Kicking it and finding a niche

In wonderful sunny Florida, team work-outs continue. Fans continue to flood the stands in hopes of catching glimpses, balls, or autographs of their favorite players (well, mostly Jeter). The media is packed in where they can fit to fill their own readers with pictures and updates on the players’ progression. Oh, and the fields around the complex are packed with players and hopeful non-roster invitees.

Much of the attention this week has been on Masahiro Tanaka and Derek Jeter — one starting his professional career, the other ending his this year. Catchers and fellow pitchers alike are raving that Tanaka has been everything he was advertised to be. The young pitcher claims to be still adjusting to the both the American style of play and the Yankees, but everyone seems to think he’s more than adjusted — he’s part of the team. And much like Jeter said in his press conference Wednesday, once you’re a Yankee, you’re a Yankee forever.

Other new Yankees that have been earning their own time in the conversations, like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, also seem to be fitting into that Yankee mold with some ease. I don’t know if the publicized expectation of who or what a Yankee is helps with the transition, but I’ve found it’s the rare person that doesn’t find an easy route into Yankee Universe. It’s those with a quick temper (anger issues) or arrogance (diva alert) or perhaps just preconceived prejudices (ignorant bias) that find their way to another team quicker than they probably initially thought. Even now, I can count on my hands the number of people who have just not fit in, and honestly, I’m sure I’m not alone with some minor rejoicing and hopes to never return.

I should clarify: there are people who pass through the organization quickly that actually fit in well with the team in general, but perhaps because of ability or trade necessity or personal decisions they found themselves working for another organization. I still consider these guys former Yankees (I think of Stewart, Overbay, and Swisher for these examples), and often I miss seeing them on the “right” side of the field, so to speak. And on a personal level, I love watching them succeed on their new teams, but facing the Yankees, they’re going down.

Meanwhile in the semi-snowy Bronx (that’s due for yet another dose of snow next week), the Yankees announced that the Stadium will host a Liverpool-Manchester United soccer (or if you’re really a fan: football) match on July 30, while the Yankees will be on the road in Texas. When they convert the field to soccer/football, it never looks right. Of course, I say that about any conversion that isn’t the proper baseball diamond (hockey, concert, college football, etc.). But I know several people who will be very happy to see these two rivals face off in New York. The World Cup (for soccer/football) is held in Brazil this year, June 12-July 13, so this will be a chance for non-Brazilians (and die-hard World Cup fans) to see a couple of favorite teams up close and personal. And, unlike watching a hockey game in the middle of one of the coldest winters, the middle of summer is a proper time to be at an outdoor stadium, cheering on a competitive sport.

Now, I still haven’t decided which team to root for in this game, and I expect Liverpool and ManU fans to give me an earful and convince me. But then again, it’s Yankee Stadium, so I guess I know who I’ll be cheering for…

Go Yankees!

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