What role did chicken parm -- yes, chicken parm -- play in Volpe's surge?

July 3rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It was the dinner that may have turned around ’s rookie season.

The Yankees had a rare off night on June 12 between series against the Red Sox and Mets, allowing Volpe to visit his parents’ house in Watchung, N.J.

Joined by a group of Minor League teammates that included top catching prospect Austin Wells, Volpe (as you now know) dined on chicken parmesan, then began reviewing iPad videos from last season -- specifically, games in which they both homered for the Double-A Somerset Patriots.

It was “kind of like old times,” Volpe said.

During that trip down memory lane, Volpe and Wells noticed that the frame-by-frame images on their screen bore only a passing resemblance to the Yankees’ rookie shortstop.

The topic had been brought up by hitting coach Dillon Lawson before the club’s previous series against the Red Sox, and Wells agreed that Volpe’s stance had unintentionally changed. They posited that it might explain his recent struggles at the plate.

“It was kind of a little stuff with my stance and how I set up to hit,” Volpe said. “It was so small, but we both kind of noticed it and started talking about it. I think we both took a lot away from it.”

The correction was a more closed stance, intended to eliminate an uppercut in his swing. Since then, Volpe has sizzled, offering reminders of the torrid spring performance that helped clinch his place on the Opening Day roster.

Saturday marked Volpe’s fifth consecutive multi-hit game, the longest such stretch by a Yankee this season, making him the first Bomber to do so since Aaron Judge (five games from Aug. 23-28, 2021).

“Regardless of the results, my at-bats have felt a lot better,” Volpe said. “My takes, what pitches I’m swinging at and what pitches I’m taking, have felt a lot more preferable. It’s pretty much back to normal.”

After Saturday’s game, in which Volpe stroked a triple and single to the opposite field, manager Aaron Boone observed: “He’s barreling up balls. I don’t care where it goes. He’s doing a better job of not expanding as much; we’ve seen that now for two to three weeks, where it’s just been consistent at-bats. That’s the only thing you can control. If you do that over time, the results will be there.”

Volpe downplays the impact of the session with Wells, saying that it was “obviously frustrating” to learn that he’d flushed numerous at-bats while straying from his setup.

But the fact remains: since the chicken parm hit the dining room table, he’s batted .373 (19-for-51) with five doubles, a triple, a homer, three RBIs and seven walks in 16 games.

“It’s nice to know that what I was doing when I wasn’t getting results wasn’t natural with what I always do,” Volpe said. “So I’m kind of just getting back to where I’ve been and where I feel comfortable. Whatever happens from there, I’ll take it.”