“Volpe is on deck.”
Matt Hyde, a Northeast region scout for the Yankees, used to send this text to his colleagues, cross-checkers and superiors whenever Anthony Volpe spoke. The posts, which began at a tournament in Jupiter, Florida during Fall of Volpe’s senior year of high school, also included the name or number of the court his match was being played on.
They served as an alert: something exciting is about to happen. Get your ass back here.
“It was almost like, ‘Oh shit, here we go,'” Yankees director of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer told the Daily News of the running gag. “It got comical actually because I was so persistent with it,” Hyde added.
By this point, the Yankees already knew their future shortstop well — Volpe, 21, will start on Opening Day against the Giants — thanks in large part to Hyde, his first connection to the club.
He began coaching Volpe and Delbarton teammate Jack Leiter — now in the Rangers system — on the Yankees underclass area code team in the summer of 2017. The two New Jerseyans will are then adapted to Hyde’s upper class team the following year.
“As soon as I met him, I thought he was such a great portrayal of the Yankees organization and what it means to be a Yankee,” Volpe told The News. He noted that he liked Hyde’s passion on the pitch and his attention to detail.
Hyde remembers one game in particular that first summer, in Compton, Calif., when Volpe came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team at three. The speedy teenager roped in a ball for a grand slam inside the park; Volpe blew through a stop sign to score the winning run.
“He had an incredible talent for making things happen and playing a big part in the team’s victory,” Hyde told The News. “Whether it was making a really good defensive play, hitting a hit, stealing a base, he always seemed to seize the moment. And the moments always seemed to find him.
Those two summers with Hyde laid the groundwork for the Bombers to take on Volpe, a childhood Yankees and Derek Jeter fan, with the 30th overall pick in 2019. Asked if it’s fair to say Volpe wouldn’t be not a Yankee without Hyde, the infielder answered “definitely” without hesitation.
But other members of the team’s scouting department were pivotal in securing a commitment for Volpe, who earned a scholarship to Vanderbilt alongside Leiter.
As Hyde raved about Volpe, Oppenheimer began spending time with the child and his parents, Michael and Isabelle, at tournaments and showcases. He came away in love with Volpe’s raw talent, but also with her makeup.
Oppenheimer said character is a crucial, if not quantifiable, factor in the Yankees’ scouting process. That’s part of why he and Hyde were so stoned on Volpe.
“I tell the scouts, ‘We have to get to the other side of the fence,'” Oppenheimer explained. “Most of the time you think of the scouts, we sit in the stands and watch. Obviously we do. But the other part of the job is getting to the other side of the fence and getting to know the player, what he looks like in the dugout, what his coaches have to say about him, what his teachers have to say on him. And then, of course, trying to figure out what his parents are like.
Jim Hendry, the former Cubs general manager turned Yankees special assignment scout, took that message to heart. The baseball lifer met with Volpe and his parents a few times before the 2019 draft — in addition to phone calls with Michael — though all signs pointed to Volpe honoring his verbal commitment from Vanderbilt.
One dinner in particular, about a month before the draft, made a lasting impression on the family. Rather than woo Volpe with his big league dreams and a signing bonus worth millions, Hendry said it bluntly over a meal at Roots Steakhouse in Morristown, New Jersey.
He praised Vanderbilt and assured Volpe that the school would provide lifelong memories on the field and a top-notch education. A former Creighton coach, Hendry reflected on his 1991 College World Series experience and all the joy it brought him.
“I will never do BS kids,” Hendry told The News. Volpe appreciates that to this day.
“He was just super honest with me, and he explained everything to me. Just the fact that he took the time to talk to me and my family really, really went a long way,” said Volpe: “I don’t know if it was shocking, but authenticity meant a lot to us.”
But Hendry also knew that Volpe and his family loved the Yankees. If any team was going to get him out of college, it was them. And there was a good chance the annually competitive franchise would never get another draft stab at Volpe if he went to school and became the player Hendry thought he could be – someone comparable to Alex Bregman, who played shortstop at LSU before moving to third for the Astros.
Hendry made sure Volpe knew all of this.
“I said, ‘If you want to be a Yankee, this is your only chance,'” Hendry recalled. “‘Cause if you go to Vanderbilt, you’re gonna come out in the top five picks [in three years]and we will never choose at these places.
Those words weighed on Volpe, but they didn’t close the deal right away. As the draft drew closer, he still saw the university in its immediate future.
“It was a pretty thoughtful process. I mean, I was probably 95% going to Vandy until two weeks before the draft,” Volpe revealed, but he ultimately went for the “one-time opportunity” in front of him. : a chance to turn pro and play for the team. he grew up rooting.
“All things happen for a reason,” Volpe said with a smile, “and they went pretty well.”
As Volpe prepared for his first opening day in the Bronx, he wanted to make sure that another scout from the Yankees’ northeast region, the late Kelly Rodman, also received credit for the trip that took him. brought to New York.
Like Hyde, Rodman became incredibly close to the teenage Volpe. She died of cancer aged 44 in March 2020 – just months after watching Volpe sign his first contract with the Yankees.
Wednesday, the YES Network’s Jack Curry reported that Volpe will wear No. 11 after donning 77 all spring. Hyde said Rodman used to wear a Yankees No. 11 jersey to area code games and other scouting events.
Even before that decision, Volpe was committed to Rodman’s legacy, though he feels his contribution to the Yankees “goes far beyond me.”
“She never wanted to be famous for anything, but everyone around the organization and around her knew how important she was,” Volpe continued. “We still do, and we still miss her. At the same time, we know she’s looking down and we try to make her proud.
Hyde is confident that Volpe achieved that goal long before he made the Yankees roster. He described Volpe and Rodman as “soulmates” and said, “AV has already made him proud of who he is and the way he plays the game.”
“She will forever smile on her baseball journey,” Hyde continued. “I have a piece of her in my wallet that says ‘Be Great Today!’ She wanted that to be her lasting legacy — give her the best, be the best version of yourself — and no one embodies that spirit more than Anthony Volpe.
Hyde is certainly proud too. He will be present Thursday when Volpe takes the shortstop position at Yankee Stadium for the first time. It will be a time of celebration for years to come for the Scout, but also the start of a whole new chapter.
Hyde sees big things in Volpe’s future, just as he has since their first summer together.
“He knows he hasn’t arrived yet,” Hyde said. “He still has room to grow as a player. He doesn’t think he’s reached his full potential yet.
And as for Volpe’s first at-bat in pinstripes? Hyde already has a prepared text:
“Volpe on the bridge. Field – Yankee Stadium.