One morning this winter, Anthony Volpe peels a gray peacoat from his lithe, compact frame and shimmies into a booth for brunch in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Volpe, 22, has spent the morning engaged in a familiar activity to many 22-year-olds in NYC: apartment hunting with his parents. Volpe, however, happens to be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, which changes the dynamic somewhat. No three-roommate Murray Hill hovel for this guy.

He spent his rookie season living in midtown, near Columbus Circle, but decided to leave because nothing stays open late. (If first pitch is at 7:10, players typically don’t get home until after midnight.) And so, like any good twentysomething living in New York, he’s heading downtown. “I want to move to the West Village,” he announces. “I’d love to just, after a game, walk around the corner, and get the best slice of pizza that my teammate from Oklahoma is ever going to have.”

Volpe tells me he genuinely loves living in the city, and says the veterans of the team encouraged him to live here, rather than in a mansion in the suburbs.

The upside to living in the city is real. There is a special sort of celebrity reserved for New York athletes who love New York—Clyde Frazier, Keith Hernandez, and Carmelo Anthony can all attest to the way the city embraces athletes who want to be in the mix. And that’s before we even mention the last guy who turned playing shortstop for the Yankees into the biggest job on earth. As a potential Yankee centerpiece for years to come, Volpe could become our first Gen Z New York sports hero.

It helps, of course, that he is a certified Yankee fan. He giddily tells me a story of trekking across the Hudson from his hometown in New Jersey to attend a 2018 playoff game at Yankee Stadium. “We were all texting, and we decided at school, We’re going to the game tonight. Me and all my buddies were literally sitting with our backs to the top of the stadium.” He also geeks out when I ask if he has Derek Jeter’s phone number. The instant blush that fills his cheeks tells me everything I need to know.

But the off field stuff will only click if he and the Yankees straighten things out on the diamond. Last year, the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and posted the franchise’s worst record since 1992. Volpe’s season was up and down: he won a Gold Glove, stole 24 bags and socked 21 dingers, but also batted .209 and struck out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances.

When I ask for his assessment of last season, Volpe sounds more like someone calling into talk radio than an actual player on the team. “Very, very, very poor,” he says. “It was one of the rockiest, toughest seasons that I’ve been a part of, and I don’t know anything else at the big league level. It was super crushing to know that we didn’t get the results we needed to get. But I think the team grew together. Going through one of the toughest seasons in the recent era, it lit a fire in a lot of people.”

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