The marquees circling the outer rim of the Stadium proclaimed "The New York Yankees welcome Aaron Boone."
Boone officially was introduced as the 33rd manager in team history on Wednesday, donning pinstripes again – and choosing No. 17 – as if he never left following his heroic turn during the 2003 postseason.
"This is a special day for me and my family," Boone, who was accompanied on stage by his wife Laura, said during his introductory press conference in the Bronx. "I want to thank the Steinbrenner family to entrusting me with this position. It feels like the chance of a lifetime for me.
"Obviously, this is a team with loads of talent, a team that in many ways came of age this year and arrived. I'm really comfortable that me and my staff will be part of this team taking the next step."
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Boone, 44, was selected from a pool of six candidates – which also included Hensley Meulens, Carlos Beltran, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge and Chris Woodward – interviewed by GM Brian Cashman. Boone signed a three-year contract with a team option for 2021 to replace Joe Girardi, who was not retained despite leading the Yanks to Game 7 of the ALCS against Houston in October.
"I know it's been a long road and I know a lot of people are surprised we're actually here," Cashman said. "We are very proud to be introducing someone we think will be a great asset to this organization."
A third-generation major-leaguer with his grandfather (Ray Boone), his father (Bob) and his brother (Bret), Aaron played 12 major-league seasons as an infielder with Cincinnati (1997-2003), the Yankees (2003), Cleveland, Florida, Washington and Houston.
His walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston's Tim Wakefield propelled the Yankees to World Series, which they lost to the Marlins. He suffered a torn ACL playing pickup basketball that offseason and never played for the Yanks again, prompting the team to acquire Alex Rodriguez as his third-base replacement.
Boone never has coached or managed in the majors, serving as a TV analyst for ESPN since retirement, but he reiterated that his life in baseball prepared him for the challenge. Joe Torre (12 seasons) and Girardi (10) are the only others to manage the Yanks since 1996.
"Certainly the most important thing is going to be my relationship with players," Boone said. "Hopefully it starts obviously with a relationship, but that's a respect you earn. I think hopefully in short order I'll be able to earn that respect."
He called the seven-hour interview "long, tough and so fun."