Although Aaron Boone's work began months ago, he knows the real work begins now
With camp open, Boone is Yankees skipper in both title and uniform
Boone had indeed been working since even before he accepted the job, but roughly 10 weeks after that day, at his press conference signaling the opening of his first Spring Training camp, he admitted that it all began to truly sink in the minute he arrived at Steinbrenner Field.
"It was a bit surreal coming here, but I've had a lot of those moments the last couple of months," Boone smiled. "It was special walking down the halls into the clubhouse, and into my office, and down to the dugout for the first time, getting the lay of the land and the feel of the facilities. It's understanding that now is the time, and feeling the excitement that goes with that because of the group of guys we've assembled."
Boone's biggest mission so far has been building relationships, and indeed, he did hit the ground running in that endeavor from the minute he signed on.
"Obviously, the more you know your players and their strengths and weaknesses, the better off you are," he said. "One of the things that was important to me when I got this job was to start the clock in building relationships, and we've been doing that."
Now, though, as camp opens and the first exhibition game looms in 10 days, the focus has to shift to giving 25 (and more) New York Yankees players the best chance to finish the season nine months from now as World Champions - and that is where the relationships he has built become even more important.
"In Spring Training, it's about getting individuals ready to play, and that's a little bit different for each player," Boone said. "We do things as a team concept, but I view this as the time where we need to get individuals ready, to where they're performing at their best when we break camp. The biggest challenge is really tapping into each guy and steering them into their best performance when we leave here."
Over the next six weeks, Boone will get his first tastes of in-game decision making, and his first true taste of how to manage his players' workloads so that he can maximize their potential. Once again, however, it's not so much knowing those X's and O's, so to speak, as much as knowing how to move them around.
"We have an action plan of how we want things to play out, and hopefully, the instincts you have as the guy in control of the game come out in a positive way," Boone said, "but all the prep you put in puts you in that position. We've been working on that the last couple months, getting to know everyone in the organization and what their roles might be, and that helps you make quality decisions when you get into game time."
He knows, though, that days will come where he doesn't know anything, let alone everything.
"I don't think I've been blindsided by anything yet, although I know it's coming," Boone smiled. "I understand there will be things that happen over the course of a season that I haven't accounted for yet, but to this point, I feel like I've jumped right into the organization. When I first got the job, it was a whirlwind getting going, but seeing just the solid ground this organization is built on took me aback a little bit. I've just tried to jump in and be a part of that machine if you will, and the last few months have just been getting up to speed in doing that - but I know it's coming."
When it comes to times of trouble, Boone will have several voices to lean on from both his past and his present; he will, of course, be able to go to father Bob, who is a Nationals front office executive by trade but a Boone by birth, and in his spring-opening presser, Aaron specifically went into detail about how Joe Torre, for example, was able to be a beacon of guiding light in the whirlwind time when Boone was traded to the Yankees in 2003.
"I remember walking into Joe's office, and seeing his soothing nature and ability to put me at ease in what was a whirlwind time," Boone said. "Hopefully, I can take a little piece of what I think made him great into this job."
He'll also use his broadcast experience, and his family legacy of baseball - "My family conversations have always been about baseball, because that's what we know," Aaron said, "and I went from the field to the booth, so I was living this game every day like everyone else, albeit in maybe a different way" - but in the end, no matter what comes at him, he knows the goal.
"Dellin is right - the World Series would be a great year," Boone said, referencing comments Dellin Betances had made to the media earlier in the day. "We understand the expectations, and it's exciting for me to hear those comments. Last year was great, and a lot of these guys came of age and viewed it as a successful season, but what stands out in that room right now is that every one of these guys has the hunger. We understand it's a tough road, but there's a lot of little things that allow you to be a championship club that we want to dive into, and from what I can tell, the hunger in these guys is real."
The Yankees seemingly do have a lot to prove, but when asked if he might be the one with the most on that docket, Boone shrugged off the notion just a little bit.
"Um, okay?" he asked quizzically. "I understand where we are - it's the New York Yankees - and obviously, having never done this before, I understand that people can't wait to see how I go about things, and it's interesting to see how that unfolds. But, I'm consumed with the job and being great at it, and my biggest goal is to be able to impact our guys in a way that allows us to take the next step and become a championship club."
The time to start that step has come, and so it is time, once again, to hit the ground running.