STATEN ISLAND, NY – Dan Fiorito stands in Yankee Stadium. A lifelong Yankees fan, he grew up watching the team and idolized such players like Derek Jeter. Having not been drafted in 2012, he was invited for a workout to showcase his talents.
It is a life-changing experience because he is about to sign as a non-drafted free agent with the New York Yankees, beginning his professional baseball career. Fiorito could not be happier, mostly because his childhood idols are still playing for the Bronx Bombers.
“For the first couple of years I played in the minors, I was around a lot of my childhood idols. Jeter was rehabbing at the time. [Andy] Pettitte and Mariano [Rivera] were still playing. It was a crazy time to be around so many guys that I looked up to as a kid,” he commented.
Fiorito, the new skipper for the Staten Island Yankees, no longer plays anymore, but now manages in the same league that he once played in only a couple of years ago. At 29-years-old, he is now the youngest manager in the history of the Staten Island Yankees, moving in front of Derek Shelton, the current manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the young manager, one of his favorite moments as a player was meeting Derek Jeter while he was rehabbing for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders in 2013.
“When I met him, I got starstruck,” he chuckled. “The problem was I knew so much about his background and I tried to keep it to small talk so that it would be a normal conversation.”
Even though Fiorito was shocked to be practicing with The Captain, he loved the opportunity to ask for their advice on the MLB.
“That is the biggest takeaway you can get from them. When you are given the opportunity to speak with them, you have to try and get as much out of them as you can,” he replied.
A Manhattanville College student, Fiorito played three years for the Valiants, leaving with a .384 average, 16 dingers and a slugging percentage of .671. Fiorito, like any other college athlete, wanted to go pro and this was his big chance. The invitational workout was like no other for Fiorito, especially because of where the workout was taking place.
“It was a surreal experience playing in Yankee Stadium. Playing in a stadium that big was such a special feeling,” he said.
Though Fiorito has been a manager for only two years, players and teammates have always gotten along with him. As a player, Fiorito was always a well-liked person, achieving good remarks from future Yankee star Aaron Judge and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel, as per reported by Chad Jennings.
“To have the respect of your peers and former teammates, that meant a lot to me,” said Fiorito.
If Fiorito was getting along with one of the top sluggers in baseball, then it seemed as if he was destined to be a coach one day. But for the first year skipper of the Staten Island ball club, being a manager is nothing like being a player.
“It really is night and day,” he said. “The difference is now you are pouring everything into the players. It’s no longer about yourself. When you play, you are competing to help the team win but you also have your own personal goals of making it to the big leagues. Now, as a coach, your objective is to get those kids to the big leagues.”
Reporting to Spring Training in 2017 as a player, Fiorito transitioned from player to coach. Having only been away from the game as a player for three years, he feels that is one of his best assets.
“I’m not that far removed from the game. In fact, many of the players that were with me in 2017 are still in the organization,” he said. “They know me as a player, which is great because they know that I have walked in their shoes and I’ve gone through the minor league grind.”
Fiorito is the embodiment of someone prolonging their professional sports career through the art of coaching. Though he is not a player anymore, he still gets excited at the beginning of the game.
“Sometimes when the National Anthem plays before the game, I still get the itch to go out there and play,” he said.