Current New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner showcased his blazing speed and ability to get on base during the second half of the 2006 season and first half of the 2007 season at Waterfront Park.
Gardner’s quick ascent through the system culminated with the 25-year-old getting a chance to wear the famous Yankee pinstripes in the last year of “The House That Ruth Built” before the team moves across the street for the 2009 season.
During one of my recent trips to Yankee Stadium, I had a chance to catch up with Gardner and ask him about his experiences in the big leagues and a few other topics as well…
Mike Ashmore: The last time I spoke to you was before the exhibition game in Trenton, and now here you are in the big leagues. What has the whole experience up here been like?
Brett Gardner: “It’s been great. This season, everything just happened a lot quicker than I expected. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to play in the major leagues. And now I’m here, and I’m having a great time.”
Ashmore: Your whole story is pretty interesting, going from being a walk-on in college to playing in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. Have you been able to take the time to sit back and think about what an incredible ride its been for you?
Gardner: “I don’t think so, I don’t think I really ever will. Going from a little kid hoping to play baseball one day to playing at Yankee Stadium, in the last year that Yankee Stadium will exist, it’s pretty surreal. It’s definitely a dream come true. One day, I’ll probably look back on everything and say, ‘Wow, that was something.’ But right now, I just try and stay level-headed and realize that I’m here for a purpose, which to hopefully help this team win some ballgames. I try not to think about all the other stuff.”
Ashmore: With the way this Yankees team looks right now, there are a lot of other young guys in here with you. How beneficial is it to you to look around and see some of the guys that you played with at the minor league level in here with you?
Gardner: “It’s good. It’s good to see guys that are successful in the minor leagues get an opportunity up here to prove themselves. Every guy that’s here has earned the right to be here and has earned the right to get an opportunity, so it’s very excited.”
Ashmore: Talk to me a little bit about getting to play at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure you’d seen this place a bunch of times on TV, how different is it getting to actually play here?
Gardner: “Nothing ever looks the same on TV as it does in person. The main thing is the way it feels. You can walk out into a baseball field anywhere across the country and have the excitement to be on the field, whether it’s a park that doesn’t even have the grass mowed or whether it’s a Triple-A stadium. But when you walk out on that field at Yankee Stadium in front of 55,000 fans, you know you’ve made it. It’s definitely a privilege to be here and be in this clubhouse and to play on this field.”
Ashmore: How much do you feel like playing in Trenton prepared you for where you are now?
Gardner: “The Yankees have a really good minor league system. Playing in Trenton and Scranton, you have good guys in the front office who take care of the players, and really good coaching staffs alongside of you. I think the main thing with Trenton and Scranton is the fans. They have such good fans. Being with the Yankees, I think there’s more media involved with their minor league affiliates, so that also helps prepare you for being in New York.”
Ashmore: Do you still keep up with the minor league affiliates and how they’re doing?
Gardner: “Sure. A lot of my friends and a lot of the guys I’ve played with are in Trenton or Scranton, so I keep in touch with some of those guys and see how they’re doing. I check in on them and keep in touch.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com