Aaron Boone’s new postgame ritual an instant hit among Yankees players

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After the New York Yankees’ commanding 10-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, manager Aaron Boone approached starting pitcher Marcus Stroman with a special gesture. He handed Stroman, who had just delivered 5 2/3 shutout innings, a dirt-streaked baseball, marked with handwriting and a signature. Reading the inscription, the pitcher smiled and placed the ball in his locker, ensuring the writing faced outward.

The next day, he captured a photo of the ball and shared it on social media. The Yankees pitcher expressed his gratitude for the gesture by Aaron Boone, highlighting the significance of receiving a vote of confidence from the manager.

Aaron Boone’s gesture was an admiration of Stroman’s gem that played a vital role in the Yankees’ win though the Player of the Game championship belt went to Austin Wells for his three-run homer.

Despite a narrow 4-3 loss to the Royals on Thursday, which brought their record to 49-22—still the best in MLB—the new tradition introduced by Aaron Boone has been embraced by the team.

Throughout the season, Aaron Boone has been awarding a game ball to his personal player of the game after each win, as reported by The Athletic’s Brendan Kuty. Unlike the obvious standout who typically receives the championship belt from teammates, his choice often goes to the next-best player or someone whose crucial contribution may have been overlooked but was instrumental in securing the victory.

“It’s never the obvious pick,” Kuty said. “That’s the player who gets the championship belt from his teammates. Instead, Boone usually chooses either that day’s next-best player, or someone who did something crucial that may have flown under the radar yet still aided the win.”

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USA Today via Reuters

Aaron Boone’s wants a personal touch to motivation

Aaron Boone explained that he wanted to add a personal touch to the team’s celebrations. This gesture has not only recognized individual efforts but has also fostered a sense of unity and appreciation within the Yankees’ clubhouse.

During spring training, Aaron Boone and Chad Bohling, the team’s senior director of organizational performance, brainstormed ways to enhance clubhouse camaraderie, especially with the influx of new players. The Yankees, aiming to rebound from a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2023, added star slugger Juan Soto, outfielder Alex Verdugo, and pitcher Marcus Stroman—all known for their strong, individualistic personalities.

Aaron Boone, entering his seventh season as Yankees manager and in the final guaranteed year of his contract, sought to ensure that his players felt supported beyond the leadership of second-year captain Aaron Judge. He stressed the importance of authenticity and building personal connections with his team.

His background as a former major leaguer, with a notable career including an All-Star season with the Cincinnati Reds and a legendary walk-off home run for the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, gives him a unique understanding of the pressures his players face. Aaron Boone recognizes the challenges of the game and the grind of the season and the need for a refreshing motivation.

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si.com

The new tradition Aaron Boone and Bohling devised involves awarding a game ball after each victory. Following the game, Bohling hands the manager a game-used baseball, which he pockets while considering potential recipients. After the high-five line, Aaron Boone retreats to his office to write a personal note on the ball before presenting it to the selected player.

This practice, intended to strengthen team unity and acknowledge individual contributions, has become a cherished part of the Yankees‘ postgame routine, fostering appreciation and support within the clubhouse.

However, Aaron Boone makes the decision himself to select a player, without consulting anyone else, and typically writes a word or a sentence on the ball to encapsulate the player’s contribution.

Yankees players happy to embrace it

The players have warmly embraced this tradition, eagerly awaiting Aaron Boone’s choice at the end of their postgame celebrations. Some even keep an eye on the manager as he enters the clubhouse, curious about who will receive the special recognition.

Star slugger Juan Soto, who has received several game balls, described the gesture as meaningful, appreciating Aaron Boone’s acknowledgment of contributions that might otherwise go unnoticed. Soto mentioned that the skipper hinted at collecting all the game balls at the season’s end to compile the messages.

Stroman expressed his admiration for Aaron Boone, highlighting the manager’s infectious energy and the confidence he instills in his players. He appreciated playing for a manager who consistently supports his team, regardless of circumstances.

Bullpen coach Mike Harkey echoed this sentiment, noting that being recognized by the manager for contributing to a win is a significant honor. He praised Aaron Boone for his daily practice of awarding the game ball to a deserving player, while another player receives the championship belt, balancing the recognition of significant contributions.

Carlos Rodon hands over the ball to Yankees manager Boone as he leaves the mound in Baltimore on May 2, 2024.
AP

This new tradition has not only boosted morale in the Yankees clubhouse but also fostered a greater sense of unity and appreciation among the players. As the team continues its pursuit of success, Aaron Boone’s personal touch has become a key part of the postgame celebrations, highlighting the importance of individual efforts in achieving collective victories.

Following a 9-2 triumph over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, New York Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodón was elated when manager Aaron Boone presented him with a game ball. Having received this honor three times, Rodon likened his excitement to that of a child. The left-hander expressed his preference for the game ball over the player of the game belt, aiming to collect about seven Aaron Boone autographs by the season’s end. 

Aaron Boone plans to keep this tradition alive, not only as a marker of more Yankees victories but also to strengthen the bond between players and their manager. He emphasized the importance of maintaining a heartfelt connection with his team, which he seeks to achieve through this meaningful postgame ritual.

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