TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have never been shy about leaning upon their storied history, and while the team's top prospects are gathered for preseason workouts at the team's spring home, they are calling in some of their greatest players to help shape the next generation of stars.
Andy Pettitte was the latest speaker at the Yankees' four-week "Captain's Camp," which invited several of their up-and-coming prospects for a crash course on leadership. As Pettitte offered a few words of wisdom, the retired hurler had no problem commanding his audience's attention.
"I hope it was helpful. I hope it helps somebody," Pettitte said Monday. "For me, it was the coolest to have Yogi [Berra] and to see Whitey [Ford] and to see Gator [Ron Guidry] around, the guys that you knew were just kind of the Yankees legends when I was a young man coming up. For me, it was great."
Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, CC Sabathia and Darryl Strawberry are among the other recognizable names who have addressed the prospects this spring, doing so in a classroom setting at the team's Minor League complex. Pettitte said he discussed dealing with adversity, the importance of preparation and how to handle the mental aspects of the game.
Some of the visits go off-campus; last year, Derek Jeter was a surprise guest, taking the prospects out to a meal where no topic was out of bounds. Much of Jeter's advice centered on how to properly represent the Yankees and coping with the pressures of playing in the the Majors.
"What's encouraging to me is that we don't pay anybody to come," said Gary Denbo, the Yankees' vice president of player development. "We have a lot of really good people that are coming in to talk to our guys, just to voluntarily share what they've learned over the years."
Denbo said the idea for Captain's Camp was hatched last offseason in the wake of Jeter's retirement, as officials gathered in a Tampa war room and brainstormed about which names might step up as the next leaders of the organization.
While declining to provide exact numbers, Denbo said the Yankees invited more players to this year's camp. He also said that two camp "leaders" were selected: outfielder Aaron Judge, the team's No. 1 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, and right-hander Brady Lail, the club's No. 10 prospect.
"We picked a pitcher and we picked a position player that we thought could lead by example and through their actions," Denbo said. "They've done a tremendous job."
Other prospects spotted at the complex this spring have included infielder Jorge Mateo, right-hander James Kaprielian, infielder Rob Refsnyder, catcher Gary Sanchez, left-hander Jacob Lindgren, outfielder Mason Williams, outfielder Slade Heathcott and right-hander Nick Rumbelow.
A few times each week, their routines of preseason conditioning and on-field workouts have been interrupted by a visit from a new voice. Denbo said in addition to ex-players, former general managers, scouts and media members have been invited to offer perspectives otherwise unavailable to the prospects.
"We get to talk to a lot of old veterans and older scouts and a lot of our staff members about how they handle themselves on and off the field, how they respected the game, how they played the game," Judge said. "That's great. A lot of guys don't get that opportunity to hear from a lot of great players like we have."
While Pettitte's stay at camp only lasted a few hours, the lefty couldn't resist grabbing a glove and getting back on the field to throw some batting practice. It reminded him of how overamped he could be as a young player, something Pettitte made sure to caution the prospects about.
"I would prepare for a bullpen like I prepared for a game," Pettitte recalled. "When I first showed up down here, it's like you were kind of running out to the bullpen, putting your cleats on still."
Pettitte said his arm is still in good enough shape, but had to laugh when Judge connected for a few moonshots toward the highway. Pettitte piled into his rented SUV hoping that he'd served up more substance on this afternoon than just a few meatballs down the middle.
"The talent is one thing. Playing the game is one thing," Pettitte said. "Being successful is one thing. The big thing is I would like them to learn how to be great teammates, to care for one another."