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Follow the leader: Holliday sets Yankees' tone

Oldest player on roster has been making a great first impression
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA -- On a Yankees roster littered with twentysomethings, Matt Holliday is the exception to the rule. He's fine with that.

"It's been great. The guys have been great," said Holliday. "Got a chance to get to know some of the guys, go out and play some ball, and the team looks really good."

TAMPA -- On a Yankees roster littered with twentysomethings, Matt Holliday is the exception to the rule. He's fine with that.

"It's been great. The guys have been great," said Holliday. "Got a chance to get to know some of the guys, go out and play some ball, and the team looks really good."

It's clearly a great first impression for the oldest Yankee on the roster. Holliday turned 37 in January, which puts him seven months ahead of left-hander CC Sabathia for seniority. But to put his age into the proper perspective, Holliday was 12 years old when teammates Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird were born -- back in the early nineties.

For Holliday, leading his younger Yankees teammates is a work in progress.

"I think there's plenty of leadership in place. I just try to come in and do my part and get to know the guys," said Holliday. "Leadership is best had when you build relationships with guys. I've really tried to take these first few weeks and get to know some guys and really kind of build relationships. If some sort of leadership is necessary, guys are much more willing to listen and interact when they know you."

Aaron Judge has a locker next to Holliday's, and the 24-year-old outfielder has become a sponge. Holliday pushes Judge during batting practice, where the young Yankee appreciates the veteran's approach.

"It's been great. That's the great thing about Matty, about any great leader, is that they get to know their teammates and who they're with," said Judge. "He's out there challenging us young guys to compete and play harder every day, so it's been great so far."

Video: Waldman on young Yankees, team's addition of Holliday

Holliday is also leading by example, as he has hit .409 in his first nine Spring Training games with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs. He went deep in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Tigers.

The seven-time All-Star has been a hit at the plate dating back to his Major League debut in 2004 with the Rockies, when Holliday was the young guy in the room with his own mentors.

"There were plenty of guys that helped me along the way. A couple of guys -- Mark Sweeney and Todd Greene -- really took me under their wing and took me to lunch every day and helped me out a lot," said Holliday. "Guys like Todd Helton and Larry Walker also [had] a big impact on me, so I had plenty of positive veteran influences as a young player."

So Holliday's baseball life has come full circle, and now he's settling into his role as the Yankees' designated hitter and possibly designated leader. He believes this young team could surprise some this season.

"I feel pretty good about it," Holliday said. "I think a lot of people don't expect much out of this team. I think there is potential to do some special things."

Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com.

New York Yankees, Matt Holliday