Matt Holliday is a new face in a new place, but he's got the same old desire
And in baseball, as new Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday can now attest to, the toughest transition may be coming from anywhere to the Yankees, who are still the only team in Major League Baseball without names on the backs of their jerseys.
"It's challenging, especially with the jerseys with no names on the back, and I'm not great with names to begin with," Holliday laughed during his first week in Yankees camp. "I wish everyone had a name tag on, but I'll try to do my best. There are just a ton of guys, and trying to get to know all the clubbies and trainers and staff is going to be a challenge, but it's different and exciting, and I'm enjoying it so far."
The one new face he made a point to meet quickly, however, was Yankees manager Joe Girardi, and Holliday was quickly able to bond with the skipper thanks to a similar interest of their children.
"We've talked a little bit; his daughter really enjoys fishing and one of my boys really enjoys fishing, so we've been talking about that a lot," Holliday said. "He seems like a great guy, and everything I've ever heard about him is super positive, so I'm excited to get to know him even better."
As Holliday integrated into the clubhouse a little more, he made his veteran presence felt immediately, even if he was still getting to know the lay of the land. Top prospect Clint Frazier had nothing but glowing reviews of Holliday after the two had an early-camp breakfast together, and that's just one of many interactions the 37-year-old newcomer hopes to have with new teammates young and old.
"I'll just be myself really, and just start to kind of get to know people and build relationships," Holliday said. "I like to talk baseball and talk about hitting, and I think out of that you get a chance to just get to know people and express your opinion without coming across as if you know everything."
Despite losing several veterans in the last few years, the Yankees still do have some strong clubhouse leaders, and Holliday is more than willing to add his perspective to that group if the opportunity arises.
"I'm here to play and be part of the team and, and if that sort of role is something that I need to be part of, then I'm more than willing to do it," he said. "But, I also want to respect the leadership that's already in place and the guys that are here, like CC (Sabathia) and (Brett) Gardner and (Chase) Headley; I definitely respect their leadership, and I just want to be part of the team."
And as he has already found with Frazier, there are a slew of Baby Bombers that will be more than willing to sit under the learning tree of a seven-time All-Star.
"I think it's part of the game; as a young player you get guys that take you under their wing, help you out and make an impact on your career," Holliday said. "I had guys like that, and so to now get a chance to possibly provide a friendship that could impact the next generation of players…the relational part of baseball is something I find fascinating, and that's the cool part of baseball."
But Holliday does warn one thing: even though he's more mentor than student these days, that doesn't mean you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
"I have a lot to learn too, being around these young guys," he said. "It's not like I'm just giving advice - I like to ask questions and get to know them and what they're thinking, too. Sometimes you learn stuff from guys with very little experience."
That's because, Holliday knows, the minute you stop trying to improve yourself is the minute baseball, and life, can start to pass you by.
"That's just how I try to live my life," he said. "I think I'm constantly trying to grow in all walks of my life, whether it's within my faith, my family, my job, or my passion, which is also baseball. That's just something in me that I feel like I need to continue to try to grow."
And if there's anything unspoken that Holliday hopes can run off onto the Baby Bombers, it's that desire to keep improving and to keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I'm really blessed to get a chance to play baseball, and do something that I love to do," he said. "I don't consider it work; sure, it's challenging and frustrating and there's times where it's not fun, but at the end of the day, I have a passion for baseball and trying to be the best I can possibly be, so I'll do the best I can to help the team win. That's an accomplishment that's bigger than you, and to be a part of it, that's something that drives me."