TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the more advanced high school players in the 2019 Draft, Anthony Volpe turned down a Vanderbilt commitment to sign with the Yankees for $2,740,300 as the No. 30 overall pick. Mononucleosis hampered The Delbarton School (Morristown, N.J.) product in his pro debut, during which he batted .215/.349/.355 at Rookie-level Pulaski. This interview was conducted before Spring Training was suspended.
MLB.com: Anthony, last year you had a win-win situation where you could have gone to Vanderbilt or you could have signed with the Yankees when you went in the first round. How difficult was that decision for you?
Volpe: It was definitely a tough decision but like you said, it was win-win at the end of the day. And just the fact that I could play for the Yankees and get in this awesome system, it was something I really couldn't pass up. Going to Vanderbilt was an awesome option. I've said it before -- it was the hardest decision of my life. I definitely think knowing what I know now, I did make the right one, but at the time it was a really tough decision.
MLB.com: You were in kind of in a unique situation because you were high school teammates with Jack Leiter, who went through the exact same situation. Obviously, where he got drafted and the way the bonus pools work, the Yankees weren't going to be able to afford to sign him in the 20th round. But had he wanted to sign, he could have gone in the first round theoretically. He wound up choosing Vanderbilt. Did you guys talk about your decisions leading up to the Draft?
Volpe: Toward the end we really didn't talk much, but going through the whole process was definitely a great experience. It was something that helped me out a lot. With all the in-home meetings and during the summer on the showcase circuit, we were roommates for pretty much everything. So just having someone go to the same school that you see every day, that's kind of going through the exact same thing as you was definitely helpful for me.
MLB.com: Have you been following what he's been doing at Vanderbilt? [Leiter posted a 1.72 ERA, .098 opponent average and 22 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings before the college season was cancelled, putting himself in the conversation to go No. 1 overall in the 2021 Draft.] He's screwing it up because now there's no way the Yankees can draft him in two years.
Volpe: I know, I know. Everyone who knows Jack expected that he'd do just that. I don't think anyone's surprised on our end.
MLB.com: Leading up to pro ball, you played in a lot of high-profile events, you played with Team USA. How much did those experiences help prepare you for pro ball?
Volpe: I think that's what prepared me the most, just being on your own and learning to have a routine off the field, that kind of stuff you learn along the way. Nothing really does compare, but all those experiences stacked on top of each other I think prepares you as best as you could.
MLB.com: What did you expect in your pro debut and what did you wind up getting? Was it what you thought it would be or how was it different?
Volpe: I really didn't have any expectations. I was just going to play the game how I played all through high school and how I've always played the game. It was definitely a really big challenge and unfortunately I got sick at the end, so that was the unexpected part. Just the daily grind of it, and just being ready and consistent every single day to compete, it's a lot different than high school or even showcases, where you play little short spurts. Just playing every single day was probably the biggest adjustment.
MLB.com: When you got sick, it was mono, right? Did you think initially you were just getting worn down from playing pro ball?
Volpe: I thought it was really nothing, maybe just like a sinus infection. But I took a Z-pak, they prescribed me a five-day Z-pak, and when I knew I was really sick was when nothing happened. I was like, "I'm probably going to have to see a real doctor now." I took a blood test and it ended up being mono, so it cut my season short. I feel like I only played 30 games but I kind of experienced all the troughs and the peaks that I'll experience going forward. So even though it was a short season, I feel like I experienced a lot of different experiences this year, so I'm excited for what's to come.
MLB.com: Who was the best pitcher you faced. Was it someone you faced in pro ball, or was it someone you faced with Team USA or on the showcase circuit?
Volpe: In the showcase circuit, I faced Graeme Stinson from Duke [now in the Rays system] when we played the college team [Team USA]. That day he was like 96-97 with a slider. I always say him and Jack are the best pitchers I've faced.
MLB.com: How did you do against Jack? Did you mainly face him in intrasquads?
Volpe: I faced him twice in TOS [Tournament of Stars]. I flew out to right the first at-bat and he was throwing his slider. I was seeing his slider good, I was leading off the game. So my next at-bat I kind of knew, I was on his fastball and I knew I could handle the slider -- and then he broke out his curveball the second time through the order. I don't think anyone made contact with him that whole start. Jack's a good pitcher.
MLB.com: If you were asked to scout yourself, how would you describe your game?
Volpe: I'd say a player who'll do anything to help a team to win. I'll make the routine play, I'll put up good at-bats, put contact on the ball, put pressure on the defense. I'd say that's me now. And I have more years in the Minors to grow and develop. I've been here a month and I feel like I'm a whole new player than I was when I got down here. I'm really excited for the opportunities to improve on that and just get better every single day.
MLB.com: What have you been working on? Anything in particular in the offseason to prepare you for your first full season in pro ball?
Volpe: Just a lot of strength and conditioning. And then a lot of work on my swing. Our hitting coordinator here has really helped a lot, Dillon Lawson. He's really knowledgeable about the swing and mainly just teaching us so we can become our own best coaches. When you're in high school, and it's not really the Minor Leagues where you fail this much. So to kind of cut down on those lumps, you got to know yourself and get back to when you were successful. So just mainly this offseason, it's just been working out in the gym, working on the mechanics of my swing and then learning about my swing, learning about myself, learning about what makes me good when I'm going good and then what breaks down when I'm going bad.
MLB.com: You got your first official Spring Training at-bat the other day. What was that experience like?
Volpe: It was a real awesome experience, just the entire day. It was against a righty named [Franklin] Perez and it was just awesome, the adrenaline rush and everything. Just being around the big leaguers, taking the bus over and shagging balls in the outfield, every part of the day was awesome. It's definitely something that you work for. We've been here for a month and we've worked out, and a lot of the other guys got to go, so it was cool to experience that with them because we've been putting in a lot of work. It was just an awesome day, something that I'll remember for the rest of my life and hopefully more to come.