Pettitte at Yankees camp as guest instructor
Lefty back in uniform for a few days, but enjoying life after baseball
TAMPA, Fla. -- The hundreds of fans behind the Yankees' dugout called out for Andy Pettitte to sign his name on their mementos, just like old times, their shrieks providing the backdrop for his conversations with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
As he stood near the infield grass, draped in a windbreaker that hid the familiar No. 46 underneath, Pettitte admitted that arriving in camp for the first time as a guest instructor had induced pangs of nostalgia for his playing days.
"I'd say a little bit, just because you're back around everybody," Pettitte said. "There's no doubt about that, when you get around the guys and stuff, and especially when you put the uniform back on."
Pettitte, 39, looks no less fit than he did the last time he pitched in a big league game, and he acknowledged it's funny to think that he spends his days throwing to Pony League hitters at home in Texas while 42-year-old Mariano Rivera still chugs away in the Majors.
"Then you take a step back," Pettitte said. "You evaluate where you're at, what you've been doing and the reasons that I retired -- to be with the family and spend time with them. Things are good. Things are really good; just loving life."
So Pettitte has no illusions about attempting a comeback; that's not going to happen. He's in town to enjoy what life is like as a retired Yankees legend, dressing in the coaches' locker room alongside the likes of Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage.
"I just told them maybe if they're looking for a lefty batting-practice thrower, that'd be fun, you know?" said Pettitte, who expects to stay for a few days before heading back to Houston. "I'm here to hang out and mess around with them a little bit, so that's kind of what I want to do."
It's an honor he has earned, having walked away as perhaps this generation's Whitey Ford, the owner of 240 big league victories and five World Series rings. However brief Pettitte's visit, his presence could benefit some of the staff, manager Joe Girardi said.
"You think about a lot of the young guys in camp, they've seen Andy pitch," Girardi said. "Not to say it in a negative way, but maybe they didn't really see Goose or Gator pitch a lot. But I want these young kids to pick all these guys' brains; you think about what Goose has done in his career, and Gator and Andy, there's a lot of knowledge there."
And as he surveyed the current crop of Yankees, Pettitte said he physically felt as though he could still keep up -- if he wanted to.
"You start training, working out and getting yourself into shape, I'd imagine you could," Pettitte said. "I retired, I felt, after one of my better years. I felt like I was at the point where I just kind of knew what I was doing mechanically out there on the mound. I retired to go home and be with my family."
Pettitte hasn't had much time to miss the game. He said that he hardly gets around to watching the Yankees on TV, adding that he actually seems to throw more now than when he played because of his children and their sports endeavors.
"It's hot in Houston, so you're always outside," Pettitte said. "The kids are always throwing. Baseball is in full tilt already. My oldest boy [Josh] is playing varsity baseball; they're five weeks into their season, so I need to throw with him.
"I'm coaching my 13-year-old boy's [Jared] team, so I'm catching more [bullpen sessions] now from the kids on the team than batting practice. I love catching; my legs are in shape from squatting down so much and catching."
For at least the next few days, though, his focus will be on the Yankees. Jeter said that it's a nice change to have Pettitte back in camp, noting that he has kept in touch with his longtime teammate since his retirement following the 2010 postseason loss to the Rangers.
"It's good to see him," Jeter said. "It's good for him to come on down and be around. You miss everyone when they leave, especially guys that've been here for a long time."
Jeter said that you can count him out for hitting against Pettitte, no matter how many times Pettitte promises not to drill him.
"No chance," Jeter said. "It'd be a waste of both of our time."
The experience is giving Pettitte a taste of what life could be like on the other side, but he isn't sure if he wants to coach anyone other than his family. As he told pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Pettitte has essentially discovered that it was easier for him to perform than to teach.
"I don't know if I could even try to help anybody, you know what I'm saying?" Pettitte said. "I know when your foot lands, your arm is supposed to be in a certain position and stuff like that. Other than that, I don't know if I could do a very good job. I guess I could say maybe -- once the kids all get gone, maybe I'll get stir crazy."