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When Anthony Volpe was three years old, his father, Michael, would put him in a stroller and walk to a park on 96th Street and Lexington Avenue to play baseball. They continued that Upper East side routine for about six years until the family moved from Manhattan to New Jersey. Before Anthony ever played one inning at Yankee Stadium, that asphalt field was his version of the Stadium.
The real Stadium was less than 70 blocks away in the Bronx, but, in reality, it was so far away. Just about every kid who joined Volpe in that park dreamed of playing in the major leagues. The difference between Volpe and everyone else is that Volpe actually made it happen with the Yankees in 2023.
And, once Volpe achieved his dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees, he made strides in asserting himself as a player who blends athleticism, power, speed and defense. Volpe’s strides were rewarded on Sunday when the rookie was named the American League’s Gold Glove Award winner at shortstop. He is the first Yankee rookie to ever win a Gold Glove.
“He’s winning the Gold Glove because he should win the Gold Glove,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s that good.”
The Gold Glove award is validating and redemptive for the 22-year old Volpe, who has worked tirelessly to make himself a better shortstop. Even as Volpe has ascended to the majors, he has been criticized for not having the strongest arm (which he doesn’t) and not being the smoothest fielder (he’s solid and speedy with above average range).
For more clarity and more context, the scouting report on Volpe must also include that he’s intelligent in the way he positions himself, he gets rid of the baseball quickly to make up for a lack of velocity and he’s fearless. When Boone mentioned Volpe as a Gold Glove candidate last summer, it was greeted with some raised eyebrows. Obviously, Boone knew exactly what he was talking about in describing Volpe’s defensive acumen.
“I would say the speed at which he plays is what has impressed me,” Boone said. “He plays so fast and with such intensity on every play that you almost think he’s out of control. But he’s not. He’s very much in control.”
Boone praised Volpe’s pre-pitch routine for helping put him in excellent fielding positions and also lauded the shortstop’s range. According to Statcast, Volpe was in the 69th percentile in range, but he was also in the 28th percentile in arm strength. Still, while acknowledging that Volpe’s arm is more reliable than overpowering, Boone added, “I don’t remember one time this year where we talked about his arm strength costing us in a game.”
For the season, Volpe had 16 defensive runs saved, which was tied with Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco for the second-best among all shortstops. Dansby Swanson of the Cubs led the majors with 18 DRS. Volpe was also credited with one out above average in 2023. In winning the award, Volpe defeated the other finalists, Carlos Correa of the Twins and Corey Seager of the Rangers.
During one early season game, Michael Volpe had seats behind the first base dugout. Volpe spotted his son in the on-deck circle with Aaron Judge, the reigning M.V.P. and the face of the franchise, and Anthony Rizzo, a World Series winner with the Cubs, and the father was overcome with emotion. Volpe turned to his wife, hugged her and wept over all that had transpired for their son.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘This can’t be happening,’” the elder Volpe recalled. “We were just playing on 96th and Lex. And now he’s at the Stadium.”
Guess what, Dad? And now he’s a Gold Glove Award winner.