Flying high in AFL, Bird named Player of the Week

Flying high in AFL, Bird named Player of the Week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Greg Bird has not been to the new Yankee Stadium, but he said he drove past the old one.

Despite not treading on the hallowed ground in the Bronx, he has that Yankees feeling.

Bird is an up-and-coming first baseman who might be next in line to take over after Mark Teixeira leaves in a few years. He divided his time between Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2014 and had a solid season.

"The way we do things is second to none. It is an honor to represent them," Bird said on Monday after learning that he had been selected as the Arizona Fall League's Player of the Week, representing the Scottsdale Scorpions. "I don't think people on the outside understand what it is like. It is something special.

"To put on the uniform -- just to wear it, just to be a part of it -- is amazing, being in the same clubhouse [in Tampa, the Yankees' spring home] where all of the older players have been is a great place to be."

The left-handed-hitting 21-year-old, ranked 11th in the Yankees' system by, had quite a week leading up to the honor.

In four games, he hit .353, had a .421 on-base percentage, a .706 slugging percentage, a 1.130 OPS, two home runs, five RBIs, a pair of walks and three runs scored.

Entering this week's play, he was hitting .368 overall and was tied for the league lead in home runs (three), RBIs (10) and extra-base hits (six), and he was second in slugging percentage (.684) and hits (14).

Other Fall League Player of the Week nominees were Mesa Solar Sox outfielder Boog Powell (A's), Salt River Rafters infielder Rio Ruiz (Astros), Glendale Desert Dogs outfielder Scott Schebler (Dodgers) and Surprise Saguaros outfielder Nick Williams (Rangers).

Bird once was a catcher who switched to first, which he had played at various points.

He was born in Aurora, Colo., spent most of his first 10 years in Memphis before returning to Colorado. He was selected out of high school by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Bird has been pleased with his progress through the Yankees' system. He knew coming into the Fall League that it would be an upgrade from what he had been used to, even in Double-A.

"The talent level here is phenomenal," Bird said. "The guys are older [than I am], there is more consistency and everybody makes more plays. I knew a lot of the guys [from the Yankees' system], so it has been a smooth transition."

Bird plays two or three games at first each week and serves as the DH on other occasions.

"I want to make sure that I am prepared in whatever I'm going to be doing," he said. "[The Yankees] want you to be prepared every day, week-in, week-out, every day. That was a focus this year. They devoted the resources, used video. And their [coaching] staff really helped us."

Bird characterizes himself as a patient hitter, starting with walks. He has averaged 64 walks a season over his four Minor League campaigns, and had a career-high 107 with Class A Charleston in 2013.

"I've always tried to take a patient approach. I'd say I'm a gap-to-gap hitter, but I take what they give me. I haven't hit a lot of home runs [36 total], but I do have power," said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bird.

After the Fall League wraps up in mid-November, Bird said he will take a bit of time off, spending some time at Thanksgiving in San Antonio with his sister, who just gave birth to twins, and enjoying the Christmas holidays with his parents in Denver before returning to Tampa, where he makes his home.

The organization has not told Bird what it has in mind for him in 2015 -- what he does in the spring likely will have an impact -- but wherever he lands, he will have that Yankees feeling.

Don Ketchum is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.