Baseball

Luke Voit, the Yankees next Roger Maris?

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Luke Voit is a 30-year-old 6′ 3″ 225-pound first baseman for the New York Yankees. Luke has had a relatively unremarkable ten-year baseball career, four in the majors, but how he got to the Yankees and what he has done while here is an interesting and even exciting story for the late bloomer.

Luke was born in Wildwood, Missouri, and attended Lafayette High School there. In high school, he played football as a fullback and middle linebacker. He also played baseball, where he got a lot of experience. In his first three years, he played first base and third base. Interestingly in his senior year, he played catcher. Shoulder injuries while in high school ended any career he may have had in football.

After his senior year at Lafayette, he was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cards. He made his professional debut with the State College Spikes of class A, New York/Penn League. That year he batted .242 with 2 home runs and 16 RBI’s in 46 games played.

Throughout his minor league career, he was always on the edge of being good. In June of 2017, the Cards promoted him to the bigs. In July of 2017, In his very first at-bat, he was plunked in the back. After 114 at-bats, he hit his first home run. He ended the season with a batting average of .246 with four home runs and 18 RBI’s, still unremarkable but good enough to be used in a trade by the Cards to get players they needed.

In July of 2018, the Cards traded Luke Voit to the New York Yankees and bonus pool money to get pitcher Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. The Yanks assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yanks swiftly promoted him to the majors, in part to play first, in the absence of Greg Bird, but after batting .188 in five games, they demoted him back to Scranton. After playing better in the minors and with the injury to Didi Gregorius, he was again called up to the Stadium. This time something happened; he seemed to embrace the limelight and energy of New York.

Playing for Greg Bird, he soon had hit ten home runs, and after hitting .458, he was named MLB player of the week on October 1st. He ended the season hitting .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI’s in just 39 games. In the 2018 Wild Card game, he hit a two-run triple to help the Yankees win 7-2. That triple seemed to have given Luke a place as a Yankee favorite.

During spring training in 2019, he, with Bird back playing, competed for playing first base when the season started. Since then, with Bird back on the IL and his play at 1st, and better hitting than Bird, it was almost solidified that he will be our 1st baseman. On April 29, 2019, he
was named AL Player of the Week, hitting .433 with 13 hits, 4 home runs, and 10 RBI’s in the previous week. It appeared that he found his place with the Yankees and the Yankee fans.

However, Voit didn’t escape the injury plague that hit the team in 2019. An abdominal injury right around the London series sidelined him, continued to be problematic upon Voit’s return, and eventually required surgery once the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. Voit was dreadful after getting hurt, but I think his performance pre-injury gets overlooked easily. Voit in 2019 was out for two stints. That injury caused him to play in only 118 games.

Before his season was derailed, he led the New York Yankees; he led the team in home runs and was having a better season than Gleyber Torres or DJ LeMahieu. At the plate, he seldom wasted an at-bat. He doesn’t swing at bad pitches and only had one pop-up in the first half of the season.

During the 2019 offseason, along with staying in shape, Voit wrote a children’s book. “Luke’s Baseball Story.” It’s a book about his baseball life as a child and today.  Luke said the original intent was to take the book and read it to kids’ classes in the Bronx.  That plan fell through when the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible.  He remembered when he met a famous athlete as a kid, he was overwhelmed and wanted the kids to experience that, as he taught them about hard work to made their dreams come true.

Fast forward to the bizarre 2020 baseball season.  Luke played well in spring training and summer camp.  When the shortened season started, Voit got his first hit in the last game of the Washington Nationals series, and it was a home run.  Little did the New York Yankees know at the time that that hit would start a season for Luke Voit that might make him last year’s Yankees MVP; however, DJ LeMahieu took that honor. In the next series against the Orioles, he would get two hits, one of them a homer that drove in four runs.  At one point in the season in ten games, he hit seven home runs. He ended the 2020 season 9th in the MLB MVP voting.

At the beginning of the season, it was assumed that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge would have the most significant impact on the Yankees. As it turned out, neither of them could stay healthy enough to stay on the field.  Voit has been healthy; he has had his best play in his three years with the Yankees. He had an enviable OPS of .948.  The book writer for kids ended his 2020 campaign hitting .277 with an amazing 22 home runs for the most in all of baseball. To put that into perspective in a normal season equates to almost 60 home runs, just one short of Roger Maris’s record of 61 in 1961.

Luke Voit, during August of 2019, married his longtime sweetheart Victoria Rigman. They both attended the same school, Lafayette High School. Interestingly, Luke was on the baseball team, and Tori was a cheerleader for the school team. Luke has a younger brother John, who played defensive tackle with the Army Black Knights football team. Luke works out regularly and continues to challenge himself to be the best he can be, and he looks forward to a productive 2021 season.

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