His number one protégé is Justin Smoak — a young player who gives you the sense that he has played forever, but just short of his potential. Critics wonder when he will put it all together. He has power, he switch-hits, he can field, he has a good sense of the strike zone. Cano won him over from the start, and he made it clear to Smoak that he would be demanding more from him.
Cano broke out the Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long’s book on pregame ritual. He shares the same drills with his new teammates, making everyone accountable and providing access to tips that helped him year in and year out. And he is continuing his reputation of playing every single day, just as he did in New York, acknowledging that “ironmen” can teach lessons by showing it, not just talking it.
As Smoak described it, “I always knew what I needed to do, but with Cano here, I see it getting done.” Cano has actualized possibility. He personifies the hopes and goals of a team that has been counted out, and he’s made it real for players who have had the talent, but just needed to make it tangible.
In many ways, that may be another way to honor a legacy: to pass it on and prove that it can work in another environment. It is a way to celebrate it on a larger scale, to show that the lessons are applicable in other clubhouses, in new cultures. I would imagine Kevin Long or any hitting coach would be happy to know his drills help all players because they embody a universal truth. The ultimate compliment to a teacher.
[Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images]