A trip to Southern California for Aaron Boone usually means a chance to connect with his family, both close and extended.
But this trip to San Diego to play the Rays in the Division Series is like no other. Boone is a short car ride away from his family but can’t visit with them because he is in the MLB bubble for the duration of the Yankees’ stay.
If the Yankees win the ALDS, they will play in the ALCS, also in San Diego. More bubble time.
Family time, Boone said, is limited to "text and talk." That’s how it is in 2020.
"Obviously, any time I get to come home to Southern California, where my grandparents are from and all my aunts and uncles and cousins are all down here in San Diego, my mom and dad and brother live down here — unfortunately, I don’t get to see them on this trip because of the bubble and things like that," Boone said Saturday from Petco Park, where the Yankees will face the Rays in the ALDS opener on Monday.
"So they won’t be coming to the games or having lunch or anything like that. But it is always special to come back to Southern California. Whether I come here, to Anaheim or L.A., it’s special to me. With me and my family now living on the East Coast, I don’t get out here that much, so it’s definitely good to be here in this kind of weather, especially in October."
Boone’s day on Saturday was spent getting settled in the team’s bubble hotel — which, in a delicious twist, the Yankees are sharing with the Rays — and having the first of several meetings to decide on the roster and pitching rotation for the five-games-in-five-days-if-it-goes-the-distance series.
Boone also presided over the Yankees’ practice, which was important because they hadn’t stretched their legs much since Wednesday, when they finished off a two-game sweep of the wild-card series in Cleveland.
The Yankees and Rays are on record as not liking each other very much (which is why it’s funny that they are staying in the same hotel).
Boone, who played for the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS and hit a somewhat important home run against the Red Sox, said teams not liking each other can be a real thing. But he vowed to not let it distract his team in this odd, neutral-site series.
"We’ll talk through stuff," he said. "But I feel like our guys are — from a focus standpoint, from a mentality standpoint — where we need to be. We want to be champions and we know to do that, we’ve got that opportunity in front of us, but we’ve got to go out and play baseball, and getting caught up in this rivalry, that rivalry, this guy said this, those can turn into distractions."
Boone is managing in his third postseason with the Yankees. He has a 9-7 record in postseason games and a 3-2 record in postseason series. He probably is better at managing than when he got the Yankees’ job with no managerial or coaching experience three years ago, but he said he isn’t spending any time thinking about that.
"I guess it’s a good question," he said. "But I don’t look at this that way. You’re just constantly just living and trying to grow in this job. I’d like to think I’m better at it than when I first got on, the first postseason, but to sit here and evaluate, I don’t think I really have time to reflect on it in that way. Just kind of focused on our opponent and trying to hopefully put our guys in the best situation to go out and win. Hopefully I’m better at it than at the beginning."