Voit's clout fuels win on festive day in Bronx

March 29th, 2019

NEW YORK -- happens to take his hacks in the same batting-practice group as and , which simultaneously provides daily access to baseball's greatest show on dirt and an unspoken invitation to keep pace with a pair of former Home Run Derby champions.

At times, Voit said that he feels like "the baby" of the trio, but the big-swinging, barrel-chested Yankees slugger is holding his own. With Judge and Stanton looking on from the basepaths, Voit awed his teammates with the Yanks' first home run of 2019, a three-run blast that helped power a 7-2 Opening Day victory over the Orioles on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

"It's unbelievable," Voit said. "Who would have thought I'd be here for Opening Day? I always thought I'd do it in a Cardinals uniform. I ended up being hurt last year, and I missed opportunities to get called up in St. Louis. To have that first Opening Day and hit a home run Opening Day is pretty special. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

The first-inning blast on a spinning slider from Baltimore starter represented a continuation of last season's exploits for the 28-year-old Voit, who helped the Yankees secure a postseason berth by mashing 14 home runs in 39 games following his late-July acquisition from St. Louis for pitchers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos.

Including Thursday, Voit has homered in a career-best four consecutive games and seven of his last 12. Installed as the Yanks' designated hitter and No. 4 batter by manager Aaron Boone, Voit remarked that he swung the bat only twice, having worked a pair of walks around a hit-by-pitch from 's fifth-inning fastball, which struck Voit’s left elbow and forced home New York's fifth run.

"What a day; great at-bats," Boone said. "I've talked with him all the time [about] how well he controls the strike zone and hits the ball with authority the other way. Today, [he hit the homer to] center field to get us off and running, then his at-bats continued to be what I love. You can get a little greedy there. Opening Day, three-run homer in in the books, runners on base. He never left his zone, never got out of himself."

That bright approach comes as no surprise to Judge, who has been singing Voit's praises for months. When the Yankees celebrated after advancing to postseason play last September, Judge wrapped a beefy biceps around the first baseman's neck and proclaimed: "We wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for you."

"I see how hard he works," Judge said. “I see him in the weight room, and I see him coming in early to take swings. He prepares the right way. When you see that kind of a guy off the field and in the cages and in the weight room, you know he's going to go out there and perform on the field. That's just Louis V."

Cashner learned that lesson the hard way, wincing at the impact of Voit's 112.6-mph missile. Springing out of the batter's box with a mini-Sammy Sosa hop, Voit circled the bases and exchanged forearm bashes with Judge and Stanton, then fired a fistful of sunflower seeds into his mouth after returning to the bench.

The “LUUUKE” chants from a sellout crowd of 46,928 -- nearly all of whom are firmly on board for the top-button-open, gold-chained experience that Boone has referred to as the "Luke Voit Show" -- were deafening.

"That 'LUUUKE' chant fires me up every time," Voit said. "I feel like I shouldn't even have a walk-out [song]; I can't even hear my walk-out. Crazy how they took me in. I hope they don't boo me away too quick, because I know it's New York. I'll bring the energy and have fun with the guys. I think a lot of the fans feed off it."

Should Voit continue mashing like this, he will be in no danger of leaving the Bronx any time soon. Voit said that he learned not to measure himself against the Judges and Stantons of the world during his first five games in a Yankees uniform last July, when he managed three hits in 16 at-bats (.188), then returned to riding buses in the International League for nine days.

"I tried to be someone I wasn't. I tried to hang with those guys," Voit said. "Not saying I can't, but I've got to be Luke Voit and not try to be this futuristic superhero that comes in and takes over. If I stay within myself and stay with my approach, have fun and not be too hard on myself, that's when I think I'm at my best."