Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe looks on after he flew out...

Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe looks on after he flew out to end the sixth inning against the Giants in an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The comparisons were immediate, and the videos popped up on social media within minutes: Anthony Volpe’s first hit, a clean single to left in his second major-league game, juxtaposed against Derek Jeter’s first hit, which was (you guessed it) a clean single to left in his second major-league game.

Volpe, the homegrown talent who’s got the Yankee faithful in a heart-eyed tizzy, spent Saturday afternoon signing the autograph wall at Yankee Stadium, getting bathed in cheers whenever he stepped to the plate and intermittently having his name chanted by a crowd that recognizes him as one of its own.

He’s stolen two bases in two games, got two hits Saturday, started a one-out rally in the ninth inning of the 7-5 loss to the Giants, and scored his first major-league run.

The fairy tale goes further than that, of course. I mean, have you seen the pictures of a newborn Volpe in a Yankee cap? Did you notice that his dad was sitting in the stands keeping score on Saturday? And now he’s taking over the position once manned by one of his favorite players? Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it any better.

But behind all this hoopla, behind the mythos, there’s a very real person — a 21-year-old kid who’s consistently being likened to one of the most beloved players of a hallowed franchise. The burden of comparison could be immense, but maybe one of the most impressive parts of these early returns is how Volpe has been able to handle the psychological aspect of his game.

“He just keeps pushing,” Giancarlo Stanton said. He doesn’t “take offense to defense. If he strikes out or something not positive happens, he’s keeping us rolling, getting steals, being a good [presence] when he is on base.”

Still, he’s not going to be invulnerable. No one is. And that means that although fans have good reason to cheer and chant and repurpose every Brett Gardner jersey they can get their hands on, the Yankees need to continue to protect Volpe from all the bluster that has surrounded one of the most scrutinized major-league debuts in recent memory.

In other words: Volpe should be allowed to be Volpe. He should be allowed to progress and make mistakes without living in a constant state of outsized expectation. Everyone should remember that for every Judge, there were plenty of Gary Sanchezes and Joba Chamberlains — players of immense promise who were mishandled, possibly to the point of failure. The weight of the pinstripes is onerous enough; adding to it is unnecessary.

“It’s something that I’ve talked to him about,” Aaron Boone said. “ ‘No’ is an OK answer. He’s going to have to learn. He’s such a good kid, right? He’s got such a good head on his shoulders that I’m not too worried about [the fanfare and media attention]. But even from a work standpoint, he’s a guy that loves the game. He works his tail off. So it’s even like, now as we get into a major league season, as that unfolds, making sure we’re pulling him back a little bit.”

To Volpe’s significant credit, his innate competitiveness doesn’t seem to weigh down his easygoing demeanor.

He worked a walk in his very first major-league plate appearance, which took place not long after he matched Judge for loudest cheers during the baseline introductions. He looks comfortable at the plate, and though he didn’t have the best defensive day Saturday — he lost his footing making a play at shortstop, allowing a run to score, and struggled on a double play — he doesn’t seem overwhelmed by his position.

When asked about that first play — probably the first negative thing he’s been asked about in a while — he handled it smoothly.

“That will probably keep me up at night,” he said. “I feel like I definitely should have had it.”

Rather than let that get to him, though, he came back in the ninth and singled.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Volpe said. “But the best type of whirlwind.”

But back to those comparisons.

Volpe's first hit was a hard shot to the right of a diving Brandon Crawford at shortstop to make him 1-for-3 in the big leagues. Jeter’s first hit was a hard shot to the left of a diving Mike Blowers at third base to make him 1-for-7.

In that grainy footage from 1995, Jeter looks impossibly young and uncertain in a way that we rarely remember him. He had yet to grow up and craft the singular, unique identity that we all know.

Volpe, whatever he does in the coming years, deserves the same opportunity. 


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months