven’t we seen this once before?
Derek Jeter is an iconic Yankee, and comparing him or his career to anyone is ridiculous. He is Derek Jeter, who stands alone for his accomplishments on and off the baseball diamond.
And yet, since Jeter’s retirement from the Yankees (now almost a decade ago), fans have witnessed a series of players hyped by the Yankees in the vain hope one of them will take the relay from Jeter. The banner was waved from Greg Bird to Gary Sanchez to Luke Voit, but it blew to the ground, with only Aaron Judge emerging in splendid fashion.
Perhaps learning from past mistakes, the Yankees were careful and cautious in the treatment of Anthony Volpe, as witnessed by Brian Cashman’s refusal to commit to Volpe even as the youngster rampaged through spring training in a battle with Oswald Peraza and incumbent shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Of note, it was not until Opening Day that the Yankees announced that Volpe had made the team and would be their starting shortstop.
Anthony Volpe’s Success A Family Affair
There are intangibles that further recall similarities between Jeter and Volpe, the most significant of which is their family stories.
In each case, they are defined by family, family, family. Raised in upper-middle-class suburban communities, both Jeter and Volpe enjoyed the sustained commitment of their parents to the love and desire to play the game of baseball from an early age.
In a comprehensive article from New Jersey Hills.com, the story is told about bonding with baseball, with Anthony at the forefront, driving the interest and support of his parents.
The Volpe family, which includes Anthony’s sister Olivia, who is two years younger, originally lived in Brooklyn before moving to Watchung 11 years ago. Michael and Isabella are both doctors. Michael is a urologist, and Isabella is an anesthesiologist. The couple regularly attended New York Yankees games in the early 90s and have always been fans.
Similarly, Derek Jeter’s father, Charles Jeter, completed his master’s degree at West Michigan University after serving US Military. And after earning a doctorate in sociology, the senior Jeter devoted his time to helping people as a substance abuse counselor. His mother, Dorothy, worked as an accountant before she joined her son Derek’s Turn 2 Foundation. Both were regular attendees at Yankee Stadium.
In the early days of the Volpe family, father and son united as unrestrained fans of Yankees icon Mickey Mantle. During his minor league days and spring training this year, Anthony wore Mantle’s legendary number 7 (doubled down to 77).
It was only when Volpe was promoted to the Yankees on Opening Day that he was offered (by Brett Gardner) and chose one of the few remaining “low” numbers – the 11 he wears today.
Yankees: The Jury Is Still Out…But…
Now, before I get ahead of myself and reiterate, Anthony Volpe is not Derek Jeter. Not yet, and maybe never.
But it is those innate baseball skills and aptitude for the game that leaves me no cause to believe that one day we’ll see Volpe making a play like the one Jeter made when his senses told him to be in line to snare an errant relay throw to the plate and making the toss to nail Jason Giambi in a deciding playoff game.
We’ll see that and a few more “goosebumps moments” from Anthony Volpe as his years in Yankees pinstripes move on and a captivating baseball story accelerates beyond chapter one.
For now, though, all the fun is in seeing it play out.
Postscript – Monday 4/24/2023
On Sunday, Anthony Volpe struck out three times, going hitless as the Yankees lost a game and the series to the Toronto Blue Jays. Moreover, scoreless into the sixth inning, Volpe made a critical error at shortstop, opening the door for two consecutive home runs by the Blue Jays and putting his team behind for good.
Nevertheless, following the game, Volpe told reporters: “It’s a play that I feel like we make every single day in training and everything like that,” Volpe said of his mistake. “So I expect myself to make it for the team and me.”
No excuses. Direct and to the point. I own it. Again, very Jeter-like and very professional…