Joe Girardi, manager of the World Champion New York Yankees, made a visit to today's practice in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center fieldhouse. Girardi didn't speak with reporters, but he did talk with a few Jets, in particular head coach Rex Ryan, who invited him, and QB Mark Sanchez, and it wasn't just idle cross-sport chit-chat.
Ryan said that in calling Yankees president Randy Levine this morning and making a request for a guru from the champs this morning, he didn't think he'd be getting the pinstriped skipper himself.
"I had Joe come out here and teach Sanchez how to slide. That's the truth," Ryan said. "We had a little sliding mat out here. I told Schotty [Brian Schottenheimer], 'I'm going over your head. I'm going over [Matt] Cavanaugh's head. I'm going over my head. We're bringing in a world champ to get this done.' We did have Joe Girardi out here and quite honestly, we spent 10 minutes out there."
"Coach said he'd have someone out today to work with me on sliding," said Sanchez. "I thought he meant it would be one of our coaches or a quarterback coach. It meant a lot to me personally for [Girardi] to come out, take time out of his schedule, his vacation and celebration time, to help me out with something like sliding. There's nobody better to get coaching from than him, especially in this area. Really cool. To meet his son and throw a ball around was fun as well. It was great."
Sanchez, of course, has been Mr. Head First. He said he always slid that way in baseball growing up and he's led with his helmet on a few occasions this season. On Sunday Sanchez had one head-first scramble. And it might've been hard to slide while being chased by Panthers CB Richard Marshall but regardless, when Marshall caught him on his scramble by the Jets sideline, Sanchez came up with that sore left knee and missed four offensive plays before returning.
What specifically did Girardi stress to the Jets' rookie QB?
"Hook my leg, because I wear that brace on my left leg so you don't want to hook that leg into the ground because it might get stuck," Sanchez said. "He showed me how to do it with the opposite leg and hook that leg under, how to protect the ball while I am sliding and try not to fall on one side or the other on my shoulder, just absorb the blow with my butt and my legs. It was important for me to learn that and I really appreciated it."
"I thought if you're teaching sliding, then who's better to teach than somebody in baseball and Joe Girardi's the best there is," Ryan said. "He was gracious enough to come down. I had no idea who would come down, but I knew whoever it would be from the Yankees would be a lot more impactful than if I would teach Sanchez how to slide."
It may sound like a fun interlude but Ryan was quite serious about why he reached out to the Yankees for a little star power to catch the attention of his young QB.
"I think Mark sees that when we bring Joe Girardi in, this is all about business," Ryan said. "Mark understands that. We kid about the Sanchize name, but he's the face of our franchise. We've got to keep him healthy. ... Really, you saw his confidence really come up from the time Girardi spent with him."