So much makes Aaron Hicks’ Yankees tale remarkable – New York Post

So much makes Aaron Hicks’ Yankees tale remarkable – New York Post

HOUSTON – From the moment he showed up in The Bronx, it has been impossible to dislike anything about Aaron Hicks. Sure, he was slow to display the maximum possibilities of his talents, and he scuffled for a bit, hitting only .217 in 2016, his first year in pinstripes.

But there was always an intrigue about his game: his patience at the plate, his ability to go get the baseball in the outfield, his power, his speed. He wasn’t what you would call a five-tool player but he did own all five tools, and it was impossible to think about what he could become.

He was a well-spoken advocate of both himself and his team. He played hurt, until the hurt wouldn’t allow it. He cared about the game, and its history. When the Yankees visit Kansas City, he often makes it a priority to go to the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in the city’s 18th and Vine district, and has spoken warmly of why he does that, and what he gets out of it.

“For me, it’s about learning about my history,” Hicks told me a few years ago, in the visiting clubhouse at Kaufman Stadium. “Being an African-American player, just learning the way they played this game, the excitement they brought to their games, the stuff they had to deal with in order just to play baseball.”

He smiled.

“It’s something I appreciate every time I go there,” he said.

Hicks also clearly reveled in being a Yankee, which is one reason he snapped up the opportunity to sign a seven-year, $70 million contract last spring.

“When you love where you are,” Hicks said not long after that, “why would you try to be anywhere else?”

Aaron Hicks
Aaron HicksCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

But his latest chapter might well have clinched his place in the hearts of Yankees fans. Forget the three-run home run Friday night that all but sunk Justin Verlander and the Astros in the first inning of Game 5, ensuring everyone would return for Game 6 of the best-of-seven ALCS on Saturday night. The fact he was there at all was remarkable.

He hurt his elbow in July, and there was talk of Tommy John surgery, or of a long layoff, and that was awful for Hicks, who started his year late and tried to steal glorious moments when he could – notably the hard-to-describe catch he made in Minnesota in late July that saved a bases-clearing, game-ending double and will be shown on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard forever.

Then, home in Arizona, he started messing around with friends, throwing on his own. He felt good. He started rehabbing, then started talking about being ready to rejoin the Yankees in time for the ALCS, if the Yankees would have him. They did. And here he is.

“It was kind of one of those random things for me,” he said after the Yankees 4-1 win Friday night. “It was to a point where I got my second opinion and it was the worst thing to hear. To hear you’re going to have Tommy John and your season is going to end is something that isn’t what you want to hear.

“But I was – good thing I was messing around in the backyard with my buddy and kind of started throwing because if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have this opportunity to play in the postseason, and grind and try to win with my team.”

And here he is. He made his presence felt immediately in Game 3, drawing a 10-pitch walk that all but single-handedly assured that Cole wouldn’t be able to pitch an eighth inning, then adding another walk later. He played a flawless centerfield. And then Friday, facing a pitcher who had owned him preciously – Hicks was 2-for-23 with 10 strikeouts when he faced Verlander Friday, then jumped ahead of him 0-and-2 before Hicks worked the count full – he had an unparalleled moment of glory, his blast colliding with the right-field fair pole.

“That was the game plan,” Hicks said. “And then to actually do it …”

That’s how you go from well-liked to popular to whatever lurks behind. Aaron Hicks wanted to be here in the worst way, and he is here in he best way, and that is a fine October story.


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