This week I got to sit down with Yankees managing general partner, Hal Steinbrenner. Before we got into our question and answer period, we talked about the borough of the Bronx, we talked about children of the area and their participation in little league baseball.
I shared with him the fact that Gary Sanchez accompanied me to the opening of the Little League Season and threw out the first pitch. Also the fact that NYC Mayor Di Blasio participated with me and many others at the Castle Hill Little League opening day festivities. (Castle Hill is probably the largest youth baseball program in the country.)
I was happy at the fact that Hal took pleasure in knowing that the kids of that area are being taken care of. It showed me that the Steinbrenner family still cares as much for the less privileged as they do for their own beloved Yankees.
I hope you enjoy this exclusive interview with Hal Steinbrenner.
Ray Negron: Hal, what a season. The ballclub is doing things that a lot of people couldn’t dream could actually happen.
Hal Steinbrenner: It’s been great. I didn’t expect to start out 1-4, Ray. That’s for sure. We had a good spring. We scored so many runs. The offense was good. Some question marks with the starting pitching, but they have done a great job. We have been firing on all cylinders. We just have to stay healthy. It’s a big part of it.
RN: At the start of the season, everyone was talking about Gary Sanchez, Gary Sanchez, Gary Sanchez and he gets hurt. And then all you hear is Aaron Judge, Aaron Judge, Aaron Judge. What do you think about that?
HS: He’s been great and he’s a great young man and a great teammate. He’s been great to the fans, from the stories I’ve heard and he’s going to be here for a long time. He’s going to have his ups and downs. He’s doing great, he made some changes during the off-season with his swing. He’s recognizing pitches well and obviously, hitting the ball hard.
RN: People in management as well as fans are seeing a similarity between Aaron Judge and the guy you are honoring on Sunday, Derek Jeter. What’s your take on that?
HS: Judge is a good leader and a great teammate. Derek is one of the best shortstops in the history of the game. Aaron has his whole career ahead of him. He’s off to a great start and that’s pretty good company.
RN: You have Didi Gregorius down here in Florida. He’s been a real plus in the clubhouse with a lot of minor leaguers down here. What’s your take on what he’s doing?
HS: He’s been an important part of our offense and defense and (Ronald) Torreyes has done a great job filling in for him. But we missed Didi in a number of ways. It’s been great to have him back and we need to keep him healthy.
RN: Are you concerned at all about the starting pitching? It’s been incredible. Will that continue?
HS: Your guess is as good as mine, but I feel better about it going into the season. That was the concern we all had. Will Severino come back and have a good year? How would CC do? Pinieda? Tanaka? And we had these young pitchers we had to figure out. Who was going to be the guy? Montgomery has been a real pleasant surprise. If we can stay healthy, there is no reason we can’t keep this going.
RN: On my radio show Impact on ESPN Desportes, Brian Cashman said his relationship with you is through the roof. He says you guys talk everything out and it’s a big reason why you guys are where you are. How do you feel about that?
HS: Well that’s great to hear. I think we have a good working relationship-over 25 years and we had our ups and downs like any two individuals who work closely every day. I struggle with the analytics, so I rely on him with his people, who are very strong on that. I love reading the pro scouting reports and talking to the scouts. There’s a lot of thought on his end, my end and all his people’s end on everything that’s done in the off-season, mid-season and during the season.
RN: The Yankees keep on getting bigger and bigger in popularity. We all thought they were rebuilding and now they make this jump. Everyone wants to be a part of the Yankees. They are doing movies on the Yankees all the time. Siblings in the organization are ready to shoot a film call “Stano” and there’s a film called “Gerhig.” Does this ever end?
HS: This goes back a very long time. My family has been a proud part of it, but just a part of it. It’s been a lot of years and a lot of great players who have come through the doors. And all the championships. I also think it’s a testament of how we conduct ourselves and the type of players we want to have. People of good character. We are very proud of this organization.
RN: You go back to when you were seven years old over here. You saw all the guys of the past. You are honoring Derek Jeter and well deserved. But do you have any fond memories of Thurman Munson?
HS: I do. I have a lot of memories of the ‘77 season. I was there. I have memories of the World Series when (Mike) Torrez caught the popup. I was down in the clubhouse afterward. What a gift that was. I also have a lot of memories of ’78, the game at Fenway. The tiebreaking game. A lot of memories early on. To be a part of it and my dad would share those experiences with me.
RN: This season, we have to continue going back to it because of the calls. The biggest call we get is, “Will the club continue to play the way it is?” No one knows what will happen, but are you having fun?
HS: We are having a great time. It’s been a few rough years. You know that. We had our share of injuries and not making the playoffs. We had our share of not having guys in the minor leagues, not being able to step up and fill in roles at the major-league level. We had a number of years of that. And now, all of a sudden, our player development system has a lot of good young players in it from top to bottom. A lot of the players we have been talking about like Judge, Sanchez and Bird are here and making contributions. They have been making big contributions and hopefully they will continue to do so.
RN: I went to the soccer game in New York (NYCFC). They are drawing well the fans are having a good time and it’s a whole different demographic. Tell me about that.
HS: It’s great. I have been to a few games too. Hopefully they get few days of good weather. The weather hasn’t been so good but the fans keep coming out. We are trying to get more Millennials interested in baseball. We have done what a lot of stadiums have done with these social gathering spots and enhancements. More and more I think people will think that it’s a good place to watch a baseball game and it’s more than what goes on in the field. As far as the soccer goes, the crowds have been great. They are chanting and singing. It’s a different experience and soccer is a much different game. I’ve been I enjoyed it–I’ve been to two so far this year.
RN: Favorite sport?
HS: Baseball, Ray, of course. But baseball is business and if I have non-business sport it would probably be football. I’ve been a Vikings fan my entire life.
RN: Hal, can you honestly say to the fans, this is your thing now. You love being the managing general partner of the New York Yankees.
HS: I do. I always have. It has its ups and downs. This is a family business. I couldn’t do this without my sister, brother and now nieces and nephews. We have a lot of people. Three generations of family members- it’s a lot of fun and I’m just part of it