LONDON — Major league baseball players are creatures of habit, with the slightest interruption to those daily routines often seen by players as the difference between success and failure. Between winning and losing.
And for your average major league baseball team, flying nearly 3,500 miles midseason to play a two-game series in another country — as the Yankees and Red Sox will this weekend — is quite a disruption to the routine.
Still, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t want to hear how his players potentially could struggle “balancing” being in this historic city for the first matchup of these rivals outside the United States and being goodwill ambassadors for the sport.
“We’re balanced people,” Steinbrenner said with wry smile Thursday. “We’re going to figure it out. Because it really is our job to do both.”
The latter took center stage Thursday afternoon as the franchise ventured to the northern edge of greater London to Finsbury Park to host approximately 100 youth representing the London Meteorites (Mets for short, seriously) Baseball and Softball Club in a three-hour clinic.
There were no current players — and there was not supposed to be — as the team flew overnight after Wednesday afternoon’s victory over the Blue Jays, landing in London about 9 a.m. local time. Because of the typical daytime traffic here that can make the Cross-Bronx Expressway look like an Indy 500 qualifying run, they did not get to the team hotel until about noon.
But there was more than plenty of club representation, led by Steinbrenner; his sisters, Jessica and Jennifer; club president Randy Levine, and chief operating officer Lonn Trost, among others. A contingent of former players that included Mariano Rivera, Hideki Matsui, Reggie Jackson, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran was joined by manager Aaron Boone, serving as guest instructors at various stations during the clinic.
“I thought overall, they [the kids] were really athletic,” said Boone, who will visit Buckingham Palace Friday morning with a group that will include Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “I was at the baserunning station and I could tell, even the younger kids, you can tell they have the foundation of baseball underneath them. I didn’t have to explain certain things that I thought I would have to.”
It has long been a goal of MLB’s to hold a regular-season game here — MLB opened an office here some two decades ago — and when commissioner Rob Manfred, who made a cameo at the start of Thursday’s clinic, asked Steinbrenner if the Yankees would be interested, he was all-in.
“It’s our job as owners, and the commissioner sees it as his job, to promote this game around the world,” said Steinbrenner, whose Yankees and Manchester City were partners in purchasing New York City FC, “because we think we have the greatest game in the world, that’s our opinion, and there’s so many people that never experienced it, never played it and never watched it and followed it. But there are [those who do] in every country, you just have to find them…you have to start with the young kids, get them playing the game and they love it. And once they love it, they follow it the rest of their life.”
Steinbrenner, of course, has quite a fervent fan base at home, one that is worried about starting pitching. So is Steinbrenner, whose payroll is roughly $230 million, giving him, in his words, “a very big cushion” to add what is needed before the trade deadline and still avoid reaching the highest luxury tax threshold, which is $246 million.
“I’m just not concerned about it, given the pitchers that are out there that we think we might have a chance at getting,” Steinbrenner said. “More important to me, is what we would have to give up? That’s always my biggest concern, what am I losing? What future am I giving up?”