02/24/10 6:20 PM EST
Comfy CC needs no further adjustment
Pinstriped life quite agreeable as ace enters second NY season
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
If it could be possible for Sabathia to feel even more at home than he did last year, when the left-handed ace seemingly gained two dozen best friends overnight, this Spring Training is giving him the opportunity.
Sabathia made a promise to himself when he signed a $161 million contract that he was not going to let anything -- pressure, demands, New York City -- affect him. With a World Series title already under his belt, he is more than holding up his end of the deal.
"I just tried to enjoy the time and my teammates," Sabathia said after a morning workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. "I wanted to just embrace the history of the franchise. I had to make sure I stayed myself and not change at all."
The Yankees' attraction to Sabathia last winter came easily, as his resume boasted the credentials of one of the game's top starting pitchers -- a heat-throwing, durable innings-eater with an affable attitude and a winning reputation.
Yet having only played for the Indians and Brewers to that point in his career, it would have been justifiable for Sabathia to harbor some lingering concerns about what it might be like playing for the Yankees. He has been pleased to learn many of the tales have been exaggerated.
"It's totally different from what people think we are," Sabathia said. "We have a lot of fun and I think that translates to winning on the field. I got close to a lot of guys here pretty quick."
There was some thought during Sabathia's free-agency period that he might prefer to head to the West Coast, playing for a team closer to his childhood home. No doubt, the bright lights of Manhattan are a long way from Vallejo, Calif.
But Sabathia did the next best thing after signing his big deal with the Yankees. If he was going to do the East Coast, he'd do it all the way, relocating with his wife, Amber, and their family to set down new roots in the leafy suburb of Alpine, N.J.
"We knew it was a great place to live," Sabathia said. "We did our research in Jersey and we were excited about the change. I fell in love with this house as soon as I walked in. It has worked out great so far. The kids love it, my wife loves it and we're happy."
The Sabathias made sure to score a home with some space to grow, and they'll be able to use it -- Sabathia came to camp with news that Amber is pregnant with the couple's fourth child, joining son C.C. III and daughters Jaden and Cyia.
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He joked that it was a good thing they splurged for extra bedrooms, and said that his family especially is fond of the new area.
"My neighborhood has a lot of kids my son's age that he can run around with," Sabathia said. "It's kind of like an old-school neighborhood, where there's a lot of kids playing out in the street and things like that.
"For me, I love that it's close to the park. It takes me 15 minutes to get to Yankee Stadium."
Of course, that convenient commute to the office might not be as enjoyable if Sabathia wasn't also comfortable there. His results on the field spoke volumes in 2009, tying for the big league lead with 19 victories before securing honors as the MVP of the American League Championship Series against the Angels.
The supporting cast around him, many of whom Sabathia counted as legitimate friends who made field trips to NBA games and restaurants during the season, made for an easier transition.
"In here, I feel like it's less pressure," Sabathia said. "You've got A-Rod on your team, you've got [Derek] Jeter, you've got [Jorge] Posada. You've got these great players. All you've got to do is your part and the team is going to win."
He also found that handling the New York media wasn't as daunting as some would believe. Sabathia struck up a solid working relationship with the press and was lauded by many for being honest and accessible.
"The responsibility as far as the media goes is just the day before and the day that I pitched," Sabathia said. "Everybody talked about how much it was, but it wasn't anything different from what I expected. It's obviously more, but I felt like I got adjusted pretty good during Spring Training. That made it easier during the season."
Sabathia continues to keep his California home and travels from coast to coast often during the holidays, saying that it is "special" to have the chance to go back and see his friends and family.
But Sabathia seems convinced more than ever that he made the right decision in coming to the Yankees. After gathering great followings in Cleveland and Milwaukee, New York has also come around quickly to support him, and is a place he is proud to call his home.
"These are the greatest fans," Sabathia said. "They know their stuff. They give it everything they have, they cheer and it's just a great place to be."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.