NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez is beginning the new year as arguably the most recognizable player in the Yankees' lineup, which is why the lunchtime crowd at a Bronx bodega seemed so surprised to see the slugging catcher helping out with their sandwich orders on Monday.Sanchez helped kick off the
NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez is beginning the new year as arguably the most recognizable player in the Yankees' lineup, which is why the lunchtime crowd at a Bronx bodega seemed so surprised to see the slugging catcher helping out with their sandwich orders on Monday.
Sanchez helped kick off the Yankees' "Winter Warm-Up 2017" with a visit to the Bullpen Deli across the street from Yankee Stadium, where he donned a pinstriped jersey and grabbed a shift behind the counter, serving up equal helpings of cold cuts and autographs to thrilled customers.
"This is very exciting, to come to the neighborhood and spend some time with the people around us," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "It's fun."
Select Yankees players are participating in events around New York City for four days this week, featuring various players from the Major League roster and some of the top prospects from the Minor League system.
Participating players include Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Matthew Holliday, Chase Headley, Carsten Sabathia, James Kaprielian, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, with the week's events designed to introduce the younger players to New York City, Yankees history and Yankees fans.
Sanchez started the day on Monday by surprising longtime season-ticket holders Michael and Cecilia Warren at their home in Manhattan, and he gave them a Yankees gift pack that included batting-practice field passes and autographed memorabilia. The Warrens have had tickets in the grandstand since 2002.
After electrifying the batting order in his debut campaign, the 24-year-old again promises to be one of the most exciting reasons to watch the team in 2017.
"This offseason, I've been trying to do the same thing I did last year, which is work hard and arrive at Spring Training ready to play," Sanchez said.
The Yankees were convinced by Sanchez's late-season surge, in which he batted .299 with 20 home runs and 42 RBIs in 53 games, enough so that they dealt Brian McCann to the Astros in November and anointed Sanchez the starting catcher for the foreseeable future.
Though Sanchez expects that teams around the league will make adjustments to how they approach him, he feels prepared for the challenges ahead.
"During the baseball season, there's highs and lows," Sanchez said. "We've got to go through all of that. As a baseball player, that's something I understand. You've got to keep your head high, and hopefully you can be consistent."
Despite the sky-high expectations that will follow Sanchez's success on both sides of the ball, he insists that there is no additional pressure heading into his sophomore big league season.
"I don't feel any pressure at all," Sanchez said. "I've got to keep doing the same things I've been doing. Just to play baseball is what I know how to do. Hopefully with my teammates, we can put together a good team."
Last season, as Sanchez continued to slug homers with regularity, he noticed fans beginning to wear his No. 24 jersey and recognize him on the streets of New York. As shown by Monday's surprise appearance, that does not figure to change anytime soon, and Sanchez seems eager to see what happens next.
"It was a good season for me, but that's in the past now," Sanchez said. "We have to focus on the upcoming season, all together as one. Hopefully we will make the playoffs."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.