It can be heard almost daily in the Yankees’ clubhouse: the young talents who make so much of the news — be it Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery, Gary Sanchez or Clint Frazier — describing the impact and mentoring they’ve gotten from veterans such as CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday or Brett Gardner. Indeed, there is a lot of wisdom to be shared.
Sabathia, however, said no one should get the impression that the vets aren’t getting anything back.
“This is definitely a two-way street,” he said. “The young guys can and do learn from being around the veterans. That’s how baseball should be. But they bring us life. They bring us energy. The music is always playing. They are always upbeat.
“You know when I first came here, Andy [Pettitte] said I did that same thing for him. Now I get it. Watching Monty, watching Judge — I’m excited. It’s a little spark.”
“Our young players are really eager and everything is new to them, so they bring an excitement that’s helpful for guys that have been around,” Chase Headley said. “I probably don’t have exactly the same adrenaline rush about getting to the ballpark as I used to. But I think it’s back a little.”
The dynamics between veterans and up-and-coming players often aren’t that simple. It can create two camps within the clubhouse, Sabathia said, and “there can be a divide that hurts a team. And sometimes it comes together like it is here and it’s a great experience.”
Headley said there have been senior players “who treat the rookies like crap just because they can.” Sabathia said that when he was first called up as a 20-year-old to the 2001 Indians, there was no one on the roster close to his age and he got treated in a way that was tantamount to hazing.
“There’s been a conscious effort today by older players who got hazed to not want guys to feel like that,” he said. “We want them to feel welcome so they are comfortable and help the team. I’d like to think that [element] is out of the game in this generation.”
Headley remembers that when the Yankees acquired him in 2014, the roster was laden with longtime veterans, many much older than what he is now (33). The team was far more buttoned down and laced up. He said these Yankees have fun every day.
“We’re on them about all the different shoes they’re wearing and they’re trying to get us out of the dinosaur age and wear hipper clothing,” he said. “And it’s coming from a good place. It’s mutually beneficial.”
Said Gardner, “There’s no way that you can watch Aaron Judge do things that no one does — hit a ball that hard or that far — and not have a good time doing it.”
While the influence of the Yankees’ elder statesmen is more likely to show up in obvious ways during a game — how Montgomery attacks a hitter’s weaknesses or how Frazier approaches an at-bat — the return for the veterans shows up in more subtle ways.
“They bring a lot of energy. It’s not just in the clubhouse or at BP, but it’s there on the field in games,” Gardner said. “The energy and enthusiasm they play with? It can’t help but rub off on us guys and work to our benefit.”
& THE RESTLESS
The Yankees’ 25-man roster as of Friday, with an average age of 27.7, had five players under 25 and six over 30:
Clint Frazier, 22
Tyler Wade ,22
Luis Severino, 23
Jonathan Holder, 24
Jordan Montgomery, 24
Matt Holliday, 37
CC Sabathia, 36
Chase Headley, 33
Brett Gardner, 33
Jacoby Ellsbury, 33
Tyler Clippard, 33