Doug Glanville, Bergen County’s own, stroked exactly 1,100 hits in the major leagues. He played for Dusty Baker, Terry Francona and Buck Showalter, among other managers. He led the National League in at-bats in 1998 and served as a Cubs bench player for the Steve Bartman game in 2003, after delivering a game-winning triple earlier in that National League Championship Series.
A full baseball life, for sure. Yet I wanted to chat with Glanville this past week about a different chapter of his, one that his many accomplishments allowed him to view with a respected perspective.
“I’d never seen anything like it in my entire career,” Glanville, the Teaneck High School and University of Pennsylvania graduate, said in a telephone interview.
His last month in uniform came as a member of the Yankees during their 2005 spring training, as a non-roster invitee. Though he didn’t make the team, he came away with first-hand memories of the Yankees’ phenomenon, and of spring training transforming from his previous experiences of tranquil preparation period to something more like a Beatles concert.
That frenzy will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field this week after a long respite.
Are you ready for the Judge, Stanton and Friends Show?
More important, are the Yankees?
With Giancarlo Stanton arriving via a still-stunning trade to join the likeable group that stunned the baseball world by falling one win short of the World Series, the Yankees will open camp this week as a revived brand. There’s so much excitement in particular around the pairing of Stanton and his fellow slugging giant Aaron Judge that the Yankees announced they’ll open their Grapefruit League home games three hours before first pitch so fans can revel in the tape-measure batting-practice sessions.
It’ll be on these newly beloved players, and new manager Aaron Boone, to draw strength from the intensified enthusiasm and scrutiny as they prepare for the heightened expectations that have been absent along with the Sunshine State fans.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when the baseball buzz left Tampa, though you can probably correlate it to the Yankee Stadium attendance drops that began in 2011 and continued through 2016 with the exception of Derek Jeter’s 2014 retirement tour. The sounds of silence characterized Yankees camps of recent years, the aberrations occurring when applause greeted, say, the beginnings of Jeter’s last lap in ’14 or Alex Rodriguez’s return from banishment in 2015. You could count the empty seats during games by the hundreds, if not thousands.
By the time the Yankees finished last year’s Grapefruit League schedule with an industry-best 24-9 record — with Judge, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez leading the Baby Bombers brigade — some electricity filled the atmosphere. Still, though, the proudly skeptical New York fans needed to see more proof in this pudding.
That proof has arrived, and the fans have bought in not only to the results, but to the process. They saw Judge win the starting right field job in a tough competition with Aaron Hicks, then they saw both men contributed greatly to the team’s success.
They witnessed Jordan Montgomery emerge from nowhere to win the fifth starter’s job, then the quiet lefty delivered a terrific rookie campaign.
Now they’ll see if Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar can capture the available openings at second base and third base, respectively, or if the Yankees will capitalize on this buyer-friendly market to snag a veteran free agent like Neil Walker or Mike Moustakas.
Same goes for the starting rotation, where youngsters like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield will work as many veterans (it’s still hard to see how Yu Darvish fits the payroll without a big trade) look for work.
Glanville recalls walking through the 2005 Yankees’ clubhouse and seeing so many big names, active and retired: Jeter. A-Rod. Hideki Matsui. Gary Sheffield. Jason Giambi. Randy Johnson. Jorge Posada. Joe Torre. Don Mattingly. Joe Girardi. Yogi Berra. Reggie Jackson. Ron Guidry. Dwight Gooden. Frank Howard. No wonder he wrote so passionately about his brief stay in his great book, “The Game from Where I Stand.”
“It was non-stop crazy,” Glanville said.
This group carries more of a homegrown (or at least homemade) bent, with Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino, Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia among the many compelling players. It’s a deeper, better-built team than what Glanville saw, for sure.
Can they feed off the hype without getting too caught up in it? Can Stanton, having spent his whole career in the Marlins dungeon, accustom himself to this dramatically different workplace vibe?
The answers will unfold as they once did in the Yankees’ universe, and as they now will again: in front of breathless, standing-room-only crowds that will make even the meaningless exhibition games seem like something special.
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