Major League Baseball
Yankees' Anthony Volpe shines in 'dream' debut
Major League Baseball

Yankees' Anthony Volpe shines in 'dream' debut

Updated Mar. 30, 2023 8:58 p.m. ET

NEW YORK — Anthony Volpe couldn’t remember the last time he’d batted ninth in a competitive game.

For much of his young life, the effervescent Yankees rookie has been the best hitter on any team he played. He has certainly never been the worst. But while his name was the last of the Yankees hitters’ to be announced during Opening Day introductions on a blisteringly cold Thursday afternoon, Volpe received the second-largest round of applause behind only returning hero and 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge.

As the crowd roared, out from the home dugout bounced Volpe, an enormous, child-like grin stretched across his face. Ask anybody who knows the 21-year-old, and they’ll tell you he’s almost always smiling. On the field, off the field, during practice, in the weight room, at the DMV, wherever. The kid lives a most fortunate existence and knows it. But he is at his happiest on a ballfield.

There he went, through the team’s handshake line, the number 11 pasted over the pinstripes on his back, beaming ear to ear. And why wouldn’t he be? His MLB debut, a 5-0 win over the Giants, merely marks the greatest moment of his young life. 


Born in New York City and raised in Watchung, New Jersey, Volpe has always been a Yankee fan. His father, Michael, was a Yankees fan. So was Michael’s father, also named Anthony. Little Volpe grew up idolizing Derek Jeter, with posters taped to his bedroom wall and spent nights fantasizing of one day playing shortstop for the Yankees just like any other big-dreaming tri-state area baseball kid.

Except on Thursday, Volpe lived the dream.

"I probably had goosebumps the whole day," he said at his postgame presser. "But just to be out there, feel welcomed by the fans the way I did, and then be able to go out and just play. That was probably the most fun." 

Sure, Volpe probably fantasized of hitting a homer, or at least a single. But the 5-foot-9 shortstop’s premiere was more than respectable for someone who couldn’t legally purchase a beer this time last year. It commenced with a composed full-count walk against San Francisco ace Logan Webb in his first career plate appearance, soon followed by a stolen base. His work would eventually include two nice defensive plays — a slick feed to second for a double play, and a swift charge and toss to first on a slow roller. 

As the youngest Yankee to start on Opening Day in 27 years — fittingly, since Jeter — strolled to the plate for his first at-bat to lead off the third inning, a huge gathering of extended friends and family down the first-base line rose to their feet. Former travel ball coaches clad in hastily-printed "VOLPE" shirseys, cousins with Yankees blankets draped across their shoulders, lifelong friends who’d traveled from out of town — all of them simultaneously pulled cell phones out of their pockets to commemorate a moment they’d been thinking about forever, but didn’t expect to happen so soon.

That some of the makeshift "Volpe-ning Day" shirts had 77s on the back — his spring training number, which he ditched in favor of 11, the lowest un-retired Yankees digit, earlier this week — only speaks to how unexpected his making the Opening Day roster was. Most people assumed the shortstop job would end up going to fellow top prospect Oswald Peraza and his slick infield glove. But Volpe’s spectacular play in camp left the Yankees no choice. The 2019 high school draftee won the job with the same poise, youthful energy and baseball maturity he showed on Thursday.

"Have fun. That was my message to him this morning," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told the media prior to Thursday's win. "Just go play your game and have fun. He’s ready. He’s prepared."

Judge’s main directive to the rookie was similar.

"'Just go out there and have fun,'" the reigning AL MVP relayed to reporters regarding his pregame chat with Volpe. "'Do what got you in this position, what got you into the starting role. I know you're 21, but you got all the talent in the world.'" 

But before Volpe got a chance to put that talent on display, before he fielded a grounder, or dug into the batter's box, he had one last opportunity to be a fan. From the best seat he’s ever had at Yankee Stadium, Volpe got to witness the best player on his favorite baseball team bash an Opening Day homer.

When Judge returned to the dugout, there was Volpe, top step of the dugout, a ray of sunlight illuminating a grin as wide as New Jersey planted on his face as he congratulated the towering Yankees captain.

"It was awesome, everything about it," Volpe recounted when asked about Judge’s solo blast. "The way he got welcomed by the fans coming back, and being the new captain, and announcing his presence like that ... it’s something I’ll never forget."

There are still countless hurdles for Volpe to climb, a smattering of "firsts" to cross off the list. He must prove that he can hit big-league pitching, that he can play shortstop at this level, that he can handle the rigors of 161 more games. But Day 1, though freezing and hitless, was, in Volpe’s own words, "a dream come true."

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

Read more:

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
Aaron Judge
Major League Baseball
New York Yankees

Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more