7:10 PM UTC
TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe’s heart “was beating pretty hard” as he made the short, brisk walk from his locker in the home clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday afternoon, having been summoned into manager Aaron Boone’s office. One way or the other, his bid to serve as the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop had concluded.
Volpe slid into a chair in front of Boone’s desk, glancing to his left, where he spotted general manager Brian Cashman. Bench coach Carlos Mendoza and hitting coach Dillon Lawson were also in the room as Boone offered a preamble, pretending that he was about to delve into a “difficult conversation.” It would be anything but.
The 21-year-old Volpe had made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster, Boone confirmed, slapping his desk and offering a hearty handshake as he welcomed the club’s top prospect to New York.
“This has been the dream since I can remember,” Volpe said. “I’m probably the same as a lot of kids my age, a lot of my classmates, a lot of my teammates. This is all of our dreams. For it to become reality, it’s hard to even put into words.”
Rated as the No. 5 prospect in all farm systems by MLB Pipeline, Volpe forced the Yankees’ decision with a terrific spring, outplaying shortstop contenders Oswald Peraza and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. In 17 spring games, Volpe batted .314 (16-for-51) with six doubles, a triple, three homers and five RBIs, drawing attention from the front office and veterans like Aaron Judge.
“We entered camp with an open competition; we said it publicly and we said it privately,” Cashman said. “The obvious exclamation point here is: Anthony Volpe came into camp and took this position. He should be congratulated. It was well played. He’s earned the right to take that spot for the New York Yankees as we open the 2023 season. We’re excited for him and excited for us.”
Volpe will be 21 years and 336 days old when the Yankees open the regular season on Thursday against the Giants; the last player that young to start a season opener for the Bronx Bombers was Derek Jeter (21 years, 281 days) in 1996.
Assuming Volpe is in the lineup at shortstop, he’ll be the first Yankees position player to make his Major League debut and start on Opening Day since Hideki Matsui in 2003, and the first Yanks shortstop to do so since Jerry Lumpe in 1956.
“There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that’s evident,” Boone said. “I think when we take a step back and evaluate, he really checked every box that we could have had for him. He absolutely kicked the door in and earned this opportunity.”
New Yorkers should find plenty to like about Volpe, the Bombers’ first-round selection (30th overall) in the 2019 MLB Draft. Born in Watchung, N.J., Volpe spent his early childhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, frequently playing baseball with his father, Michael, at a park on the corner of 96th Street and Lexington Avenue.
Volpe moved to New Jersey while he was in fourth grade, and he spent most of his weekends on the ballfield rather than down the shore. He remarked that last year’s stint with Double-A Somerset represented the most time he’d been home for a summer.
After getting the news from Boone and Cashman, Volpe grinned widely and excused himself to make a series of phone calls. Volpe’s parents had been at the ballpark for Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Blue Jays, in which he did not play. They re-entered the ballpark and were guided toward the first-base dugout. He hugged his mother, Isabelle, and his dad. The three of them laughed and cried.
“I can’t even begin to say the list of people I have to thank, who have helped me in my life and my career,” Volpe said. “Since I was little and started playing baseball, people have helped me. I’m just super lucky to have had so many amazing people that have helped me along the way.”
Volpe is somewhat familiar with Yankee Stadium. His parents had a partial-season ticket plan in 2009, and Volpe — then 8 years old — remembers attending one of the club’s walk-off victories during its march toward the World Series championship.
But as Volpe grinned brightly and stretched his arms outside the Yankees’ spring clubhouse, his upcoming reality of assuming Jeter’s old vantage point had not yet clicked in.
“It’s super surreal,” Volpe said. “For the most part, I’ve only ever watched [Jeter] play there. To get that opportunity, I’m so excited.”