Anthony Volpe discusses Yankees pressure, Derek Jeter’s influence

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Yankees prized shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe takes a swing at some spring training Q&A with New York Post columnist Steve Serby. It was originally published in The New York Post.

Q: What did you love so much about the way Derek Jeter played the game?

A: He always ran out hard to first base, and whenever I went to his games, I’d watch in between innings to see him make the throws across the diamond, and it just seemed like every little detail he was in tune with, and obviously played well enough where he made some plays that showed off his instincts, but I just loved going to the games and watching the stuff that really the TVs didn’t show.

Q: You would watch him in the dugout?

A: Sometimes in the dugout, but I loved to watch him on deck and, like I said, in between innings when he was doing things like making a long throw from short. … his strategy at the plate, like going to the right field and staying inside the ball.

A young Anthony Volpe with Derek Jeter and in Yankees pinstripes.

Q: What is the most memorable Jeter play that you witnessed as a fan?

A: When I was little, I went to some games, but I never got to go to any big games. I don’t remember being at the stadium when he hit the walk-off home run in his last game at Yankee Stadium, but I was probably old enough to know when it happened as a fan. That felt like the perfect time to build up. The way everything went down was really like fate.

Q: Do you remember watching his Flip Play?

A: We rehearse that play, and it’s just as clear as the day it was written. As a shortstop, I know that’s kind of your job, but wow, that’s amazing.

Q: How about his diving into the stands headfirst?

A: All my life, I’ve wanted a ball like that (laugh). But I haven’t gotten one yet.

Q: Why would you want to do that?

A: I don’t know. He might have done it, but that’s one of the most famous plays. It’ll be really cool.

Q: Throwing your body in harm’s way, you don’t care.

A: Yeah, because of the out, yeah.

Q: Did you watch “The Captain” documentary?

A: I saw the first little bit of last season. I still need to complete it.

Q: What did you think of it?

A: That was fantastic, in my opinion. Maybe even astonished by how fantastic it was because he opened up, and I knew growing up and listening to interviews, everyone remarked how much he didn’t open up. That was awesome since I got most of those ’90s and early-career tales secondhand because (grin, giggle) I wasn’t alive yet.

Q: Describe your on-field mentality.

A: All I want to do is win. I’m very competitive, and once the game starts, all I care about is winning. I don’t care about myself or anything else.

Q: So you hate to lose more than you love to win?

A: I think that shows when I make small bets with my friends or when I’m playing golf.

Q: Are you a good golfer?

A: Ah, no … aspiring (smile).

Q: What drives you?

A: I just love the game. It’s the most fun game, sport, or activity I’ve ever done, and I just want to keep doing it and keep getting better at it because it’s so much fun.

Q: Do you feel any pressure?

A: Maybe from myself, but I think that’s because I work hard and have high standards for myself. But at the end of the day, all that matters is having fun and playing. You can’t take the game too seriously.

Q: But you take it very seriously?

A: Yeah, that’s the right balance between having fun and being really competitive and wanting to win. I think that’s why it’s the best game ever. Everyone says it’s a game of failure, but I think, as I’ve already said, that hating to lose makes you enjoy winning a lot more.

Q: What’s it like having Yankees fans so passionately in your corner rooting for you?

A: (Laughs) I guess I really do appreciate it. I think that me and the rest of the guys in the system feel the love at the games, and we appreciate everyone coming out. I think it matters if you look at how our minor league teams have done over the last couple of years.

Q: What is the biggest adversity you had to overcome?

A: COVID, I think. In the big picture of life at the time, I wasn’t doing too badly at all. I just wanted to play, and it was going to be my first full season in the system. When that was taken away, it was very hard on my mind, but now that I look back, I’m glad I had the time to work on the things I did.

Q: Do you think you need more seasoning in Triple-A?

A: I’m not sure, and it’s not really up to me anyway. I just want to play and get better every day, no matter where I am. I want to play in the major leagues for the Yankees, but when that happens isn’t as important as being the best player I can be and helping the team win a World Series. Anything else doesn’t really bother me because I can’t do anything about it. … I’m 21 years old, and I don’t think there are any 21-year-olds, 22-year-olds, or 23-year-olds — or people of any age, for that matter — who have reached their full potential. I’m working on everything, and I don’t think I can rest on my laurels in any one area. I want to do and achieve a lot more, but I need to put in a lot more work to get there.

Q: Do you feel you belong?

A: It’s nice to feel like I’m part of the group, and the guys are very friendly. It’s cool that I’m here with a bunch of guys I’ve played with before, and it’s also cool that we’re all kind of mixed in with guys we grew up watching. They make you feel like you belong for sure.

Q: Describe your affection for wearing No. 7.

A: Well, Mickey Mantle is my grandfather’s favorite player. When I was young and ready to choose a number, I thought that was the best one (smile).

Q: So now you’ve got double 7, 77.

A: Yeah. I just showed up, and when I walked in, that was what was waiting for me. It’s kind of cool.

Q: Did you ever watch clips of Mickey?

A: Oh, for sure. I remember seeing how all of the older players didn’t have any of the equipment we did, but how natural and good their swings were. It’s pretty fun to look at.

Q: Who else have you watched of the old-timers?

A: Mostly videos of swings and hits. The coaches recommend a Babe Ruth drill for certain players and other similar things. I think it’s great to learn little things from great hitters over the course of baseball history.

Q: Give me some names. Tony Gwynn, maybe?

A: Yes, of course. Yes, I have a whole photo album full of swings, including those of Pete Rose, Tony Gwynn, and the Yankee greats.

Q: Roger Maris?

A: I don’t know if I saved any of his swings, but I have a big catalog and folder, so…

Q: Do you have it with you?

A: My phone has it. I share it with my hitting coach. We add good videos whenever we find them.

Q: How many would you say you have on your phone?

A: (Takes out iPhone and scrolls down to show his catalog) (Takes out iPhone and scrolls down to show his catalog). Well, it’s just a shared album, but it is all of these. This includes Barry Bonds, Vladdy Guerrero, Pete Rose,… And we put little notes at the bottom to help me remember things like keys and such. It’s mostly for when the season is over, but it’s always interesting to look at. In the off-season, I watch videos of every swing back. I like doing that so I don’t have to think too much about the swing during the season.

Q: What about Ted Williams?

A: Well, he’s there, I guess. He’s probably been there the longest.

Q: Who else is up there?

A: I need to look at it. Obviously, the videos and camera angles and other things are a lot better now. But different kinds of things like that.

Q: How often do you speak to your parents?

A: Every day.

Q: What do they tell you?

A: I like it when it’s not about baseball, but they’re obviously paying attention, and it makes me sad that they can’t come to watch me play. We talk a little bit about baseball, but mostly about things that have nothing to do with baseball, which I like. I ask them how they’re doing and how Jedi, our dog, is doing, and other things like that (smile).

Q: What kind of dog?

A: Mini Goldendoodle (laugh).

Q: Did you name it?

A: Yeah, I named it.

Q: Describe your mom, Isabelle.

A: She’s great. She is probably one of my best friends, my rock, and someone I look up to, just like my dad. She’s there for the good times and the bad. She is probably the most selfless and hardworking person I’ve ever met. That’s what I love about her, and it’s just who she is. Doesn’t matter if I’m one of her patients or if I’m just a random person she meets on the street. She’s great.

Q: What does she do?

A: She’s an anesthesiologist.

Q: And your dad, Michael?

A: It’s mostly the same. He is almost certainly my best friend. We’ve been through everything together since he was my first and until I got drafted, only coach. He would work all day, and when he got home, I would be ready to go to the field. I mean, he probably was tired, but he never looked at it. And those are the things I remember when I think about baseball, which is why I love it so much. He has always had it. Both of them are the best.

Q: Did you have catches with him in the backyard?

A: I grew up in the city, but he worked in New Jersey, so he had to go back and forth to work. I’m sure there were days with terrible traffic that were very frustrating for him. I never really played organized sports in the city because there’s no real Little League or anything like that. He’d take me to the park, and at first, it would just be us, but within half an hour, there’d be a full 9-on-9 game with just kids from the neighborhood. He would be the pitcher and throw to all the kids in the neighborhood. After the game, he would take everyone to the convenience store and buy them Gatorade, snacks, and other things. So, yes, he’s the best.

Q: If you could face one pitcher in MLB history, who would it be?

A: Mr. Al Leiter (laugh).

Q: He’s your buddy, right?

A: Yeah. Jack, who is Leiter’s son, was my friend all through high school and everything else. He would throw things at us and talk trash, among other things.

Q: You gotta give me another one.

A: Who would you face?

Q: Nolan Ryan maybe? I don’t know. I don’t know if you’d remember Bob Gibson … Sandy Koufax.

A: Sandy Koufax. Two lefties (laugh).

Q: You want to face a lefty?

A: Mr. Leiter and him (laugh).

Q: If you could pick the brain of any shortstop or infielder in MLB history … other than Jeter.

A: (Long pause)

Q: I’ll let you say Jeter if you want.

A: Give me Jeter (laugh).

Q: Do you dream of having a moment like Aaron Boone had in the playoffs, his 2003 Game 7 ALCS walk-off home run versus the Red Sox?

A: I don’t know if I’ve dreamed it or not, but I think I’ve always had those moments and been up in the big places. I don’t think it matters where it is. I feel like I’m in high school, in a two-out situation, in the minor leagues, or one of those. When you’re in the middle of it, it feels like life or death. It’s hard to step back and tell yourself that there could be bigger moments. Every night, I want to be the player who is on the court at the right time and makes the right play. That’s probably one of the best parts of the game, and looking back, some of my best memories are from times when the game was close.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: George Washington, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Miracle.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Matthew McConaughey.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Margot Robbie.

Q: Favorite singer/rapper/entertainer?

A: Zach Bryan, country singer.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Pizza.

Q: Where’s the best New York pizza?

A: My favorite, it’s in kind of like Westchester, it’s called Johnny’s. I think it’s in Mount Vernon.

Q: Sicilian or regular?

A: Regular. But crunchy and … perfect.

Q: What moments have you dreamed of as a young boy in a Yankees uniform?

A: I mean if you looked at my second or third-grade yearbook or whatever and it asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It said, “New York Yankees player, Yankees shortstop.” … I’m sure the dreams back then were crazy, but now they are more like goals. Just keep those in mind.

Q: How would you sum up what it is like being a New York Yankee?

A: I obviously don’t know what it’s like to be with the big club and the big team, but I think I have a unique perspective being such a big fan and following the organization from the outside, and then once drafted and brought up through the system, you know the Yankees as a fan, and that they’re a first-class organization that doesn’t take any shortcuts. But you never really know until you’re in it, and I can speak for myself when I say that they spare no cost, and the number of support personnel that’s there for you, the number of pitching machines that we have at every single affiliate that other clubs are fortunate to have one. It’s something like that that truly illustrates that the Yankees are, in fact, the Yankees, and I’m blessed enough to be able to say it directly.

Q: What is your message to Yankees fans?

A: All I want to do is win. I just want to be the player who plays hard and competes every night. But in the end, all I want is to win.

What do you think, leave a comment below?

(Source: New York Post)

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