DUNEDIN, Fla. — Aaron Boone initially had Aaron Hicks in his Monday night lineup, starting in centerfield and batting sixth.
But a little before 4 p.m., Hicks approached Boone and said he thought it best not to play. He was shaken up over the events in Minneapolis on Sunday night, when a 20-year-old Black man named Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police after a traffic stop.
The Twins, in consultation with MLB and local and state officials, made the decision to postpone Monday’s game against the Red Sox at Target Field as a result.
"Aaron’s hurting in a huge way," Boone said a little more than three hours before Monday night’s game against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark. "And I think, in a way, [he] felt like it was probably the responsible thing to take himself out in knowing that it was going to be hard for him to be all-in mentally in what’s a high-stakes, difficult job to go out there and perform for the New York Yankees."
Mike Tauchman started in place of Hicks, who played for Minnesota from 2013-15 before being traded to the Yankees.
Boone said he also had pregame discussions with Giancarlo Stanton and hitting coach Marcus Thames about what occurred in Minneapolis. Stanton was the most outspoken of all Yankees last summer during the Black Lives Matter protest that took place across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
Boone said Stanton was "considering" not playing, but he remained in the lineup, serving as the DH and batting second.
Online reaction to the Hicks news was swift, some of it supportive of the centerfielder and plenty of it not. Boone was just as quick to defend his player.
"I don’t really even give two thoughts to that," he said of the criticism Hicks faced. "My consideration is with Aaron and his well-being and making sure that, as best we can, we support him and try and be there as best we can for him right now. So this is something in the immediate, that’s real emotion that he’s feeling, and right now I’m going to support that."
Boone described in general terms the conversation he had with Hicks when he took himself out of the lineup.
"I think it’s just been a hard day for him, understandably, and emotional, and I just think he felt like he would have a hard time going out there tonight, and probably just thought it was best to keep him out of the lineup," Boone said. "So that’s about how it went. All I can do is, trying as best I can, offer that support and let him know that I’m here for him and I understand how he’s feeling."
When asked about the challenges of balancing a player’s reaction to something that occurs off the field and the responsibilities of managing a team, Boone shrugged and said, "It’s life.’’
He added, "This is our livelihood, it’s really important to us, but the people we come in contact with each and every day, work with closely, share so much with, essentially are like family. We all have families. Life happens. There’s great times and good times and great days and tragic things that come up that affect so many people in so many different ways, and you try and conduct and live your life the best way you can. Sometimes that means loving and supporting someone through something. But I would just say all in all, it’s part of life."
Boone, who played 12 big-league seasons and retired in 2009, said he has seen a sea change in the culture of the sport when it comes to players and off-the-field issues.
"There’s no question it’s changed a lot in that regard, and a lot in a positive way," he said. "I think things that go on in society and in our culture spills over into athletics and these guys, rightfully so, have gained more and more of a platform to be able to express themselves. And I certainly support their right to do that."