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Didi Gregorius interview: Replacing Derek Jeter, team chemistry, and emoji skills

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Pinstripe Alley chats with the Yankees’ shortstop about life in New York.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When thinking of the greatest trades of Brian Cashman’s tenure as Yankees GM, the Didi Gregorius trade seems like it is likely to go down as one of the very best. Cashman had to go out and replace a lifelong Yankee and Hall of Fame player when he swung a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers that sent Shane Greene to Detroit and brought Didi Gregorius to New York.

Since then, Gregorius has been absolutely everything any Yankees fan could have hoped for. Didi’s defense is outstanding, his offense has blossomed right before our eyes, and his personality makes him an easy fan favorite. Sir Didi has become one of the cornerstones of the Yankees’ new movement.

I was lucky enough to get to chat with Didi on the phone this week to pick his brain a bit about everything from replacing Jeter to emojis. One thing I can safely say is that his personality is 100% authentic to what you see on Twitter and television. He is exactly the same. Many people being interviewed are pretty straight to the point because some stranger is asking them rapid fire questions, but talking to Didi was truly a treat.

Below is the transcript of our conversation. Hope you enjoy it!

Tanya Bondurant: Did you always know that you’d end up being a baseball player? How did you get started playing the game?

Didi Gregorius: For me, baseball is my family tradition. My mom played softball, my dad played baseball, brother played baseball, grandpa played baseball, so that’s something for me that I really appreciate doing. I love to play baseball. Even though they gave me some options if I wanted to play any other sports, in the end I told them I’m going to stick with baseball.

Tanya: You came to New York having to replace Derek Jeter, which couldn’t have been easy, but it feels like the fans have really embraced you. What has your time in New York been like? What are your favorite things about the city?

Didi: My time in New York has been great. One thing I like about the fans is that if we do something wrong, they’ll let you know right away. They’ll boo you, they’ll do anything. But if you do something good, they’ll cheer. They always want you to do good so that’s why they are like that. I think that makes you a better person, a better player every time you go out there. You want to play good for the fans so that’s really important.

Everything has been the same with these guys. The fans have been amazing. Me coming to play after Derek Jeter, after his long career that he had here in New York, is just a nice opportunity for me to just play the game and try to be the best player I can be.

Tanya: Your offensive game has really taken off with the Yankees, to the point that you’re now batting cleanup. What has been the secret to unlocking some of that power?

Didi: The secret? I think there is no secret. [laughing] I’ve been doing the same thing since I got here for my first year in 2015. I think nothing has changed, I’m just trying to improve my game. That’s all I’m trying to do, so I think that’s all that’s been going on right now so far.

Tanya: From an observer’s standpoint, this team looks like it’s a lot of fun to be around. How you think that kind of chemistry has played into their success this season?

Didi: I mean, it’s good because you know everybody is looser, everybody is excited. Everybody has started to show what they’ve got, so I think that’s what is going on. In 2016, last year we started the season and we didn’t start good with all of the guys that we had. Then they traded away most of our key guys that we had and called all of the young guys up and that’s what got us going too because now we’ve got young guys also.

I think we surprised a lot of people that we are this close to the Wild Card now after being expected to be like last in our division. But it’s a great group of young guys. Everybody is happy to play with each other, everybody is ready to go, so I think that’s what’s going on.

Tanya: Your postgame victory tweets are the stuff of legend now. Which teammate was the hardest to assign an emoji to?

Didi: [laughing] None of ‘em.

Tanya: You’re just that good.

Didi: Yep.

Tanya: Do you have a favorite one?

Didi: Uhhh, all of ‘em!

Tanya: If your teammates used an emoji for you, which one would it be?

Didi: I have no clue, to be honest. I have no clue which one they would pick. [Note: Please leave your choice for what Didi’s emoji should be in the comments below.]

Tanya: What do you feel like has been your greatest accomplishment as a Yankee so far, and what is your biggest goal going forward?

Didi: My biggest accomplishment, I don’t know. [laughing] Because I’m still trying to improve, you know. I’m never satisfied with myself. That’s one thing. I wouldn’t say I’ve accomplished anything yet because we didn’t win a ring yet. That’s what we play for. I think that’s one of the biggest accomplishments you can get when you’re playing for a team.

Special thanks to Delta Airlines for this interview opportunity. Delta has been the official airline of the Yankees since 2009. Didi is an ambassador for the Delta Dugout program, which is a season-long promotion that encourages fans to interact with their favorite team for the chance to win memorable experiences such as a trip to see the Yankees play on the road next season. You can still register for a few more days at www.deltadugout.com. Go sign up now!