No experience, no problem: How Aaron Boone became the perfect choice for Yankees manager
NEW YORK - Aaron Boone was officially hired as the 33rd manager in New York Yankees history on Monday, and he got his first full taste of the New York media in his introductory press conference on Wednesday - but to be fair, his heart and his mind have been on being the Yankees skipper since the moment he got a call from general manager Brian Cashman to come in for a job interview.
"I was at my son's football game when Cash called and asked if I wanted to interview for this job; I didn't know what to expect because I've never been through a process like this," Boone revealed Wednesday. "I talked to some friends in the game - Dave Roberts, Craig Counsell, A.J. Hinch - about it, and when I came out here, I came to get the job. I spent seven hours with these guys, and it was tough, but it was fun, and I thought I represented myself really well."
Clearly well enough to get the job, one he began tackling before he even officially had it.
"I was driving home with my daughter from school when Cash called, and he said, 'I want to make sure you're all in, but my recommendation to ownership is that we focus solely on you,'" Boone said. "It was overwhelming, but it was exciting, and when I got off the phone, I immediately felt like it was time to get to work. That kick-started my relationship with Cash and locked me in on wanting to get to work, and when I got the call that I got the job, it was emotional moment, but I was immediately hyper-focused on getting to work to make the Yankees the best we can."
Boone has no managerial experience, or even coaching experience whatsoever, having spent his entire post-playing career as an ESPN broadcaster, but managing is something that he revealed he has wanted to get into for quite a while.
"I was fortunate to go right from the field to the broadcast booth, so I was able to stay in the game I love, but I think the juices have started to flow the last couple years," Boone said. "I have felt this tug, felt the game calling me a little bit, and saw myself looking more and more at gams through a manager's lens. I was around AJ Hinch and Dave Roberts, guys I go way back with, every day throughout the playoffs, and it solidified in my mind that I wanted to make the transition. I had no idea how long it would take or what my path would be, but here I am."
Of the six candidates the Yankees interviewed, Boone was one of two that had never spent a day on a major-league staff - Carlos Beltran, who just retired less than a month ago, was the other - but when it came down to it, Boone's interview was an even bigger home run than his walk-off dinger in the 2003 ALCS that was, until now, his most famous Yankees moment.
"It was evident to everybody that his knowledge of the game was phenomenal. He grew up around baseball and had a great career, and a lot of wisdom was clearly imparted to him throughout the years," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told YES following Boone's introduction. "And, I think it helps that he has played here. This is a unique market, we're a very hands-on front office, and the expectations are very high every year; that's never going to change, and I think it helps that he knows what he's getting into."
And, even though his first day on the bench as Yankees manager will be his first day on the bench, period, and it may take time to get to know all the in-game nuances of being a skipper, Boone is confident that he can immediately lay the groundwork off the field to help make that easier.
"The most important thing is going to be my relationships with players. The best way you can tap into guys is by establishing relationships, and I can promise you we will have great relationships with our players," Boone said. "I expect to be very forthcoming and honest with them, and they'll know, whether we're giving them affirmations or corrections, that me or my staff is coming from a great place, and it's coming from someone they can trust. In the end, they'll know that we're always going to do what's best for the New York Yankees."
It may seem like a gamble to have gone in this direction, but if there's anyone who knows the value of giving someone you believe in a chance, it's Cashman, who himself was in the same position when he became Yankees general manager two decades ago.
"As I was wrestling with the decision, it made me reflect back to February 1998. Bob Watson had stepped down (as GM), and George Steinbrenner came to me and asked me to meet with him," Cashman recalled. "I'd never been a general manager, but The Boss said to me, 'I've talked to enough people who tell me you can do this. I can go outside the organization, but I've talked to enough people I respect that say you can do this.' He took a chance on me then, and here I am 20 years later. We were all extremely impressed with Aaron Boone, and with that, we were all in with him."
That "all in" phrase was one Cashman consistently used during his introduction of Boone and his later interview with YES; it's a philosophy Boone immediately buys into, and he's "all in" now and ready to get to work and try to turn a franchise on the rise into the franchise at the top.
"This is a team with loads of talent, a team that in many ways came of age and arrived this season," Boone said. "The expectation here is to win championships, and certainly that's always the goal every year, but what I'm most looking forward to is the chance to have an impact on young ballplayers, and being a part of them taking the next step to become championship-level players. The one thing I promise you guys is that you'll get all I've got."