Ben Rice makes ultimate fan gesture: Head shave for Yankees’ championship

New York Yankees first baseman Ben Rice stands on the field during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Pamela Smith
Michael Bennington
Tuesday July 9, 2024

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Since he was a kid, Ben Rice never felt shy to shout “Yankees Rule!” in the red zone of Fenway Park solely driven by his love for pinstripes. Now after donning the same in his MLB career, his fandom of the Yankees has only grown manifold.

While talking on the Foul Territory, Ben Rice promised to shave his head if the team clinches the 2024 World Series. Though it seems to be a playful proposition for many, the words by the Yankees first baseman are an enthusiastic support for the Yankees fandom at an epic level.

Ben Rice got this idea from the dedication of fan Derek Levandowski, who had vowed to shave his head if he hit a third home run in Saturday’s game. True to his word, Levandowski went bald after Ben Rice’s historic performance.

Ben Rice, player of the new york yankees
The Boston Globe

The rookie’s stellar seven-RBI game was pivotal in securing the Yankees’ sole win during their recent six-game homestand against Cincinnati and Boston.

In just 18 games, Ben Rice has made a substantial impact, posting a .273/.359/.545 slash line with seven extra-base hits and 154 weighted runs created plus (wRC+). His plate discipline has been impressive, highlighted by a 17.5% chase rate and a 12.5% walk rate.

Ben Rice’s early success and rapport with fans underscore his growing influence in the Yankees’ lineup and his potential to significantly contribute to the team’s success this season.

Yankees find a potent asset in Ben Rice

The rookie has become a vital player for the New York Yankees, filling a gap at first base following Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and subsequent arm injury.

“You see the calm at-bats he takes,” manager Aaron Boone said about the rookie. “He understands the strike zone. He doesn’t flinch a bunch. Easy takes; you see the pull-side power that he has, too. He combines controlling the strike zone with some barrel awareness and the ability to hit the ball in the air from both sides.”

Despite Ben Rice’s strong performance, the Yankees’ overall slump continues. The team has lost six of their last seven series, with a 6-16 record over 22 games. During this period, only five active batters, including Ben Rice, have performed above average, while the rest of the lineup has struggled.

Yankees' Ben Rice has a three home run game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on July 6, 2024.

“He’s coming off an outstanding year last year in the Minor Leagues that put him on the map and burst onto the scene,” Boone said of Ben Rice. “He earned a trip to Spring Training and continued that through spring and then to start the year. He’s come up here and given us quality at-bats each and every day.”

His performance has led the Yankees to consider keeping Ben Rice, instead of J.D. Davis, to lead them against both lefties and righties. However, the manager is yet to make a decision if the team will utilize the other ability — a converted backstop — of the rookie.

Meanwhile, Ben Rice is adapting to his MLB role in the pinstripes well and striving for consistency.

“It’s just trusting my approach,” Ben Rice said. “I have a lot of confidence in my approach, and up here is no different. The game hasn’t changed. The bases are all in the same spots. That’s allowed me to hit the ground running a little bit here.”

The Yankees‘ pitching woes have compounded their difficulties. Since June 13, they have posted a league-worst 5.86 ERA and allowed a staggering 38 home runs, the highest in baseball. This decline has dropped the Yankees from leading the AL East by 2.5 games to trailing the Baltimore Orioles by three games.

As the Yankees face crucial road series against Tampa Bay and Baltimore ahead of the All-Star break, they will need to rely heavily on Ben Rice’s contributions to regain their footing and revive their playoff hopes.

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