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A new generation of Yankees’ “Old Timers”

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Phil Hughes is just the beginning. Which modern Yankees could make an Old Timers’ Day appearance soon?

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees, Game 3 Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Old Timers’ Day is one of the most fun times of the year at Yankee Stadium. It’s a chance to see several legacy-era Yankees like Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry, and also a time to see some more modern-era favorites suit up and play one more time, such as Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui.

The first-time Old Timers are always one of the best parts of the event. In recent years, the Old Timers’ debuts of Mariano Rivera, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher and Johnny Damon have been highlights, and showed that these guys still have some game left in them.

Assuming this year’s version of the game still happens in the suspended 2020 season, the Yankees reached out to perhaps the youngest Old Timer in history, ex-Yankee Phil Hughes. The former top prospect is just 33-years-old and last pitched in the majors in 2018. Hughes was (jokingly) taken aback at the insinuation of him being an “Old-Timer:”

Hughes didn’t clarify if he accepted the invite or not, but now that the Yankees have moved into the 2010s for Old-Timers’ invites, it’s fair to wonder: which modern Yankees could be next on the list of potential invitees?

One former Yankees fan favorite who recently retired could be on the short list for an invite – Curtis Granderson. The Grandy Man spent his prime years with the Yankees and was beloved for his effort on the field and demeanor with fans and in the community. He’d be a shoe-in for an invite, even if he’s a little young at 39.

Staying in the outfield, Raul Ibanez would be another great choice. Ibanez only spent one year as a Yankee and was unremarkable for most of it at age 40, but contributed some of the biggest postseason home runs of the decade vs. the Orioles and Tigers.

He’s not a Yankees lifer by any means, but Ibanez’s unexpected contributions have earned him a special place in the hearts of Yankees fans forever.

Two more veterans on that 2012 team that would bring the house down are Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda. Ichiro was supposed to be past his prime when the Yankees got him at the trade deadline, but he hit .322 as a Yankee that season and played two more seasons in pinstripes. As for Kuroda, he was one of the most consistent starters the Yankees had this decade and a favorite in the Pinstripe Alley community.

If Hughes got an invite, then perhaps Joba Chamberlain could also be on the list. These two have a complicated legacy – they were supposed to anchor the Yankees’ rotation for years, but ultimately ended up as merely average swingmen who shuttled between starting and relief. They didn’t exactly depart as fan favorites, but time heals all wounds. It might be fun to welcome Chamberlain and Hughes back into the fold, and reminisce about the good memories.

A Yankee for seven years (!), Ivan Nova is still active and also just 33 years old, but has the makings of an Old Timers’ Day staple. Nova was always up and down, but he was always there when Joe Girardi needed someone to turn to. He’s definitely still got some bullets in his arm.

Shockingly, Alfonso Soriano hasn’t been to an Old Timers’ Day yet. The two-time Yankee offered up memories for two generations of Yankees fans, including two 30-30 seasons in the early 2000s and a bonkers homer spree in August 2013 at age 37. He could play second base or left field, and versatility always goes a long way at Old Timers’ Day.

While it’s fun to speculate on some lesser-known favorites, there are a few legends who have to be invited back assuming a workable schedule. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira should all receive invites soon, as should Brett Gardner when he hangs up his cleats.

One last interesting choice to ponder? Robinson Cano. Cano is arguably the best second baseman in franchise history, but fans turned on him after he left the Yankees after 2013. He has also since been suspended for steroid use. Predicting fan reception is tricky, but Yankees fans should have gotten over whatever beef they had with Cano “chasing the money” by the time he becomes eligible for Old Timers’ Days around 2025. I felt hurt when Cano left seven years ago, but I know I’d love to see him back in pinstripes, if only to say “Robbie Cano, don’tcha know!” one more time.

What do you say, Yankees fans? Are there any other alumni you’d love to see back for Old Timers’ Day, or any players mentioned above that you wouldn’t want to see back?