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Interviews | Steve Balboni

December 1, 2012
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Balboni's 1st bunt after 3,253 plate appearances (NY Daily News)

Balboni’s 1st bunt after 3,253 plate appearances (NY Daily News)

Steve Balboni spent two brief stints in New York–1981-1983 and 1989-1990–but in that short amount of time the fans took to him immediately.  Balboni grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan, but it did not take long for him to change allegiances when New York took him in the 1978 free agent draft.

He displayed his power while steadily climbing the minor league ladder from single-A ball in Fort Lauderdale to the triple-AAA Columbus Clippers.  Between 1981 and 1983 he played in just 69 games for the Yanks, but returned after a 5-year stint in Kansas City, in which he helped the Royals win the ’85 World Series, to split his time between 1st base and DH over the final 216 games of his career.  He was best known among Yankee fans for his home run power that gave rise to his nickname, “Bye Bye.” Fans also identified with his blue collar work ethic and “regular guy” persona, and for that reason he is fondly remembered.

Since retiring in 1990, Balboni coached at a variety of levels in the minor leagues and is currently the leader of the advance scout team for the San Francisco Giants that has helped win two of the last three World Series titles.  Steve was gracious enough to speak with me and answer a few of my questions.

*     *     *     *     *

You grew up in Massachusetts as a Sox fan, so what was your reaction to being drafted by the Yanks in ’78?

Well, I was very excited and became a Yankee fan very quickly.  Not my family though.  They were happy for me, but they were disappointed I was not a Red Sock.

What was your favorite moment from your time in pinstripes?

Definitely when I first came up.  I still remember my first at bat.  But, there were so many moments, I enjoyed my whole time there especially early on, playing with the great veterans that were there.  I learned so much.  It was a great experience.

You were a fan favorite while you were here.  The fans affectionately called you “Bye Bye.”  Why do you think the fans took to you so well?

A lot of it was [Phil] Rizzuto and [Frank] Messer.  I had some good years in the minors and they took a liking to me, talking about me on the radio and television.  So when I came up I think people immediately took a liking to me.

Who was your favorite teammate?

Goose [Gossage] was a great guy and took me under his wing.  I hung out with him a lot.  I also learned a lot from spending time with guys like [Ken] Griffey and [Lou] Piniella and listening to them talk about hitting and other things.

Does a funny moment stick out from your Yankee career?

1981.  I got called up and I was in Toledo or Columbus at the time, so I had to catch an early flight.  I went straight from the airport to the Stadium and I was so tired I fell asleep on a couch in the players’ lounge of the clubhouse.  I woke up and [Mickey] Mantle and [Yogi] Berra were standing there.  I was so confused, it felt like a dream.  But it turned out it was Old-Timers’ Day and all these guys had been there the whole time while I was asleep.  It was embarrassing.  [Laughs]

What has been your best experience since leaving the game in 1990?

I did some coaching in the minor leagues with Kansas City and St. Louis at different levels.  I loved coaching.  The last 4 years I’ve spent scouting with San Francisco and the last 3 on the advance scout team.  Two great experiences were in 2010 and 2012 when we won the World Series.

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