Q: Aaron, can you describe what it was like to walk into this Spring Training as manager of the New York Yankees? And what do you view as your biggest challenge this spring?
AARON BOONE: It was a bit surreal, but I've had a lot of those moments I think the last couple of months as we've started to prepare for this season. It was special walking down the hall, walking into the clubhouse, into my office, walking into the dugout for the first time. Kind of getting a lay of the land and feeling the facilities a little bit and understanding that now is the time and the excitement that goes with that because of the group of guys that we've assembled.
So, as far as the biggest challenge, look, in Spring Training it's about just getting these guys as individuals ready to play. I think that's a little bit different for each guy. Obviously we do things in a team concept, and team building things, but I really view Spring Training as we need to get individuals to where they are performing at their best when we're breaking camp at the end of next month. And that looks a little bit different for everybody depending on where guys are physically, where guys are maybe coming off an injury. But I think that's the biggest challenge, is really tapping into each guy and having them steering the right way when we leave here at the end of next month.
Q: Aaron, as you embark on this next part of your career, whose voice or voices are in your head and what pieces of advice are in your head about making sure this is successful?
BOONE: First of all, my dad. He's been the biggest influence in my life, certainly my baseball life. As most of you guys have known, I've talked to a few different managers frequently that I've kind of picked their brains.
One of the things I remember when I first got traded to the Yankees was walking into Joe Torre's office. His presence, his kind of soothing nature, his ability to put me at ease at the time in what is a whirlwind experience when you get traded as a player, especially coming to a place like New York. So hopefully I take a piece of what I thought he was great at going into this job.
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Q: Aaron, first time managers always talk about how different it is managing a pitching staff. You've got a veteran pitching coach. How much are you leaning on Larry Rothschild to kind of guide you through, how much responsibility do you give him and how much authority do you give him to do it?
BOONE: A lot. When I interviewed for this job, one of the things I was aware of was that Larry Rothschild was one of the guys already coming back no matter what, which frankly put me at ease a little bit because of the respect I have for him, because of what I know he is and now getting the opportunity just to work with him.
We spent a couple days down here about a month ago as a staff just getting to know each other, getting our program up and running, making sure we're buttoned up as we get down here. He's already been in my office a couple of times today, and I frankly do a lot of listening because I want to know what he has to say. He's so passionate, he's so good at what he does and he's so organized in really having an action plan for every one of these guys. So I'm leaning on him a ton and I'm sure especially in the early days we'll lean on him even more. I really respect his expertise and his ability to find strengths and weaknesses with guys and then be able to tap into those things. So I'm really excited that he's here and I'm even more excited the last couple of days, just a few of the conversations we've started to have already as guys start to trickle in and we start to lay out the plans for each guy.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about how in-game decision-making will be one of the biggest hurdles you will have to cross as a young manager. Is there any way you can start preparing for that now?
BOONE: Well, absolutely. The more prepared, the more you know your guys, the more you know your strengths and weaknesses of guys, all that goes into what comes out in the game, right?
So I'm going to prepare. We're going to be buttoned up each and every night about kind of having a game plan, an action plan about how we want things to play out and then hopefully the instincts that you have as a person, as a guy in control of the game, hopefully those come out in a positive way. But, all that prep that goes in puts you in that position. And that's already started, not only being here, but the last couple of months with getting to know the organization, getting to know each individual, strengths and weaknesses, what we expect out of them, what we think their role may be. Those all go into I think properly preparing you to make quality decisions within the course of the game.
Q: Expectations are obviously high for this team. Dellin Betances said if you guys don't win the World Series it's not going to be a great year. What will constitute a great year for you?
BOONE: Well, he's right about the World Series would be a great year. We understand the expectations and I think one of the things that's exciting for me is to hear these comments and to be around these guys, as they've trickled in the last few days, as I've trickled in.
Last year was great. A lot of these guys came of age and viewed it as a very successful season, but I think what stands out being in that room right now is each guy I've spoken to, the hunger is there and there's no satisfaction with what they're able to accomplish. We understand it's a very tough road. That will be one of our messages, especially for young players who have had success. Just because things look good right now or look good on paper and we believe we have a great team, it's also really hard. There are a lot of little things that can allow you be a championship club and those are the things we really want to dive into in Spring Training. From what I can tell, the hunger in these guys is real.
Q: How would you size up the second base and third base situations?
BOONE: Fluid. You know, we've got several guys now in camp. We've got a couple of veteran guys who are part of the mix. Obviously with guys like Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar, all real opportunities are right in front of them, as they're kind of knocking on the door as that next wave of guys we think -- whether it's immediately or certainly down the road -- guys we feel really good that are going to impact our Major League club for a really long time. Right now, I don't know if open competition is the right word, maybe it is, but there are opportunities for a lot of guys to stake claim on a couple of really important jobs.
Q: Spring Training is a time when we ask a lot of the players what they have to prove or what job they're trying to win. Is it fair to say that you might be the guy in camp that has the most to prove of anyone in a Yankee uniform, based on this experience?
BOONE: OK. I mean, yeah, I understand where we are. It's the New York Yankees. Obviously having never done this before, I understand a lot of the questions -- a lot of people can't wait to see what my style is or how I'm going to go about things or how I'm going to command the team and whatnot. So maybe it's one of the more interesting to see how that kind of unfolds. But it's something that I'm consumed with the job and being great at it and just hopefully impacting our guys that allow us to take another step as a club and ultimately become a championship club.
Q: Aaron, just wanted to know how much contact have you had with the players, even before camp opened?
BOONE: A lot. I would say there's very few guys I haven't at least touched base with, from a text message, spoken to a number of them. So I feel like we're in a good place and at least off to a pretty good start. And one of the things that I've been doing these last couple months, one of the things that was really important to me, was to start that clock on those relationships, and I feel like we're off to a really good start. I feel like we're in a really good place. I think one of the things that makes me so excited about this job -- not only the talent and what I believe this team is capable on the field -- just a lot of high character, good people in that room. I think that's come across watching this team from afar the last couple years, but certainly getting to know them a little bit now this winter through phone calls, through dinners, through golf, through just meetings at a hotel, through phone calls, through text messages. I'm really excited about the people that I'm going to get to go down this road with.
Q: Aaron, just with Stanton and Judge, how do you plan to manage them in terms of playing outfield, DH and then how is Judge's shoulder after the surgery and all that?
BOONE: He's doing well. We talk about managing individuals and getting individuals ready and we'll certainly be as cautious as we need to be in the early days. But I think the one thing that's exciting about both of those guys is we've got two -- obviously an MVP, a Rookie of the Year -- guys that are tremendous players. Both guys are really good defenders as well. And both guys, when I answer that last question, talking about quality individuals that you can tell it's about winning for them. It's about trying to chase down that championship for them. ... There's a lot of buy-in from those guys about being in different spots in different scenarios. But they'll both be very much a part of the process, and it'll be something that is not set in stone right now and is something that will unfold over the next five or six weeks about what are the final roles that we view for them.
Q: Aaron, you mentioned style. Obviously Spring Training isn't the regular season, but is there a way to establish your style in terms of intensity the way you want guys to go about their business and drills and things like that, and how will you go about doing that?
BOONE: I think there is. I expect us to have an energy and a pace to the way we practice. One of our kind of mantras is we want to practice at a championship pace. So we want to be out on the filed with energy, moving quickly, practicing as much as we can at game speed. I think one of the things that I really want to impart on these guys, and that they already do really well in my view, is have fun playing the game. I think that's one of the things that's really helped connect this team, I think at another level than we've seen in recent years, is the connection that they've now developed with the fan base. I think a lot of that has to do with how much fun this team HAS playing the game of baseball. Because at the end of the day, it is a kid's game. And I think what leaps off the screen with this club is the fun that they're having playing baseball together. That's something that I want them to never lose, to continue to have that fun, but understand that we're going out there with an intensity and an expectation of greatness.
Q: Aaron, obviously you're the son of someone who managed and I assume you've thought a lot about managing, but in the last few months since you've got the job, has anything fallen onto your table where you're like, 'Hm, I wasn't expecting that one,' and you could only know it because you are actually a Major League manager now.
BOONE: I don't think I've been blindsided, frankly, to this point, and I say that out of reverence and respect of the position. I understand that there are going to be things that happen in the course of the season or the middle of the night that I haven't accounted for yet. But I would say to this point, I feel like I've jumped right into the organization and it's an organization on such solid ground, from ownership to the front office to the player development and research and that's what's something that's come across to me. The stability of this organization from top to bottom has honestly taken me aback a little bit. I've been surprised with how solid, how stable everything is. I've just tried to kind of jump in and be a part of that machine, if you will. The last few months have been really just getting up to speed with all of our players; who they are, how we evaluate. But I would say nothing has caught me off guard yet, although I know it's coming.
Q: Aaron, you mentioned second and third -- what else needs to sort itself out before you guys leave?
BOONE: Well, yeah I mean I think how we use the DH, how that's going to unfold. We want to be able to use that position to rotate guys through to be able to at times get guys off their feet in different situations. You know, how the outfield situation ultimately plays out and how playing time gets divvied up. Who is going to emerge to provide us depth in our starting rotation? We feel like we have three, four, five and maybe even more candidates that at some point could be options if a guy happens to go down. So finding depth I think in our starting rotation will be something we'll be watching closely and something that I'm looking forward to seeing unfold and kind of who jumps out and steps up in our eyes.
Q: Every manager, not every manager, but a lot of managers develop a reputation. A tough manager, a players manager, a technical manager -- what kind of reputation do you want to have?
BOONE: Hopefully a good one. Look, I want to be somebody that is known as a smart manager, that makes solid decisions, that's prepared, but also one that when you walk into our clubhouse, hopefully I'm a part of what I believe is a winning culture. But also a culture where guys are at ease, where guys are allowed to be themselves. When you walk into our room, it's not a stressful place. It's a place where guys are at work and enjoy coming there to do their job. And hopefully I'm a part of creating that atmosphere.
Q: On a couple of the position battles -- do you view Hicks as your starter in center? If so, what do you see the role for Ellsbury? And at second and third, is it possible that you guys could open the season with rookies at both positions? Is that something that's been talked about? Is that highly unlikely?
BOONE: Well, first on Hicksey, I just saw him. He's in great shape. I think he's really confident; one of those guys that I think is really hungry to prove that not only last year was kind of him coming of age a little bit but also that there's more to come. I think he's really hungry. That said, it's a long season. It's a long Spring Training, and Jacoby Ellsbury, we feel like, has a lot of really good baseball left in him. That'll also be something I think that plays itself out. As far as the second and third, absolutely. When we talk about Wade and Torres and Andujar, those are guys that are really knocking on the door to be big league ballplayers, and we feel like eventually, impact big league ballplayers. So yeah, I think it's a real possibility that could happen. Again, that's something though that will play out over the next five, six weeks, and hopefully we'll make the best decision as we break camp and head to Toronto.
Q: Aaron, I assume you've toyed with lineups. Do you need to see things in 30 games to figure out what you're going to do?
BOONE: Well I need to see things from a standpoint of if we're talking about younger guys being a part of the mix from the start, absolutely. I think the lineup will kind of play itself out and hopefully we'll get these guys comfortable enough that they're a little bit flexible, depending on if we're facing a righty or a lefty and those kind of things. So we'll probably put guys in some different spots from a lineup standpoint here in Spring Training. But I wouldn't read too much into it, especially in the early days here with how we construct our lineup. It's something that I'm talking about all the time with my coaches, with the front office, about how is it best that we line guys up, depending on our opponent?
Q: Aaron, just curious how your last experience as a TV analyst perhaps helped prepare you even more so for this kind of a job -- maybe seeing the game from a different side of things and what not?
BOONE: Yeah, I mean I don't know if more so, but I would say it's absolutely helped prepare me in some way. I went right from the playing field to the booth, to the studio. So I'm living this game every day just like somebody that's been a coach or been in the front office or been scouting or whatever. I feel like I have, in a way, been doing that for the last, whatever -- seven, eight years. So it's different preparation maybe in some ways, but I feel very close to the game. I feel very current with the players. A lot of our prep for ESPN and some of the work we dove into was analytically-based, so I feel like I was prepared a little bit in that way as well. It's maybe different preparation than is typical, but in some way, I feel like absolutely the last seven, eight years have prepared me for this time.
Q: You've talked about wanting to be part of a culture where guys are at ease but also obviously knowing that a championship is the goal. And you also mentioned at the beginning about Torre, that first meeting. First of all, was that on the road in Oakland, I think?
BOONE: That was in Oakland. They said, "Hurry up and get to Oakland. I've got Hudson, Zito and Mulder. I'm like, 'I could've met you back in New York, packed up my place.' "
Q: That first meeting with Joe, what did he say to kind of set that tone to put you at ease but also let you know that it's about winning the championship?
BOONE: I think a lot of it was tone, and I think he did a great job right away because I think one thing I realized as a player at that point in my career, I had been with one organization my whole life. Six or seven years in the big leagues with Cincinnati. Drafted by them, came up through their Minor League system, then boom. July 31, go to Oakland and all of the sudden, you don't necessarily account for on the field, but just all the other stuff of introducing yourself to new coaches, new players, trying to find a place to live, moving a family. Those are real things that I think sometimes don't necessarily get accounted for. And I think Joe was just very much a part of and just the way he spoke to me, kind of a soothing nature that he has, of at least right away, making that transition as easy as possible. I just think there's a way of communicating, a presence. Not necessarily even the words you say but maybe a presence that he had that I think at least helped me be put at ease a bit.
Q: There are always so many eyes on this franchise and its history. You're part of that history from '03. With Stanton and Judge, there's going to be more eyes on this franchise. You're the show again. You're the heavies again. Do you love that? I mean, it could be circus. Do you love circus?
BOONE: Yeah, it beats the alternative. Right? I mean it really does. At the end of the day, we want all these people in this room, all the buzz that's certainly apparent when I'm back in New York or even when I'm not in New York, and the excitement that is being generated because of where we are as a franchise. Yeah, that's something that, and one of my messages to our team will be to embrace that. Embrace that expectation. And again, expect to go out there and be great. With that comes this kind of attention, and hopefully, if you guys are back year after year, we're probably living up to some of that hype. But we're not going to run from that. We're going to embrace that, and we're going to expect to be great.
Q: You talked about wanting to build your relationships with your players from the get-go. Have you taken the same approach with your coaching staff and supporting their respective relationships with the players?
BOONE: I almost feel like this is cliche. I'm sure managers get very excited about their coaching staff, and rightfully so. We went through and basically hired a staff. I was hired in early December and so a lot of staffs were already in place across Major League Baseball. To say I'm so excited about my coaching staff, I think we have really impactful people in that room. One of my I guess goals as a manager is I don't expect to be a guy that's micro-managing situations, and part of that is because I believe the staff we've put in place are going to be hugely impactful with their particular -- whether it's hitting coach, pitching coach, baserunning, infield coaches. I feel so confident in who they are and their ability to impact guys that they're going to have the freedom to really breathe into these guys and coach these guys up. I think we have a chance to have a really impactful staff. I'm quite certain of it.
Q: Earlier in this, you used the term that you're consumed -- what does that mean for you, that you're consumed with this?
BOONE: Well, I mean I think that started from the get-go. Right away, I talked about a whirlwind as a player getting traded. When I first got the job, it was a whirlwind because it was pretty much right into the Winter Meetings. All the different interviews, media responsibilities, reaching out to players, going to see players, have these dinners with players, play golf with players, trying to connect. But then also putting together a staff. Like I said, we were here a month ago for a couple days as a staff, not only just because I wanted us to be together but also kind of so we're buttoned up getting our plan in place, getting our thoughts in place, getting to know guys in the front office, support staff people. Trying to get to know so many different people in the organization as best I can has taken time. It hasn't been necessarily, to me, felt like work to this point because I've loved it. It's been getting to know people and getting to know our system and getting to know how we value things. It's been a lot and it's been consuming I guess, but it's been so much fun and so energizing, and I think we're in a really good place right now as we get ready to embark on Spring Training.
Q: Aaron, when you mentioned trying to create a place where guys are at ease and it's not a stressful place, where does that come from for you? Is it based on your own experiences, good and bad? Is it stuff you've noticed from the outside looking in before you took this job? Where does wanting to get to there come from for you?
BOONE: Right. Look, I think when guys are comfortable, when guys are able to be themselves and then especially younger players, guys that we're going to count on hopefully to be a part of a championship club, it's really important to me that those younger players feel comfortable in that room, feel like they're allowed to be themselves in that room. And I think that when you have strong relationships, you're able to bring that out in guys. And I also think that when you have those strong relationships where guys feel good about being in a work environment, it also allows when those relationships are strong, you to have difficult conversations and you to challenge guys. One of the things that's going to go on between myself, my coaching staff, the front office, the support staff, hopefully we're challenging each other all the time, where we're not always in agreement but we kind of work through situations. Because hopefully the communication is strong. I think it creates a winning environment.
Q: A lot is being made of the 2017, 241 home run record for the New York Yankees and wanting a goal to repeat or to go even further. Can you specify one particular goal you have for the New York Yankees in 2018?
BOONE: Win the last game. Look, I want us to get better and hopefully myself in a small way, our staff, front office, people that are impacting our players, hopefully we're getting our players better and we're a part of that. We want to continue to help our players achieve their best however that shows up. From a home run standpoint? I have no idea. But I know what's exciting about that room is that the one thing we do care about is winning. That'll always be the driving force is we want to win.
Q: Last year, at this day, at this first press conference, the Opening Day starter was already announced this day. Have you already decided or do you have someone on your mind?
BOONE: No, but Larry and I talk about this stuff all the time. No. We're not there yet. A lot of that will, you know, I don't know exactly when we'll determine that. I think one of the things with our staff is we've got a nice blend of veteran, young -- Sevy who finished third in the Cy Young last year -- we feel like we have a very interchangeable group. Some teams, I think it's very clear. Like, 'OK, this is the Opening Day starter. It all slots in kind of well.' So I think we'll look at it a little bit from kind of a 30,000-feet view and kind of see what makes the most sense physically for these guys. How we want to maybe protect certain guys, depending on how the schedule lays out with off days, with who we view their opponents would be. That'll be something that Larry and I really grill in on and talk about probably on a daily basis. But nothing has been decided yet.
Q: First of all, is your dad going to be in camp at all?
BOONE: No. He's in camp with the Nationals. I actually spoke to him yesterday. He's down there. We don't go there. We don't play them. So I think he's planning on coming to our home opener at Yankee Stadium.
Q: When you got this job, I'm sure you and he talked a lot about managing. But when he managed, managing back then was a whole lot different than the way managing is today. Just kind of curious about what your conversations have been like with him? He's an old-school guy and you're in this whole new world of analytics and everything else.
BOONE: You know what, as I talked about in the open, he's had a huge influence on my life as a person away from baseball and certainly my biggest influence as a ballplayer. We talk all the time. My family, going back to my grandpa, you know, the conversation in the house was baseball. Family dinners, we talked about baseball because that's what we know. That hasn't stopped. I don't think there's been anything honestly that's been specific that honestly we've gotten into now that I have this position. I think he's very proud. I think excited for the opportunity that he knows is in front of me with this organization. But we haven't really gotten into specific managerial stuff. We talk like we always do and that's about baseball. But I would say nothing has changed from our conversations since I've gotten this job. Now, I'm sure he's one of those guys during the year when stuff happens, when the things that come across my desk that like I said maybe I haven't accounted for, he'll be one of those guys that certainly will be a sounding board for me and a guy that I look to for advice.