Joe Girardi’s latest gambit to improve Yankees’ team camaraderie: Improv!
New York Yankees skipper Joe Girardi organizes an annual team-building exercise during spring training and this year’s installment related to his efforts to build team U-N-I-T-Y was kept under wraps right up until the team bus rolled up in front of a building in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood on Thursday. That building just so happened to house a comic improvisation theater. Yep, the Yankees ballclub was about to embark on fun-filled day of role-playing and improv.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that scene. Unfortunately for both fans and flies, the theater was closed to all outsiders so the Yankees were the only folks in the joint.
Apparently, the festivities began with this rather ominous declaration by Girardi:
“We have different games we’re going to play,” Girardi said. “What they don’t realize is, they are the entertainment.”
My guess this was about the time that A-Rod looked up from a mirror in which he was admiring himself and said, “Say what???”
Girardi laid out his strategy: the players would be separated into teams and would do skits organized by improv professionals, and the coaches would keep score.
“I think it’s good to get them all together and just see how they interact together, and see the young guys with the veteran guys.” Girardi said. “I love it.”
The details as to exactly what occurred within those walls are sketchy at best, but one can only imagine the sort of highfalutin hijinks that ensued as the players took on roles, improvised and brought the funny. Perhaps there was an exercise where Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez pretended they were an old married couple arguing over what to have for dinner or one where Mark Teixeira pretended to be not Portuguese. The possibilities are endless. I do hope the guys came up with a funny and clever improv name, because every improv troupe needs one. You know, like the Yankee My Wankees or Ad-Libbing Luxury Taxers or the Joe Girardi Retardees or what have you.
Speaking of the Yankees first baseman, outfielder Nick Swisher, who I imagine was one of the more outgoing participants in the improv exercises, had this to say about the day’s activities:
“I got one quote for you: Mark Teixeira, M.V.P.,” said the normally boisterous Nick Swisher. That’s all, Swisher said, he would reveal.
“I think all of us went in there with an open mind,” Swisher continued. “To have a great time, and it was just a great team-building exercise. I think that there’s a buzz in the locker room that we haven’t had in a couple years, and we feel like we’ve got a pretty good squad.
“It’s like an old school field trip,” he said of Thursday’s adventure. “We get on the bus, we go somewhere, and the only thing now is that we don’t have to sign permission slips. But it’s great, skip does such a great job with this. It’s something so out of the norm, and I’m a major fan of it.”
It does sound like a hoot and a holler. With these kind of unorthodox methods employed, one can only surmise how it will translate to on-the-field performance. I’m not making any promises or wild guarantees, but unless the other teams in the American League East didn’t come with some activity as creative as this — like a field trip to a Laser Tag facility, a massive scavenger hunt, a team LEGO-building race or something of that ilk — well, they’re in big, big trouble. Because you know what? The Yankees are old salts at improv now. And there’s no telling where that skill will lead them. Perhaps to a career switch to life in the theater. Who knows?