TAMPA — As Derek Dietrich strolled toward home plate on Monday afternoon, Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight blared from the speakers at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life.
A non-roster invitee this spring, Dietrich will spend the next month of spring training fighting for an Opening Day roster spot. Like his walk-up song says, making the team, donning pinstripes and helping this organization contend for a World Series would be something he's been waiting for his entire life.
"When I had the opportunity to have a chance to play for the New York Yankees, I jumped at it," Dietrich said in a Zoom call on Monday. "You may only get one shot to put on the pinstripes and it's such an honor. The reputation and all the great players and people that have been a part of this organization."
The veteran utility man started his career playing six seasons with the Miami Marlins, shining with the Cincinnati Reds in 2019. With the ability to play practically every position defensively, and a left-handed swing that's tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, New York brought him in this spring to compete for a bench job.
Dietrich, 31, said folks around baseball have been telling him for years that he would excel at Yankee Stadium. Now, he might actually get that chance to prove it.
"I've always got resounding positivity and encouraging words of 'you would play well in Yankee Stadium,'" Dietrich said. "Particularly my left-handed pull power ... it's always something that I've thought about, something that a lot of people in baseball have mentioned along the years. So, to have the opportunity potentially would be something that I really look forward to."
Dietrich set a new career-high in homers with Cincinnati two seasons ago, cranking 19 long balls in 113 games. He hasn't hit for average recently—batting .189 (59-for-312) over the last two seasons combined—but his versatility on the other side of the ball will surely help him jockey for playing time.
"I've always kind of been that versatile player, the Swiss Army knife, get my bat in the lineup, get on base, hit for power and play pretty good defense no matter where I am," Dietrich said. "I take a lot of pride in my defense, I work very hard at my defense and it's like anything else, the more you play somewhere, the more consistent you become and the more comfortable you become."
While the veteran revealed that his preferred position is second base, Dietrich got the start on Monday at third base. The ball never came his way on defense, through a handful of innings patrolling the hot corner, but Dietrich was able to smoke a ball on offense, lining out to the center fielder in his first at-bat.
If Dietrich can impress this spring, Yankees manager Aaron Boone may call on the veteran to fill one of his limited bench spots early on this season. He's competing with the likes of Miguel Andújar, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade and fellow non-roster invitee Jay Bruce.
In the meantime, as he's battling for playing time over the next month, Dietrich is relishing the opportunity to compete for such a storied franchise.
"Whatever I have to do to help and to earn an opportunity to win a World Series, I'm willing to do it at this point in my career," he said. "There's no better team to do it with than the New York Yankees."
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