Fourteen years after his home run, Aaron Boone is ready for more signature moments in pinstripes
NEW YORK -- For more than 14 years, Aaron Boone has had one signature Yankees moment: the walk-off home run he hit in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. It was a swing that sent the Yankees to their 39th World Series, and a home run that's still revered even well after the Yankees made it to their 40th World Series (and won their 27th) almost a decade ago.
"Not a week goes by that I'm not reminded of how big the Yankees are, because it gets mentioned to me no matter how far away I am," Boone revealed during his introductory press conference as Yankees manager Wednesday. "I've had hundreds of stories told to me about where people were, and how personal it was to them, and I love it. I have similar sports memories and intimate stories as a fan of other sports, and it has been great hear those stories from fans. I appreciate it now, but for a long time I tried to distance myself from it because we lost the World Series that year."
Boone will now have plenty of chances to make more signature moments, after he was officially introduced as the 33rd manager in Yankees history. Of course, he hopes to make a 28th World Championship part of that legacy, and can actually fall back on the Yankees' second failed attempt at winning No. 27 as motivation towards the goal.
"Honestly, some of the things you remember most as an athlete are times you didn't get it done, and I'll never forget seeing the Marlins celebrating on the field (after winning the 2003 World Series)," he said. "Remembering that is actually also something that motivates me now to get the job done."
Being the Yankees manager is a whole different dynamic than being a Yankees player, and the love of the fan base can turn to vitriol on a dime, and back again - just look back at the different reactions Joe Girardi received at the Stadium prior to Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 3 of the ALCS.
Girardi had his share of famous Yankees moments, too, his triple in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series coming immediately to mind. Boone isn't sure if the memory of that 2003 ALCS home run will buy him any early goodwill in his tenure as Yankees manager, but he knows - like Girardi did - that what he did as a player will be quickly forgotten now that he's in a new role.
"Obviously, people know me for that home run and have treated me very well when I've come back here because of it," he smiled, "and maybe it allows for some good graces to start, but ultimately now, I'm going to be judged on my performance in all aspects of this job. Maybe they're familiar with me to some degree, but April will be here soon enough."
Don't worry, though, Yankees fans, because Boone knows what April means.
"I understand the expectations. When you look at the roster and the talent we have, the farm system we have, and the success this team had last year, I understand what I signed up for," Boone said. "I hope the expectations are ramped up every year; that's part of being here. I don't want to get caught up in it personally, and I don't think that I will, but my job now is to get the most out of my players, and if I do that, the rest takes care of itself."
The Yankees took a few questions from Twitter during Boone's introductory press conference, and one of those asked which is harder: hitting a major-league fastball or dealing with the New York media. The latter is one of the necessities of his new job, which is why the Yankees had all six candidates do a conference call as part of their interview process, but the man who was a member of that media himself just a few weeks ago deftly answered the query with some self-deprecation.
"I'm 44 years old, so my bat speed isn't so good anymore, and these guys throw really hard now,
Boone laughed, "but I'd like to think it's dealing with you guys! Seriously, though, I have a great relationship with many of you, and I'm a pretty transparent guy. I know there will be some tough days and tough questions, but I'm looking forward to the challenge every day."
He'll get one external test pretty early on in his career, when the Yankees head to Boston April 10-12 for their first of three series in Beantown. Boone wasn't exactly revered when he played at Fenway Park later in his career after crushing the hearts of the Red Sox and their fans in the 2003 ALCS, and while the vitriol has mellowed a bit over the years, he knows he's probably already back to being referred to as "Aaron Bleeping Boone" now that he's once again in pinstripes.
"I am looking forward to Boston, and I don't think it will be warm," he smiled. "The Red Sox have won three championships since 2003, so it's been a little more good-natured ribbing when I've been back lately, but now that I'm actually trying to take wins off their board, I would say it won't be so good natured anymore. But, I understand how special the rivalry is, and their manager (Alex Cora) is someone I'm very fond of and have known a very long time, so I look forward to being a part of it."
Just as he looks forward to being part of the maelstrom that will be managing in New York, no matter what the ebb and flow of the days bring.
"I haven't been there yet, but anyone who knows me knows I'm a pretty consistent person no matter what's going on around me, and I feel like one of my strengths is that you can rely on me no matter the situation," Boone said. "I know there will be times of chaos, but I think one of the reasons I'm up here is that they recognize I'm a measured guy, and someone my players can count on, especially in a storm."