Yankees star meets Steve Johnson
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius was a special guest at the ASB Classic on Thursday.
The 26-year-old jumped on Centre Court to hit the first serve of the day, in a reversal of the tradition in baseball where a famous guest pitches the first ball of the day.
Gregorius watched Joao Sousa beat Robin Haase and then was torn as two Americans Steve Johnson and John Isner battled it out to a tiebreaker in the third set. After Johnson clinched the win and a spot in the semi-finals, the shortstop attempted to catch a serve from Johnson. The first serve flew past him at +200kph, but Gregorius caught the next serve in his baseball glove. The two shook hands and talked about the upcoming Yankee’s season prior to Johnson’s press conference.
When asked about his experience at the ASB Classic he told reporters, “It’s awesome. I’ve been to watch a game before so it’s good to be here and a lot of fun. It’s the first time I’ve been that close to it.”
Johnson is a Los Angeles Angels supporter, but a big fan of Gregorius’ Yankee predecessor Derek Jeter.
“I grew up watching the Yankees a lot, just because Derek Jeter is one of my favourite athletes of all-time,” said Johnson.
Born in Amsterdam, Gregorius moved to Curaçao, a Caribbean island with a population of about 150,000. He is a left-handed hitter who had his best year yet in 2016, hitting 20 home runs. Gregorius signed to the Yankees in 2014 after famous shortstop Derek Jeter retired after 20 years as a professional baseball player.
The American players in the ASB Classic are all baseball fans and were excited to have Gregorius at ASB Tennis Arena.
“I played a lot of baseball, I think that was a sport that I really loved growing up. I just decided when I was about 16, 17 that tennis was definitely more my passion than baseball,” said Johnson.
Gregorius touched down in New Zealand on Monday and is being hosted by Baseball New Zealand and co-hosted by ATEED. He is holding training clinics for aspiring baseball players in Christchurch, Auckland, Levin, Porirua and Wellington. He is travelling with a film crew from Yankees TV, which has an audience of more than 8 million people.