Home News Yankees’ Jake Bauers talks path to finally feeling ‘like I belong’

Yankees’ Jake Bauers talks path to finally feeling ‘like I belong’

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Yankees utility man Jake Bauers takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What are those tattoos on your left shoulder and arm?

A: It’s a koi fish, I got that in high school. Actually there’s a good Japanese parable about the koi fish having to swim up river kind of throughout his journey, and then when he gets to the end of the river, he makes it up the waterfall and turns into a dragon. And then the lotus flower, same type of deal. They grow underneath the mud in rivers and then have to rise up and blossom. kind of just like the story, like the meaning behind it, and then I have my parents’ initials on my wrists.

Q: That sums your life and career up really.

A: It feels a little bit like that, right? (smile).

Q: What drives you?

A: I think the pursuit of just being a better overall person. Now that I have a kid on the way [daughter in November], that’s a big motivation as well.

Jake Bauers said that having a daughter on the way in November has been a “big motivation.”
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Q: Why are you looking ahead to fatherhood?

A: I think it’s a good chance to not only raise a child and help kind of shape the way that they view the world, and I think it’s also gonna be a good exercise in a little bit of self-reflection, and maybe get to learn a little bit more about yourself and kind of see how you actually look at things from kind of just an outside perspective.

Q: Do you have a name picked out?

A: Marlee.

Q: What drives you as a baseball player?

A: I think it’s a good comparison for life, really. Especially for me, I think my career hasn’t been the easiest road, and I’ve had to learn a lot about myself and do a lot of soul-searching along the way, and then, in turn you kind of see your game evolve and you see yourself get better and better as you figure out the mental challenges of everything. That’s a big reason why I love the game is it reveals so much about your character, and it reveals who you really are. And then, if you’re willing to look at that and like really be honest with yourself about it, I think it gives you a lot of room to grow as a person.

Jake Bauers has become a regular in the Yankees' outfield since his call-up in 2023.
Jake Bauers has become a regular in the Yankees’ outfield since his call-up in 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg

Q: Where is your confidence level at?

A: I think I’m really just in a good state of going out and trying to win the game. I’m not worried about what might happen, I’m not worried about failure, I’m not worried about looking like an idiot. I’m just out there, I’m out of my own way, I’m playing my game and it feels good.

Q: What was the low point confidence-wise for you?

A: I would probably have to say during my time in Seattle in 2021 where I wasn’t playing a lot, when I was playing I wasn’t doing well. I didn’t feel like I had a chance walking to the plate — which obviously, if that’s the state of mind you’re in, if you don’t think you have a chance, then you don’t have a chance. I just felt like I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play in the big leagues.

Q: Did you think about giving up the game?

A: I don’t necessarily think I thought about giving up the game, I think I didn’t know if I was gonna get a job at some point. I was hitting like a buck thirty in Triple-A last year when I got traded over here, and I didn’t know how much longer of an opportunity I was gonna get to keep going.

Q: What was 2020 like for you?

A: I was at the alternate site, the COVID site, in Cleveland. It was tough, it was tough. I was living a block away from the stadium but you weren’t allowed to go to the stadium, so I’m hearing like fireworks go off and stuff like that, and then I’m waking up in the morning and driving to the Low-A stadium in Lake County to take live BP every day basically in front of nobody. That was definitely a tough time.

Q: Did you ever talk to a sports psychologist?

A: Yeah, a little bit, but I think a lot of it just came from detaching myself from baseball a little bit, and finally coming to the understanding that baseball doesn’t define me as a person. I think for a long time, my identity and my confidence and my self-worth was tied to baseball. I was Jake Bauers the baseball player. And then I think what happened was I was finally able to kind of just detach myself from that and say, “No I’m Jake Bauers the human being, and baseball is just what I do.” Like baseball’s just my job.

Q: How did the sports psychologist in Seattle help?

A: I think it kind of laid the groundwork for the right way to think going about playing this game, but for me I think all the work was really done with me and my wife and some close friends where we would just have conversations about things, and the more you talk and the more you kind of dig in to the way you really feel and the way you see things, the more opportunity you have to improve upon them, I guess is the way I would put it. That’s where I feel like I kind of came into myself a little bit and allowed me to kind of grow up in a way.

Jake Bauers hit .220 with the Mariners in 2021.
Jake Bauers hit .220 with the Mariners in 2021.
Getty Images

Q: Your wife Lauren was a big help. Why was she and is she the right girl for you?

A: We met in high school and then just since the day we met it was … it just felt like she was my person, I was her person. We’re kind of best friends, we also have just kind of this intimate connection, and I don’t really know where I would be without her.

Q: Do you feel like you belong now?

A: Yeah. That’s kind of a tough question, but I definitely feel like I belong. I feel like I have something to contribute to this team. I feel like I can help this team win, I feel like I have helped this team win. I feel like that’s not something that I’ve felt since I’ve been in the big leagues. And I think being here with the focus being all on winning, I think that’s helped a lot, and it really keeps your perspective after an 0-for-4 … it doesn’t really matter because the only thing that matters is winning the game. So it helps you kind of flush everything, show up the next day with a fresh mindset of, “I can’t worry about that 0-for-4 last night because we have a big game today that we gotta win.”

Q: Who are some of the swings you like watching?

A: I really like Will Smith’s swing from the Dodgers. Growing up, Barry Bonds, obviously, watching him hit was pretty impressive.

Q: Describe your swing.

A: I was very like in and out of the zone, so if my timing wasn’t perfect, I was popping it up, hitting a ground ball straight into the ground or just missing it altogether. Just being flatter has kind of just widened my margin of error so now when I’m late, it’s a line drive to left, and when I’m early it’s a fly ball to right.

Jake Bauers played in games for Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Seattle before a trade to the Yankees.
Jake Bauers played in games for Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Seattle before a trade to the Yankees.
Robert Sabo for the NY Post

Jake Bauers has 15 extra-base hits in 42 at-bats since joining the Yankees in the majors this season.
Jake Bauers has 15 extra-base hits in 42 at-bats since joining the Yankees in the majors this season.
Charles Wenzelberg

Q: Left field, right field or first base?

A: My favorite is wherever keeps me in the lineup, to be honest with you. Anything they need right now is what I’m willing to do. Like if they said, “Hey, do you think you can play shortstop tonight?” same answer, “Whatever you need me to do.”

Q: Describe the Subway Series.

A: That was fun, that was a good time. It was kind of crazy to see a stadium that was like almost 50/50 Mets fans/Yankees fans. I think I might have saw a couple of fistfights going down in the stands (laugh). It seems like from the short time that I’ve been here it feels like most of the games that we play are pretty intense, like everybody wants to come in and beat the Yankees, and it just makes it that much more enjoyable on a nightly basis.

Q: What was it like facing Justin Verlander?

A: I had seen him before in Tampa, but guys like him and [Max] Scherzer, these are Hall of Famers, right? So anytime you get a chance to play against ’em I feel like it’s a good test. I had some good at-bats off him, which was kind of a little bit of a boost in confidence where it’s like, OK, if you can go have good at-bats against Scherzer and Verlander, it’s who can’t you have good at bats off of, you know?

Q: Francisco Lindor was your teammate in Cleveland.

A: Pretty consistent I would say, day-to-day. I feel like that’s a common theme with kind of the top players in this game, it’s like they’re the same guy every day coming in. They have their routine, they stick to it, and seeing guys like Lindor go in and be the same guy every day, it’s something to aspire to for sure because if you start riding the wave, just start riding the ups and downs of this game, at some point, it’s gonna get low, and that can be tough to dig out of.

Jake Bauers (l.) and Francisco Lindor (r.) were teammates in 2019 before the Mets acquired Lindor two years later.
Jake Bauers (l.) and Francisco Lindor (r.) were teammates in 2019 before the Mets acquired Lindor two years later.
Getty Images

Q: What have you learned about Gerrit Cole?

A: He’s got a crazy, crazy baseball mind. Like he’s always watching video, he pays attention to the games even when he’s not pitching, and he’s quick to say something, quick to try and help hitter or pitcher. He’s a really smart dude, and he knows what he’s talking about and he knows how to dissect the game.

Q: Anthony Rizzo?

A: Listening to him talk about what his approach is gonna be against a given pitcher has definitely helped me being left-handed and maybe getting attacked the same way by a pitcher. If I can kind of hear what he’s trying to do any given night and think about it and see if that matches up with what I’m thinking, if I’m thinking something different, maybe he has something that I can add into my game plan. … It’s been super helpful.

Q: If you could face any pitcher in major league history, who would it be?

A: Randy Johnson feels like a good choice, but that’s like a sidearm left on left, that’s not gonna be very comfortable (smile). Or Mariano [Rivera].

Q: Why Mariano?

A: Just a legend, right? No one’s really hitting anything hard off him, so it would be interesting to see what that would look like.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in major league history?

A: I want to say [Aaron] Judge, but I’ve been able to, and it’s been pretty awesome to see the way he approaches the game, the way he approaches his at-bats. It’s been pretty impressive just to see a guy walk to the plate, and he’s not giving away any at-bats, which is not an easy thing to do. Just to be able to talk to him and kind of learn the way that he sees things and the way he approaches things, I think it’s actually helped me a lot.

Jake Bauers (l.) said that observing and learning from Aaron Judge (r.) has "actually helped me a lot."
Jake Bauers (l.) said that observing and learning from Aaron Judge (r.) has “actually helped me a lot.”
Getty Images

Q: How about if you had to go back in time?

A: I’d probably say … Tony Gwynn. Just probably one of the best all-around pure hitters that’s ever played.

Q: You’re living in a hotel.

A: Don’t mind it, don’t mind it. It’s tough living out of a suitcase for so long, but you kind of get used to it after a while.

Q: What are your favorite things about New York City?

A: People-watching sometimes. That can be entertaining. The restaurants for sure. I like just going out for like a morning walk, and everybody’s moving, everybody’s hustling on their way to something. It just seems like a city with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity.

Q: Why aren’t you on Twitter?

A: I had a problem with it early in my career where I’d be sitting there reading Twitter and then I would get these mentions, and it’s negative most of the time ’cause no one’s really tweeting at you for positive things. And so, we were talking about riding the waves of baseball, like when you’re going bad and your Twitter’s blowing up, and everybody’s telling you you suck, that takes a toll for sure. It was just something I had to distance myself from. … I’m trying to just kind of be as present as possible, right? Like it’s happening here, it’s happening in the Stadium, it’s not happening on Twitter, it’s not happening on Instagram, and so the more present I can be, the better I can focus myself come game time, and not worry about what Joe Blow sitting on his couch is saying, you know what I mean?

Q: Tell me about your father, Stu, and mother, Misty.

A: He was kind of the ultimate role model growing up. He didn’t have it perfect as a kid. He’s been through a lot of stuff in his life, and he still manages to be there for his family and those that he loves. He has an unconditional support no matter what’s going on. I aspire to be like him a lot, I think he’s wise, and I really like the way that he kind of views the world. And my mom is the ultimate nurturing, unconditional love mom-type, right? Like I can do no wrong, and she’s always there for me, she always gives me a hug when I need a hug, and I love her to death.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Mark Teixeira, Drake, Al Capone.

Q: Why Teixeira?

A: He was just probably one of my favorite players growing up. I was playing first base, hitting left-handed — I know he was a switch hitter — but just really liked watching him play, good first baseman, good hitter.

Q: Why Al Capone?

A: I feel like the stories would be incredible, right?

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “The Beach Bum.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Matthew McConaughey.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Scarlett Johansson.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Anything pasta, really.

Q: How would you describe what it’s like being a New York Yankee?

A: At first it was pretty wild, it was pretty wild putting on the pinstripes. It felt weird. It felt like, “What am I doing here?” kind of thing. Over the last couple of months, I’ve gotten a little bit more comfortable with it. Just trying to embrace everything, embrace the fans, embrace the expectations, embrace the little bit of extra pressure that you get, and I’m really enjoying myself.

Q: How would you describe Yankees fans?

A: Passionate. They want to win, they want a championship, right? And we as players, that’s what we want, too. We’re all in this together. It keeps you honest, for sure.

Jake Bauers, making a catch Wednesday against the Mariners, said that Yankees fans are "passionate" and want to win a World Series.
Jake Bauers, making a catch Wednesday against the Mariners, said that Yankees fans are “passionate” and want to win a World Series.
Charles Wenzelberg

Q: Yankees fans have been frustrated of late.

A: Every individual player’s gonna have ups and downs, just like a team is gonna have ups and downs. Obviously you don’t want to be going into Boston and getting swept, but at the same time it is June, and the goal is not to win games in June, the goal is to be the last team standing in October. And so I think when you look at teams that win championships, it rarely comes from a team that doesn’t ever go through anything. And so I think when you go through the swings of a baseball season, and you go through tough times, it kind of reveals the character of the team, like can you bounce back, can you show up the next day and still be ready to go? And I think that’s huge, like when you have a tough loss in the playoffs, are you gonna be able to come back the next day and be ready to go? And I think what you’re seeing right now is only gonna fortify the bond that we have in the clubhouse and strengthen our team.

Q: Goals?

A: Anytime I start looking too far ahead into the future, it creates a little bit of worry, it creates a little bit of added stress, so I’m really just trying to stay grounded in the moment and do what I can right now.

Q: What are you most proud of about yourself?

A: I didn’t know if I was ever gonna get back to the big leagues, so I think just being here, being a part of this team, embracing everything that that comes with and staying focused the way that I have throughout this whole thing, I think that’s probably what I’m most proud of.

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