Not every 20-year-old wants to live at home, but Anthony Volpe is embracing his childhood digs.
He gets to sleep in a familiar bed and eat home-cooked meals. His parents haven’t set a curfew for him, either. Better yet, Volpe’s residence is a mere 8.5-mile commute to Bridgewater’s TD Bank Ballpark, the home of Minor League Baseball’s Somerset Patriots. The Patriots are the New York Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, and Volpe, who moved from New York City to Watchung in fourth grade, is the organization’s No. 1 prospect and the eighth best in all of baseball, per MLB.com.
If all goes according to his wildest dreams, Volpe will be the Yankees’ starting shortstop sooner than later. For now, however, he’s a Patriot, staying in the moment, and staying at home.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I feel like,” Volpe said Tuesday, adding that teammates Max Burt and Blake Perkins are also crashing at his parents’ place. “A lot of guys probably wouldn’t like being at home, but I’m definitely a homebody, so it’ll be fun.”
Volpe’s comments came before his TD Bank Ballpark debut, which doubled as a welcome home party for New York’s 2019 first-round pick. Volpe, who enjoyed a star-studded high school career at Morristown’s Delbarton, played in front of more than 100 family members and friends as the Patriots hosted the Erie SeaWolves for their home opener. “We joked with him a little bit, homecoming boy,” said outfielder Brandon Lockridge, who hit a walk-off double to give the Patriots a 2-1 win.
“I’m lucky to have a really supportive family, so they come out whenever they can,” said Volpe, who attended Patriots games as a kid. “[I’m] just excited for them to be able to see me cause [with] Covid and everything like that, they haven’t been able to watch me as much as they wanted to.”
Volpe went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a hit by pitch on Tuesday. He also made a run-saving, diving play in front of an adoring crowd that made signs for him and clamored for his autograph. The Patriots’ press box, meanwhile, was more crowded than usual.
Volpe, despite his age and minor league status, is already flirting with stardom. His New Jersey roots are an easy selling point for Somerset–Lockridge noted that Volpe’s presence means more exposure for the rest of the team–and his stellar standing atop baseball’s leading prospect lists make him a known name within the sport. The Yankees, meanwhile, did not sign any of the available high-priced shortstops in free agency this past offseason, in part because they believe they have something special in Volpe and fellow shortstop prospect Oswald Peraza, a 21-year-old at Triple-A.
The way Patriots manager Dan Fiorito sees it, Somerset is a smaller version of what awaits Volpe in the majors. He’s a hometown hero dealing with hefty media coverage and lofty expectations. That won’t let up should Volpe reach his potential.
“I don’t really know what it’s going to be like in the Bronx, but I can just imagine it’s definitely an elevated version of this,” Volpe said postgame. “I mean, I’ve never really had interviews and stuff like this after the game before.”
So far, Fiorito is impressed with how Volpe is acclimating.
“It’s so easy to forget that he’s a 20-year-old,” the skipper said. “The way he handles the media, the fans, the way he goes about his business—it’s like he’s ready for it already. He’s crushing it. He’s enjoying the moment. He’s trying to be where his feet are.”
Fiorito isn’t sure when Volpe’s big league–or Triple-A, for that matter–debut will come, but he is positive the phenom is on the right track.
Volpe positioned himself as an elite farmhand last season when he hit .294 with a 1.027 OPS, 27 home runs, 86 RBI and 33 stolen bases. This year, his aim is to improve his overall consistency. He also expects pitchers to attack him up in the zone more, which was the case Tuesday. Fiorito, meanwhile, is challenging him to make more “incredible plays,” as he already “dominates the routine.”
“Not to put a timetable on it, but he’s so talented,” Fiorito said of Volpe’s MLB ETA. “He’s knocking at the door if he has another great year. That’s something the org is so excited about, to see him take this next stride now in Double-A.”
Patriots catcher Josh Breaux added that “the hype is real. He is absolutely incredible. And not just as a baseball player—as a person, too. He’s probably one of the best teammates I’ve had.”
Regardless of when Volpe moves up the ladder, he is mindful that he is far from a complete product. He believes he is “close” to The Show, but to simply make the majors is not his ultimate objective.
Rather, it’s to remain.
“I feel like the debut or getting to the big leagues isn’t really my goal,” Volpe explained. “It’s to be a successful player and to help the Yankees win a World Series. I like to say I’m really far from my ceiling, which, to me, is really motivating and a good thing. I wouldn’t really want to be too close to the best player I could be. So I’ve got a lot more work to do, and to me, that’s exciting and something I’m looking forward to.”
In the meantime, Volpe will try to focus on the present, all the while relishing a chance to play where he grew up.
“This is such a cool, surreal opportunity to get to play at home,” he said. “I feel like if I was thinking about anything in the future, it would kind of take away from how unique this opportunity is.”Click here to leave a comment