Aaron Boone once took a $1 million pay cut because he didn't like the way he was playing. Any other questions about this guy's professionalism, resilience, grit and accountability?This is just one tidbit you'll learn about the reported new manager of the New York Yankees in the years ahead. Sure, this
Aaron Boone once took a $1 million pay cut because he didn't like the way he was playing. Any other questions about this guy's professionalism, resilience, grit and accountability?
This is just one tidbit you'll learn about the reported new manager of the New York Yankees in the years ahead. Sure, this is an unconventional hire because Boone, 44, has never coached or managed at any level.
On the other hand, if you're looking for the prototype of what a Major League manager must be in 2018, this might just be it. Boone is smart. He's a people person. He's also a third-generation Major Leaguer who has spent his entire life in and around the game.
In this era of baseball, when managers must coordinate an avalanche of information, it's the ability to communicate with players and to make sure they know you have their back that's critical. This Boone can do.
This means that whether a player is hitting first or seventh or not in the lineup, he must believe that the decision was made with the best interests of the team in mind.
This is what Boone does best. Did you catch him in his work as an ESPN analyst? Boone understands the X's and O's of the game, but more critical is that he knows that different things drive players.
Boone played for Jack McKeon and Joe Torre, two managers who were tough, demanding and also understanding. He played for his father, Bob, who taught him important lessons about what can be tolerated in a clubhouse and what must not be.
There are things Aaron Boone can't know about the job because, well, he hasn't been there. How he deals with the day-to-day pressures of the job and the microscope that comes with running the Yankees, the managing of a bullpen, etc., no amount of experience in the Minors or as a member of a coaching staff could prepare him for that part of the deal.
Yanks general manager Brian Cashman will help his new manager by surrounding him with an experienced coaching staff to assist with this growth process.
Boone was born to do this. His grandfather, Ray, played for six teams in 13 seasons. His dad, Bob, played 2,264 games and managed 815. Aaron's brother, Bret, played 14 seasons and was a three-time All-Star.
Aaron? He has seen the game from its highest mountaintop and its lowest valley. He hit one of the most famous home runs in Yankees history, but also dealt with an assortment of knee surgeries, broken bones, concussions, trades and releases.
"I've had a great ride," Boone said late in his career. "I wouldn't change one second of it. It's all part of who I am. I've made a lot of great friends. I've got a great family. I'm pretty darn lucky.
"Even those down times when you're battling back from another injury or scuffling during a tough few weeks are times you embrace, times that make you tougher. I still feel I have a little bit left."
Boone's career to this point was defined by one amazing home run, but to the people who played with him, managed him and gotten to know him, he left a trail of goodwill along the way.
There was the time one spring when beloved Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy, who has covered the Reds for five decades, decided he could no longer do his job because his vision was getting worse by the day.
When Boone heard that McCoy was thinking of packing his bags and going home, he took him aside.
"I don't want to ever hear you say the word quit again," Boone told him.
"He turned me around," McCoy said. "He's my all-time favorite."
When Boone tore up his knee playing basketball one offseason, he told the Yanks exactly what happened. That bit of honesty cost him millions.
And there was the time Boone was playing so badly in Cleveland that he gave up around $1 million by restructuring his contract.
"I grew up with my dad taking us to ballparks," he said. "I was around a lot of great players. To grow up in that atmosphere can't help but rub off in a good way.
"I just wanted to be a good player and get to the next level. [Bloodlines] never affected me. You've got a guy 60 feet away trying to get you out. You've got other things to worry about."
Now about that home run -- an 11th-inning Game 7 stunner against the Red Sox that won the American League League Championship Series for the Yankees in 2003.
"I tried to distance myself from it for a long time," Boone said. "I didn't like the questions, especially when I was playing for other teams [Indians, Marlins, Nationals]. I tried to run from it a little bit.
"Now I appreciate it and realize it's pretty cool that I got to be part of such a great moment. It's what I'm known for, and when I'm in an airport or a restaurant, it's what people want to talk about. I'm fine with it. This is a great game. I feel proud of it."
Boone's career ended in 2009 after he'd signed with the Astros. That spring, he stood in front of his teammates and wept when he told them he needed a complicated open-heart procedure called bicuspid aortic valve aneurysm surgery.
At that point, Boone doubted that he would play again and was content. He'd had a great career. In the four months after the surgery, he approached every goal -- walking, eating, driving -- with the focus of a World Series at-bat.
Boone returned in September and got into 10 games down the stretch, and then at the age of 36, he called it a career. During his recovery from surgery, he heard from Will Ferrell, Billy Joel and a long list of former teammates and friends.
One that especially touched Boone most came from someone he hardly knew, Glenn Hubbard, then third-base coach for the Braves.
"I barely knew him," Boone said. "We'd say hello, and that was about it. He just called to say he'd heard the news, was thinking about me and had always admired the way I played. I mean, that's special when someone takes the time to do that."
In the end, lots of people feel that way about Boone, and they're hoping this next chapter of his baseball career is as rewarding as the others.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.