By Jason Klein
Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 3/4/10
This past Tuesday, Yankees Manager, Joe Girardi, once again played the role of Pinstriped Scientist, looking to concoct team chemistry, like he successfully did last season. In 2009, Girardi mixed all the right elements from baseball’s periodic table. The result: an on-field explosion that carried the Yankees all the way to a World Series Title.
Last season, Girardi conducted a bit of an experiment with his players during Spring Training. The club traded their bats and pine tar for pool sticks and chalk, and spent the day at a local billiards joint. The bonding session helped solidify the foundation of the team’s close-knit group, forming relationships that, many claim, set the tone for their Championship run.
If Girardi wants to end this upcoming season the same way he did last season, he figures, he should probably start it the same way too. It’s a new tradition for the most traditional franchise in professional sports. This year’s class trip found the Yankees at a Tampa-based arcade for a day filled with video games, skee ball, and pop-a-shot – something that resonated very positively with the players.
The stress-free environment allowed the players to forget the daily rigors of training, trying to earn a roster spot, or just fitting in. While at the arcade, every player was on even ground. Royce Ring could hang out with Mariano Rivera. Ramiro Pena could socialize with Alex Rodriguez. There were no superstars or bench players inside the arcade, a sense of equality off-the-field that should translate well into on-field team chemistry.
Wednesday afternoon, they started putting the theory to test. It was back to business as usual at George M. Steinbrenner Field and the Yankees picked up right where they left off last November, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 in their first Spring Training game of the new season. They even did it in walk-off fashion, as Colin Curtis hit a three-run home run in the 9th inning to secure the win…what, no pie? It was a first small step towards defending their title, the 27th in franchise history.
Unlike previous camps, 2010 has been relatively smooth. The drama and non-baseball related storylines have been non-existent. The only real source of controversy has been over the 5th spot in the pitching rotation, a post to be filled by either Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, or a combination of Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves.
In addition, the Yankees enter the 2010 season with some familiar faces like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui gone, and some new additions like Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez onboard. The “Core 4” of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera will again be at the heart of the Yankee Universe, as they pursue yet another Title. It would be the sixth career ring for each franchise icon, and the 28th Championship in club history.
First thing’s first, the Yankees have to get through eight long months of baseball before they start planning another trip down the Canyon of Heroes. Number twenty-eight is the goal this year – the target is once again, literally, on Girardi’s back – he changed uniform numbers. It’s a responsibility he’s thoroughly prepared for. He methodically laid the foundation this Tuesday at the arcade, shaking things up and formulating stronger team chemistry.
After last season, he’s got this down to a science.
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