Yanks shelve gear for team-building exercise

Yanks shelve gear for team-building exercise

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees stashed their gloves and bats on Tuesday in favor of a series of team-building exercises, with manager Joe Girardi seeking an opportunity for his players to get to know each other a little bit better off the field.

On the eve of the club's Grapefruit League opener, the practice fields were empty so that the Yankees could gather in a conference room at George M. Steinbrenner Field for activities led by Steve Shenbaum, founder of the "game on" program.

"Today was fun. We laughed a lot," Alex Rodriguez said. "I'm one who believes we swing too much anyway. How much can you actually swing or catch a ball? I think it's important to get to know each other."

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Shenbaum has visited Yankees camp in the past. In 2012, he led a group improv session with the players. Girardi said that his activities on Tuesday focused on communication, with every player in camp playing games. The wins and losses there are secondary to the time spent together, which the Yankees hope will translate on the field.

"We had 31 pitchers in camp last year and we used 31 pitchers during the course of the season," Girardi said. "The big thing that I want is, when the players come up, that they're comfortable and that they know their teammates. That they feel good in their surroundings and feel safe, know they can trust the guys next to them. That's the important thing."

Outfielder Aaron Hicks said that the activities got players out of their comfort zones, and that created a loose environment.

"You get to see different peoples' personalities and what guys are like. It feels good," Hicks said. "You see guys are easily approachable, and it's definitely something you want when coming to a new team."

Rodriguez said that there were opportunities for the players to share stories from their lives during the morning session, which took place behind closed doors.

"It's just a feel for the whole room, a lot of laughter," Rodriguez said. "People just sharing great stories. I think one of the biggest thing about playing in the big leagues is you have to feel comfortable and you have to feel comfortable and trust the guys around you. I think today was a great exercise for that."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.