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A few minutes with Lance Berkman

He won the press conference, as the saying goes.

Lance Berkman, in his first meeting with reporters since being traded to the Yankees, talked about his friendship with Andy Pettitte, his love of Don Mattingly growing up and the fact his father idolized Mickey Mantle. Here's a bit (more than a bit) of Berkman before the game.

"I never thought in a million years it would happen, being a lifelong Houston Astro. I didn’t think that a set of circumstances would come along to make this happen. I’m very happy to be here, but obviously a little sad to be leaving an organization that gave me my first chance in the big-leagues. I had a lot of great years there, but I’m very excited and very happy to be here. It’s a great situation. Who doesn’t want to play for the Yankees?"


On Pettitte becoming friends in Houston:


"The whole time he was there, I had a sense that he wanted to be back here. I would always give him a hard time, ‘You’re going to go back to the Yankees; I know you are.’ We’ve had a lot of conversations about the differences between the organizations. Him being one of my best friends in the world is a big part of the reason that the Yankees were on my radar. It would take something like that, a relationship like that, to pry me out of that environment that I was comfortable with there in Houston."


On where he might hit:

"If I’m ninth, first, I don’t care. Just somewhere in the lineup. Initially, I might hit second, and we’ll see what happens. If that’s working, we’ll stay with that. If not, maybe we’ll try something else."


"Any time Tex needs a day off, I’ll go out there. I’ll catch. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it."


What Pettitte told him about NY:

"He said it’s a great organization and a great place to play. You have a chance to win a World Series every year, and having played in a World Series and being on the cusp of another one, I can appreciate how difficult it is to maintain that high level of success and also the excitement that comes with being a part of an organization that is on top of the baseball world. I can understand why he likes being here. To experience that year in and year out, it’s a unique situation – one that probably only occurs here."


More on prospect of playing with the Yankees:

"Starting in 2007, when Andy didn’t sign back with us in Houston … I told Ed Wade when he was in the process of trading away Brad Lidge, Chris Burke, Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler, guys we had won with that were really good friends of mine, I told him, ‘Trade me – and I want to go to the Yankees.’ That’s what I told him then, and as events happened this year and the Astros looked like they were going to go in another direction, we reviewed a list of teams I would accept a trade to and obviously this one was at the very top."


Being a DH:


"It will probably being different being a full-time DH. When you play every day, you don’t have to worry about staying loose and staying in the flow of the game. I think there will probably be an adjustment period, but when I step in the batter’s box, I’m not gong to think about, ‘Oh man, I’m DH-ing.’ It shouldn’t take long. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will actually be good for my knee."


On left knee surgery in spring training the reason for bad numbers this year:


"I wish I could say (the knee) was the reason I was hitting .240, but I can’t blame it all on that. I think that certainly contributes to getting off mechanically a little bit. As you know, in this game, things can snowball on you in a hurry. That was part of what happened I think. I’m starting to feel better, starting to feel more comfortable. Right before I was traded, I felt like I had two of the better games of the year as far as me feeling comfortable at the plate and swinging the bat. I’m hopeful that will carry over."


On being on a winning team after losing most of the year: 

"When you’re a veteran – I’m 34, which isn’t necessarily ancient, but definitely getting toward more yesterdays than tomorrow in the game – you start to see the window for an opportunity to win and feel the rush of the playoffs close. Where we were with Houston, it seemed like we were two or three years away from getting back to that level."

"I was thinking about that on the way over here; I’m coming to play for the New York Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays, basically for first place in the division in August, or I’d be going up to play the Milwaukee Brewers and there are like 10 people in the stands. There’s a definite difference. Not to say anything bad about the Astros or the Brewers, that’s just the situation we were in this year. When Minute Maid Park is full and the people are excited, there’s not a better place to play, but that’s not the case and it hasn’t been for several years."

On not having to carry the load and save the day in the Yankees' lineup:


"They might be saving my day. That is comforting, to know that I’m just a spoke in the wheel. I’m just trying to keep this thing going. I don’t want to disrupt anything, don’t want to make any waves. I want to come in here and get on base, and when I have an opportunity to hit with runners in scoring position, to drive guys in. Just to be a part of the team, that’s going to be fun. I look forward to getting to know the guys, just being a part of what’s going on here already. For four months, these guys have played great. It’s a tremendous team that won the World Series last year, so I’ll try to contribute where I can. I’m not looking t come in here and crow like a rooster or anything. I just want to fit in."


On following the Yankees as a kid:


"Ever since I’ve been active in professional baseball, the Yankees have either won the World Series or were extremely upset that they didn’t win the World Series. That’s a different deal. That’s a level that no other organization in the game that has that kind of expectation. I don’t know where that comes from. Part of it comes from the success that the organization has had. 27 world championships and the next closest is 10 for the Cardinals, that’s a huge difference. With that success comes the expectation that all players in the game recognize, that the New York Yankees play baseball for one reason – to win the World Series. Not just get there, but to win it."

On wearing this jersey:

"It’s crazy. My dad’s favorite player was Mickey Mantle – he’s probably one of a billion people that would say that – and one of the reasons I’m a switch-hitter is that he was such a big fan of Mickey Mantle and he wanted me to switch-hit. I grew up hearing about Mick and the Yankees, so it’s surreal in the sense that with the situation I had in Houston, I never thought there was any way in the world that this could happen. Now that it has happened, it feels good. I think this is a great uniform to put on."



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