CLEARWATER, Fla. — Reggie Jackson smiled at the question, then quickly answered.
Any advice for Giancarlo Stanton about playing in New York?
“Play good,” the Hall of Famer said Sunday after the Yankees took batting practice before their 8-3 victory over the Phillies at Spectrum Field. “It’ll be fun in spring training, it’ll be work the first month.”
Jackson, of course, knows what it’s like to be a star slugger coming to the Big Apple in the prime of his career. As a free agent, he signed a five-year, $3.5-million contract with the Yankees before the 1977 season. At the time, the deal was considered monstrous.
Expectations were immense for Jackson, as they are for Stanton. Reggie already had been on three World Series-winning teams with the A’s and was being counted on by George Steinbrenner to be the final piece for the Yankees, who had been swept by the Reds in the 1976 World Series.
Stanton, 28, is coming off an NL MVP season with the Marlins. He, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will anchor what many think will be the sport’s deadliest lineup. At the very least, the Yankees are expected to get back to the ALCS, where they lost to the eventual world champion Astros in seven games.
“You see two twin towers, man, getting off the bus, it’s something to look at,” Jackson said of the 6-7, 282-pound Judge and the 6-6, 245-pound Stanton. “We’ll sell out some batting practices and we’ll run out of balls once in a while.”
But, as Jackson said, there are potential potholes.
“It never stops. The demand doesn’t stop. New York’s New York. It’s a tough place,” said Jackson, 71, a special adviser to general manager Brian Cashman and a guest instructor in spring training. “The expectations are as big as the salary, so I don’t think he’ll be surprised.”
Jackson said he thinks Stanton will be able to handle it, aided by a clubhouse that he described as being “a great collection of talent and personality.”
“Miami’s not New York, but he’ll be fine,” Jackson said. “He’s surrounded with the right group, the right people, the right guys.”
Ultimately, Jackson said, Stanton’s talent should carry the day. “It would be different if he didn’t have a big toolbox, if he didn’t have the skills,” he said. “He’s got the important ingredients for sure to make it work.”
Jackson said he has admired Stanton from afar and previously had only one opportunity to meet the outfielder — in 2015, when the Yankees faced the Marlins in interleague play. Jackson made a point of sticking around after the Yankees hit to watch the Marlins — specifically Stanton — take batting practice.
“I like to watch him work,” he said.
Jackson described Stanton as “extremely respectful” in the meeting. “I stayed outside to watch him hit,” he said. “I think it’s great. Those guys [Stanton and Judge] seem to have similar personalities.”
Jackson had the same reaction as most Yankees fans when news came in December that Stanton was coming in a trade. “I’ve been excited over the winter like everybody else,” he said. “I’m still a fan. I’m still a Yankees fan. I’m still a baseball fan. It’ll be fun for everybody.”
Jackson smiled again, referencing the pressure the fans and media will apply.
“Expectations will be there, you guys [reporters] will raise the temperature, and nothing wrong with it,” he said.
“Put the heat on, let’s go,” he said. “Turn the lamp on. I’m ready.”