For Yankees manager Aaron Boone, getting off the plane in Southern California evokes childhood memories. All he has to do is smell the familiar salty air.
"It does, in a lot of ways, feel like home when I come here," he said. "It's just cool to be back. Usually I get to see some family and some friends, so it's always good to come to the West Coast."
Boone is in town as the Yankees play the Angels in a four-game series this week at Angel Stadium, a place that he knows well. He grew up in nearby Villa Park and played college ball at USC. His father, Bob, spent seven years with the then-California Angels.
The younger Boone vividly remembers attending games as a kid with his friends, shagging fly balls and trying to rob home runs. Back then, before the park underwent renovations in 1997, the green, nylon fence stretched all the way across the outfield.
"We used to go out and shag and rob home runs all the time," Boone said. "One of the ways you do it is you run and stick your spike into the wall and try to climb it — you end up slicing the wall. We were doing that stuff all the time. It was so much fun."
Boone's childhood memories at Angels Stadium helped paved the path for a 12-year major league career, a stint in broadcasting and now a job as the Yankees manager.
"I was lucky that I got to grow up around a lot of great teams and great players, big league stadiums," Boone said. "It was a really fun way for me to grow up. Something I appreciate a lot and this is a reminder of it."
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Boone acknowledged that the stadium looks a little different now. The renovations have kept baseball's fourth-oldest stadium modern, he said, and he was impressed by the playing surface.
And, of course, he took the opportunity this week to shag a few fly balls from his hitters during batting practice.
But, like the Angel Stadium the 46-year-old Boone grew up in, it isn't the same.
"I can't really rob them like I used to," he said. "Mentally, I can. The body doesn't really follow suit when I go to jump for one."