Volpe one step away from living boyhood dream

September 4th, 2022

Ask Anthony Volpe about his most vivid baseball memories and the Yankees’ shortstop of the future is swiftly transported back to Yankee Stadium in the summer of 2009, when his family shared a season-ticket plan with a few other families in the 200 level down the left-field line -- prime foul-ball territory.

Volpe remembers the jolt of adrenaline he’d feel when the 4 train kissed daylight in the Bronx, where he'd arc his neck to see the gleaming new cathedral rising into view. He’d arrive early to watch batting practice, almost always wearing Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on his back, and marvel at Alex Rodríguez’s pregame throwing routine. More often than not, the home team would win.

“I just remember, that year, there were so many walk-offs,” Volpe said. “We went to one of the games where Melky Cabrera hit a walk-off home run (April 22 vs. Oakland). It felt like that year, there was a walk-off once a week -- and it was pretty cool to be there for one of those.”

Volpe was 8 years old the last time the Yankees won it all, securing their 27th World Series championship by defeating the Phillies in that six-game Fall Classic. He jokes that he “never really had a choice” about being a Yankees fan, thanking his parents, Michael and Isabella, for steering him in that direction.

Now 21, Volpe believes it has been far too long since his team was king of the hill, top of the heap. He understands what it would mean to deliver another title to the Bronx.

“It’s an opportunity that doesn’t really feel real to talk about yet,” Volpe said. “Hopefully, it’ll feel real one day when it comes. It’s something that I’ve worked my whole life for. It feels close, but far at the same time. I feel like now is the time to put my head down and work as hard as I possibly can to make it a reality. To me, that’s super motivating.”

The Yankees’ first-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, Volpe signed his first professional contract after starring at the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J. After losing the 2020 season to the pandemic, Volpe hit .294/.423/.604 in 109 games for Class-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley in 2021, earning a promotion to Double-A Somerset to open the ’22 campaign. And with his recent promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- he had three hits in his second game with the RailRiders -- he's just one step away from the Bronx.

Working out daily at the club’s Player Development Complex in Tampa, Fla., this past spring, Volpe showcased the gains he made over the offseason at Wake Forest University, where he used weighted baseballs to boost his arm strength from shortstop.

Volpe started slowly against Double-A pitching, but the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder soon made the necessary adjustments -- ranking among the team and league leaders in multiple offensive categories, while showcasing a blend of contact ability, power and speed. Confident and polished, Volpe has also been reliable in the field.

“He dealt with some adversity early on [in 2022] and fought through it,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He’s finding his stride, so it’s all good. ... He’s a really talented player [with] great makeup. His future, we believe, is bright.”

Like his boyhood hero -- Jeter, we should mention, was also a smooth New Jersey-born product with a bright and easy smile -- Volpe has exhibited a flair for delivering in dramatic, pressurized moments. On June 26, Volpe connected for a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning against Hartford, helping Somerset clinch its first postseason spot since becoming a Yankees affiliate.

“We’re all so proud of him,” said Somerset manager Dan Fiorito. “The year he’s having has been great. He’s so talented. I feel like, as the year has gone on, he’s been controlling the zone better with his plan. His approach has been a little more dialed in as he’s adjusted to Double-A pitching. We said it from the very beginning: ‘He’s somebody whose numbers on the scoreboard didn’t read as good as what we were seeing.’ A lot of hard contact, a little unlucky at times.”

Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson gushed about the consistency of Volpe’s swing.

“It plays against such a large array of pitchers," Lawson said, "whether it’s a righty or lefty from over the top or from the side. He can handle the fastball, so he can handle offspeed pitches. It isn’t just a high floor, there’s a high ceiling that goes with that -- and he plays at such a high level all the time.”

When the Yankees attempted to upgrade their roster for a push toward the 2022 postseason, Cashman and his lieutenants made it clear that Volpe was off-limits -- part of why the Reds turned elsewhere to deal ace pitcher Luis Castillo, who went to the Mariners.

The Yankees have big plans of their own for Volpe, who could be their starting big league shortstop as soon as Opening Day 2023.

“I’m just working really, really hard,” Volpe said. “Regardless of whenever it happens, I just want to be ready. Hopefully, the day does come that I get to play for the Yankees. But the work doesn’t stop there. There’s a lot of things I want to accomplish. I want to help this team win a World Series. That’s what the Yankees are about, winning. I feel like I couldn’t be in a better organization to help do that.”