Around 10 p.m. on June 19, I received a phone call from the New York Yankees offering me a contract to join their organization by signing a free agent contract. The month or so since has been a crazy one full of experiences of a lifetime and unforgettable moments. After flying down to the Yankees headquarters in Tampa, Fla., less than 12 hours after I agreed to join the organization, I went through the entire process of signing the contract and officially becoming a Yankee (physicals, doctor appointments, drug tests, etc...). About 48 hours later, I was suited up in the Yankee pinstripes for the first time. I joined the Gulf Coast League Yankees team in Tampa, which is made up primarily of first-year players from the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
Our field and clubhouse was located at the Yankee headquarters and spring training complex which is also where the Yankees send all of their players to rehab injuries. It just so happened that at this time big leaguers like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli and Michael Pineda were all injured and at the facility each day. All of these guys are class acts and treat the new players like myself as teammates and friends. They do not act "big league" and are extremely friendly and approachable. I was able to have great conversations with each and every one of them around the complex whether it be in the training room, out on the fields or at a team meal. Along with playing a game against another organization (Blue Jays, Astros, Phillies, etc..) each day at noon, part of our schedule was to go through morning developmental workouts (The Gulf Coast League is labeled as an "instructional league" that focuses on developing younger prospects skills). As a catcher, one of my duties was to catch simulated games and live batting practice for pitchers facing these rehabbing big league players. So, on multiple occasions I was catching while Jeter, A-Rod or Eduardo Nunez were taking at-bats!
Overall, I was in Tampa for around 10 days or so and had an amazing first experience as a Yankee getting accustomed to the organization, learning how things are run, playing in my first professional games, getting some experience on the field, showing the coaches and coordinators my skills and meeting some Yankee icons! I am excited to return to that complex for Spring Training. At the end of our game against the GCL Tigers on July 5, my manager notified me that I was heading to Staten Island, N.Y., the next day to join the Staten Island Yankees in the short season single A New York-Penn League. I was ecstatic to hear of this move because it meant that I was needed on that team, it was a move upward in the minor league system and it presented a new opportunity and challenge.
I arrived early on July 6 to Staten Island and headed to the team's park, Richmond County Bank Ballpark, a beautiful facility right on the Hudson River with a great view of the Manhattan Skyline and Statue of Liberty over the center field wall and two minute walk from the famous Staten Island Ferry. I was truly in awe as I walked into my new home park. The clubhouse is top of the line and, as is standard with the New York Yankee organization, we are taken care of extremely well. My first week in Staten Island went great. In my first start I performed well throwing out two of three base stealers and driving in a run while going 1-for-3 with a walk. It was nice to make a good first impression on the team and the coaching staff as I am simply looking to continue to stay within myself and slow the game down as the Butler coaching staff taught me. I was also fortunate enough to have some familiar faces in the stands for my first start, my Butler teammates Michael Fries and Austin Miller, who made a two hour drive down from the Hamptons to come to the game. A big thank you to them!
For more on Radley Haddad's New York Yankee summer, check back Wednesday to read about his experience with big leaguers Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda.