Yankees skip baseball for 8-ball

February 23, 2009 1:37:26 PM PST
The Yankees skipped baseball to play some 8-ball. New York manager Joe Girardi decided to give his players a break Monday and put together a team trip for a pool-shooting tournament.

"If I was a young man that's going on this trip, I think it's something you don't see often," catcher Jorge Posada said. "You can hang out with the veterans. Being away from the field and being together. Hopefully we start some relationships here. Nothing bad can come out of this."

Girardi previously discussed the idea with several veteran players, including Posada and captain Derek Jeter. The rest of the squad was informed at a team meeting the manager called Monday.

"Everyone started laughing," Posada said. "We're going to have a little pool tournament, and have fun. That's the main thing."

The players were paired for the competition, which had two separate championship rounds at Tampa's Peabody's Billiards.

"Going on a field trip," first baseman Mark Teixeira said.

All-Star closer Mariano Rivera was a two-time winner, teaming up with Andy Pettitte in one round and Phil Coke in the other.

"I think everybody had a great time," Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. "We got to see who's been spending too much time at the pool hall and we know the ones that don't spend enough time in there. For Joe to let us take a day off from practice like that, it makes you want to work even harder for him."

Teixeira played with Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

"Alex and I got ousted early, but Robbie and I made it to the Sweet 16," Teixeira said. "This was the most fun I've had in my whole career at spring training, and I think a lot of the guys would say the same thing. There were probably 16-18 pool tables. There were some card tables. We had darts. We had guys playing dominos and we had lunch, also. Everyone was just having a good time."

Who was the worst pool player?

"Brian Bruney takes the cake today," Teixeira said. "He'll take the heat for that one."

Normally the Yankees have an easy workout day right before their spring training opener, which this year is Wednesday against Toronto.

"Today is their easy day," Girardi said. "You come into camp, you practice every day. You give them an easy day, so why not have an easy day where they are all together for a couple hours. Let them interact."

Other off-the-field activities will likely take place during the regular season.

"I think it's important to have things like this," Girardi said. "I think it's a good idea. You want to bring the group together."

Girardi, in his second season as Yankees manager, is implementing lessons learned from last year.

"Relationships are vital, and sometimes you have to be able to read between the lines," he said. "Players are going to maybe not let you in on something. Maybe they're banged up more than they want to let you know. You can read their body language by having that year under your belt."

The players have also learned about Girardi.

"It's a matter of understanding where Joe is coming from. We want to have a good camp. We want to have a fun camp, and when it's time to play it's all serious," Posada said.

Notes: Jeter (minor right hamstring soreness) took grounders and BP in a cage before the team trip. "Everything is good," he said. ... Posada (shoulder surgery) had no problems one day after an extensive throwing session. "I'll tell you what, I feel good today," Posada said. "I had no pain. It's progressing." Posada will DH until he is scheduled to catch for the first time in about three weeks. ... Posada will receive the community award at the Ted Williams Museum dinner on March 20 for his foundation that raises funds and awareness about craniosynostosis, a congenital or birth defect that causes an abnormally shaped skull. ... DH Hideki Matsui (knee surgery) resumed a running program. He will miss the early spring training games.