TAMPA — Move over, Hamilton.
The show of shows began Monday at Steinbrenner Field. The Boss would have loved it. Yankees shock and awe began during the first full workout. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton took batting practice. The mere sight of it should have sent a message to Putin: Stop messing with our elections or we're sending these dudes after you. Same goes for you, North Korea.
What a day. I wish Babe Ruth could have been there. I know exactly what the Sultan of Swat would have said.
"Wait, you're telling me I talk into this little box in my hand and people talk back to me?"
The Bambino was something, wasn't he?
It was unusually large crowd at Steinbrenner Field, in the thousands, the largest in recent memory for an opening workout. And it had everything to do with the team's twin Sequoias, the 6-7 Judge and the 6-6 Stanton, the reigning NL MVP. They combined for 111 home runs last season (Stanton 59, Judge 52).
Yes, it was just batting practice, spring training batting practice at that, but even Yankees players and staff were curious.
"There's something really cool and sexy about seeing the long ball in batting practice," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
"I wish I could feel like they feel when they hit a baseball, to be able to hit it like they do," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said Monday morning. "I just got done hitting with Stanton in the cage, And when me and him got out Judge got in. It's pretty humbling to be sandwiched between those two guys."
"I wanted him to know how important his presence was (at the vigil) to the people there," Joe Maddon said. "His hometown, his teachers, his friends, his family." #Cubs @Cubs #ParklandShooting @CubsJoeMadd @TB_Times https://t.co/RJsflYswkP— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 17, 2018
And then there were Brooks and Brody Cook of New Port Richey, who stood in the left field pavilion at Steinbrenner late Monday morning waiting for the Sawdust Twins to hit. Judge and Stanton would be in the same hitting group, back-to-back, but wouldn't bat for another two and a half hours. The Cooks patiently waited.
"We didn't want to miss this," said Brooks. He and his son had off Monday, Presidents Day. Brooks' job is selling insurance. Brody's job is third grade at Sutherland Elementary School in Palm Harbor. Father and son wore their baseball gloves. Brooks wears a right-handed glove. Brody, 8, is a lefty, and plays first and second base. You know, the world needs more left-handed second basemen.
"We think we have a chance," Brooks said. "This is going to be an exciting season."
Then he considered that their pavilion seats were only 375 feet from where Judge and Stanton would hit.
"We might be too close," Brooks told his boy.
Stanton hit several home runs last season that traveled nearly 500 feet. Aaron Judge hit a batting practice home run at Yankee Stadium last season that smashed a TV in the deepest reaches of the vast park's bleachers in left center. The Yankees left the broken TV broken all season to mark Judge's spot. It wasn't Monument Valley, but it would do.
"I have a friend who's a diehard Red Sox who's coming to see them hit today," Brooks said. "A Red Sox fan."
Around 1:30 in the afternoon, Judge and Stanton approached the batting cage. Fans erupted.
"The moment we touched the dirt, they were buzzing and waiting for us to get in the cage and hit," Stanton said. "That was cool, nothing like I've experienced in spring."
"I'd be lying if you don't get the juices flowing a little bit when they walk out and share a group together," Boone said. "It was exciting. It was a little bit of a rush."
But it also was slightly underwhelming. Judge and Stanton each took about 30 swings. Judge hit two home runs and Stanton hit four. Edge: Stanton.
"Probably Stanton's off the scoreboard," Judge ruled. "He's busting it through the wind like that on the first day. It was impressive."
Alas, neither a Judge nor Stanton homer ball found Brooks or Brody's glove. Frankly, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez was more impressive, hitting balls everywhere. One Judge ball sailed over Brooks and Brody's heads. That was about it. But Yankees outfielder Jabari Blash did find a baseball on the warning track and tossed it up to the pavilion, toward Brody.
"I got it," Brody said.
The trade for Giancarlo Stanton has created a crowded outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury — who lost his job last summer as the Yankees' everyday centerfielder to Aaron Hicks — the odd man out. #Yankees #SpringTraining @TB_Times @RogerMooney50 https://t.co/Fz7r0OAqMG— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 19, 2018
Brooks said they'll be back for Yankees spring training games and when the Yankees visit the Rays at Tropicana Field during the regular season.
"This isn't over," Brooks said.
The show will go on. And Judge and Stanton know it.
"They understand the buzz, too," Boone said. "They understand it's going to be something that's going to be talked about, certainly at home and even when we go on the road. Frankly, I think it's a good thing because it helps promote our sport."
That was the afternoon at the Yankees. Quite the day. I mentioned that to a fan in a Yankees hat and jacket standing outside Steinbrenner Field.
"They still need more pitching," he said.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] Follow @mjfennelly