We can dream about these things, you and me. We can imagine what it’s like to be standing on the 12th tee at Augusta, Rae’s Creek beckoning, the gallery sensing for nerves. We can visualize standing behind the 3-point line at the Garden, open, a flick of our wrist to give the Knicks their first championship since 1973.
We can fantasize about being a left-handed power hitter wearing pinstripes, digging into the batter’s box at Yankee Stadium, the famous right-field porch so close you feel like you can touch it with the tip of your bat.
The thing is, we all wake up eventually.
Joey Gallo never has to. Not now. Not while he’s wearing No. 13 in pinstripes, a part of the new, revitalized and balanced attack that helped the Yankees win again Monday night, 2-1, in a one-game tuneup against the Angels before the Red Sox come barreling into town.
This is his office. This is his workspace. This was where, bottom of the first, Yankees trailing 1-0, he hit an absolute BB over the right-field fence for a two-run blast, the only runs the Yankees would get and the only ones they would need on a night when Gerrit Cole and the bullpen-on-the-fly had more than enough to muffle the Halos.
“It’s exciting,” Gallo said. “As a kid grow up wanting to play in Yankee Stadium and so it’s kind of like a dream.”
Gallo, of course, doesn’t exactly need the extra help that the user-friendly distance to right field provides — but, then, few of the lefty sluggers who’ve made the various incarnations of Yankee Stadium so historic ever have. It wasn’t like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig needed the help. A couple of Mickey Mantle’s lefty blasts collided with the façade at the very top of the roof. Reggie Jackson could have leased space in the third deck.
Still. It’s nice to have it out there. When Gallo hit his first homer as a Yankee, against the Mariners on Aug. 5, he did get rewarded for location, location, location — an epic, towering shot that barely cleared the wall and would have been an F-9 in a scorecard in every other park in baseball.
It isn’t emblematic of the brand of bomb Gallo specializes in — the two he hit in Chicago Saturday preceding Monday’s crushing blast prove that much. At the time, it allowed the singular bright spot in what was a tough 7-for-50 start as a Yankee. But as he becomes more comfortable here, we are likely to see more of what we saw Monday.
“It was a pretty big home run,” Gallo admitted. “That’s how baseball goes. Get those runs while you can. It was pretty electric in there so it was one of the coolest home runs I’ve ever had.”
Gallo has taken quickly and happily to the fact that Yankees fans have joined he and Anthony Rizzo together as something of an Italian-American tribute band.
That is actually a long, notable and noble tradition; there was a generation of immigrants and immigrant sons who became conversant in both baseball and America in the last century thank to the team that regularly employed workers with familiar-sounding surnames, a lineage of Lazzeri/Crosetti/DiMaggio/Berra/Rizzuto.
Gallo has noticed the Italian flags that have visited the Stadium lately. He happily commissioned a T-shirt with images of he and Rizzo and the slogan “Italian Stallions.”
“It makes me proud,” Gallo said. “There aren’t a a ton of Italian baseball players so I’m kind of proud to have success here.”
He is also starting to experience the other perk of setting up shop in The Bronx. Big games were hard to come by in his prior life as a Texas Ranger. Now they are an everyday thing. And with the Red Sox on deck, Gallo knows he’s about to have a taste of something he’s wanted for a long time.
“It’s a little different than a normal baseball game,” he said, laughing. “We’ve got to have 100 [percent] focus and energy and hopefully we come out on the winning side.”
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