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Yankees manager Aaron Boone striding into a high, hard one

Yankees manager Aaron Boone striding into a high, hard one

Hero of 2003 ALCS is embracing all that comes with one of the most pressure-packed jobs in sports
Yankees manager Aaron Boone striding into a high, hard one
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (right) and New York Giants tight end Evan Engram.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

COLONIE -- Aaron Boone has done a hilarious impersonation on ESPN of Joe Torre's stiff, deliberate walk to the mound.

Now Boone will be making that walk.

His A-Rod in the batter's box is another killer mimic job.

For the second time, Alex Rodriguez has taken Boone's old job (first as New York Yankees' third baseman, then as ESPN analyst), so when the New York Yankees' new manager gets the inevitable boot someday, his successor is already lined up.

According to the Yankees' new manager.

"Well, you know who the next manager is, don't you?" he told the crowd on Sunday, to much laughter, after someone pointed out A-Rod's shadow history.

Boone and New York Giants tight end Evan Engram were the guest autograph guys for the Center for Disability Services annual benefit telethon at the Radisson.

If you know some Yankee fans (right, who doesn't?), you probably know more than one person who still harbors resentment toward the club over Joe Girardi's firing. In the meantime, they're either A, stuck, or B, graced with Aaron Boone (Game 7, 2003 ALCS home run against the Red Sox Aaron Boone) in the dugout now.

He's never managed a ballclub on any relevant level, but, at 44, is young enough and tech-savvy enough to bring some elements to the table that would appeal to the young Yankees roster while accommodating the front office's desire to keep up in the analytics arms race. He likes to claim that, especially in the last two seasons, he's been looking at the game through "a manager's lens" while serving as a TV analyst.

But never mind all that.

Can he take the heat? Can he withstand the blast furnace of expectation from fans, front office and media? It's a component of the job that not every Major League Baseball manager faces, at least not to the House-That-Ruth-Built level Boone will experience. Not even close.

If Sunday's appearance is any indication, Boone will be just fine on that front. No, it wasn't a press grilling, it was a fanfest, but he showed himself to be quick on his feet with a dry wit, genuine and charming without trying. He can laugh at himself, while also grasping the gravity of his job.

As he said when he was hired, he walked into the seven-hour job interview with Yankees brass with the objective of getting the job, not just making a good showing, and that quality must have rubbed off on general manager Brian Cashman, who will rightly be crucified if Boone bombs.

And if he does bomb, it won't be for lack of talent. Like many Yankees teams in recent decades, the roster is loaded, with two highly coveted prospects, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, waiting in the wings. For a first-time manager, a rebuilding project would offer a longer and less pressure-packed honeymoon, but Boone prefers the puzzle of where and how ... Giancarlo Stanton fits.

"It beats the alternative," he said with a grin. "You want to go in loaded, and we certainly feel like we have the potential, on paper, to have an excellent team.

"But as you all know, sports is riddled with teams we think are going to be great. It's one thing to have the cupboard full. Now it's upon us to go out and produce and get it done with a team we believe has a chance to be excellent."

Boone has already soldified his spot in all-time Yankees lore -- well, baseball lore, really -- with that game-winning 11th-inning home run off Boston's Tim Wakefield in 2003.

On the FOX broadcast, with Boone's brother Bret in the booth between Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, the crew let the aftermath unfold for a solid four minutes before anyone spoke, and then it was Curt Menifee interviewing Aaron Boone on the field. He stammered and was uncharacteristically borderline speechless.

But what have you done for us lately?

"Look. That's one of those moments that, as sports people and certainly Yankee fans, a lot of people have a pretty intimate story," he said. "So I still hear those stories all the time.

"But more now, it's a lot of 'Bring home No. 28 [World Series].' Lineup advice. Who we should or should't trade. Who needs to be on the team. I have a lot of assistants out there."

That will only intensify.

Boone said he sought advice from Torre, and "one of the things he told me when I got in his office was 'Don't read the papers.'

"So that takes away a little bit of the iPad time. I read my papers on the iPad. I'm sure there'll be lots of advice every time I do or don't do something."

He's got the 2003 walkoff.

He's got the Torre walk.

Most importantly, he knows what he's walking into.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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