Will Gardner Stay in Pinstripes?
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13- New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner traveled from South Carolina this week for the 34th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner to support the AHRC New York City Foundation.
Gardner was among several New York sports stars who were honored for their off-the-field efforts in bettering the lives of others as well as their athletic accomplishments. Among the 2014 award recipients were hurler Dillon Gee of the New York Mets, defensive specialist Anton Rolle of the New York Giants, former Knicks and Nets forward Bernard King, who was voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, and former MLB pitching standouts David Cone and Jim Kaat, both currently baseball broadcasters.
These philanthropic occasions have raised more than $12 million that has been used to better the lives of approximately 15,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Each of the honorees expressed their gratitude when speaking with the press and praised Munson even though Gardner, Gee and Rolle were born after Munson had died.
Gardner said of the award, “It’s a good honor. I’m humbled by it. It definitely means a lot.” He offered praise of Munson, “He played hard. He played the game the right way. He set an example for the younger players.”
Gardner, who was drafted by the Yankees in the 3rd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, has been with the organization since that day. Although in 2013 he had a batting average of 273 with a single season high in home runs and runs batted in, his name was often mentioned in trade rumors during the off-season. Gardner reacted to questions of how it affected him, “It’s hard to ignore it [a rumor]. It always follows you.”
The thought of Gardner being traded for a starting pitcher intensified when the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury as a free agent, the center fielder of the Red Sox in 2013. Gardner explained his reaction, “I felt like I did pretty well last year. I didn’t see it coming. We have the same skill set; you wonder what’s going to happen.”
Gardner put a positive face on playing with his new alter ego teammate, “Hopefully, we’ll push each other to be better. I’m sure he’ll help us win a lot of games. He makes our team better.”
As both men are center fielders, usually bat in the lead-off spot in the batting order and are known for their speed on the base paths and in the outfield, Gardner used words regarding his place on the team next year that show uncertainty, “I don’t really have any expectations of where I’ll be playing [position] or where I’ll be batting [in the order]. Until I hear otherwise, I’m planning to go to Spring Training and prepare to help this team. Until something happens, I expect to be a Yankee.”
Since last season ended, Gardner explained he was “enjoying my time at home in South Carolina with my wife and sons [ages 3 and 5].” Of the annual trek to Spring Training, he remarked, “It’s always an exciting time of the year [although] it’s tough to leave home. My goal is to be physically and mentally prepared for the season”, said Gardner.
Gardner was enthusiastic when asked his opinion of the off-season transactions of the Yankees, “Right now, I like our chances. Every year, we get new faces and everybody gets along pretty well. I’m excited to see what these new guys can do.it reminds me of the 2008-9 off-season.”
Gardner is referring to the last season, 2008, when the Yankees failed to qualify for the playoffs, and then signed costly free agents like C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and won the World Series title in 2009.
How Gardner will fare in 2014, whether or not he will still be a member of the Yankees and where the team will finish in the standings cannot be determined at this time. Many unexpected events can take place before October, even before April.
On February 7, it was announced that Alex Rodriguez was withdrawing his law suit against MLB and the MLBPA. Thus, his suspension of 162 games will probably remain in effect. On February 11, Masahiro Tanaka will be holding a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Those are just the first of many unforeseen events that will take place.