Andy Phillips thrilled to visit the new Yankee Stadium for the first timePhillips was one of several "rookies" at 2013 Old-Timers' Day festivities
Andy Phillips was one of the first-timers at Old-Timers Day in 2013, marking his first return to the organization he spent nine of his 12 years in professional baseball playing for.
“It’s great. Anytime you can come back and be in this organization for any reason, it’s pretty special, so I can’t think of a better way to mark my first time back than Old Timers Day,” Phillips said on June 23. “Just to be associated with this organization is a pretty neat experience, and I couldn’t be more flattered.”
Drafted out of the University of Alabama in the seventh round of the 1999 Draft, Phillips came up through the system and made his Major League debut on September 14, 2004. For the next three seasons, Phillips was a key reserve for the Yankees, playing mostly first base (including a career-high 94 games there in 2006) but also seeing time at second, third, and in left field when needed.
Being successful while working around inconsistent playing time is a tough art, said Phillips, but being a true utilityman on top of that is something that’s even harder. “First of all, you have to be pretty confident in yourself, and preparation is priceless,” Phillips said. “It’s all about trying to find that routine, getting enough ground balls at each position and really trying to attack the areas that you feel are weak.”
The Yankees have had a handful of infielders who have manned multiple positions this year, most notably Jayson Nix, and Phillips believes the key to their success so far is that preparation.
“Seeing how these guys have done it, they must have established a routine that they feel is comfortable,” Phillips said.
Phillips left the Yankees after the 2007 season, playing for the Mets and Reds in his final Major League season of 2008 and spending 2009 in the Minors with the White Sox and Pirates organizations before finishing his career in Japan. Retirement was a tough day, he said, but since walking away at the end of the 2010 season, the now-37-year-old has found another way to give back to baseball.
“I’m coaching at my alma mater, the University of Alabama, and I just finished my third year,” Phillips revealed. “To be able to take my experiences in the game and go back and invest in those kids is pretty fulfilling, so I’m having a great time.”
And, fittingly, one of those kids is someone who may follow in Phillips’ pinstriped path one day: outfielder Taylor Dugas, who was drafted by the Yankees in the eighth round in 2012 and was recently promoted to Class-A Advanced Tampa for the first time.
“He was a special player for us,” Phillips said of Dugas. “He was a four-time All-American, and the type of player he is fits this organization very well. He’s a class individual and a great player, and certainly when I saw him get drafted by the Yankees, I was really excited for him.”
And that excitement, says Phillips, was doubled because he knows Dugas came to an organization that will always take care of him, even when his days in pinstripes are over.
“This organization, and the history and professionalism of it, is like none other in all of sports,” Phillips said. “When you see the way they take care of and are loyal to their former players, it is very touching and very special.”