Alfonso Soriano, left fielder and DH for the New York Yankees, started playing professional baseball in Japan in 1996. Two years later, he was signed as a free agent by the Yankees. After just a short time in the minor leagues, the Yankees called him up in 1999 to play with the team. He played, however, in just nine games with the Yankees that year and only 22 games in 2000.
New York Yankees
Mariano Rivera, closer for the New York Yankees, is probably the best closer in MLB's history. Rivera, who has spent his entire career in a Yankees uniform, holds the major league record for career saves. With all of his accomplishments, Rivera, who will be retiring at the end of the 2013 season, is certain to find himself inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.
Hiroki Kuroda, starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, started playing professional baseball in Japan. His father was also a professional player in Japan. Kuroda played in Japan from 1997 through 2007, when he was offered a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his time in Japan, Kuroda won a Gold Glove and he led his league in wins and ERA.
Andy Pettitte, starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, first signed with the Yankees in 1991. He started in their minor league teams, pitching in the minors from 1991 through 1994. In 1995, Pettitte pitched in 31 games for the Yankees. That season, he had a 12-9 record, with a 4.17 ERA and 114 strikeouts to 63 walks. He stayed with the Yankees through 2003, becoming a free agent after the 2003 season ended. While with the Yankees, Pettitte won the American League Championship series MVP award in 2001 and the Warren Spahn award in 2003.
CC Sabathia, ace starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, was an outstanding athlete in high school, playing baseball, basketball, and football. In his senior year, he had a 6-0 win-loss record with a 0.77 ERA. Although Sabathia was planning to play football for the University of Hawaii, he changed his plans when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1998. In 2001, the Indians called Sabathia up and, at age 21, he became the youngest player in the major leagues at that time.
Vernon Wells, left fielder for the New York Yankees, has spent most of his career at center field but this year he has been asked to play left field and, on one or two occasions, first base and third base. He started on his way to a professional career in high school, playing both football and baseball. In his senior year, he batted an impressive .565.
Ichiro Suzuki, right fielder for the New York Yankees, began his professional baseball career in Japan. He started playing on a team at the age of seven and by the time he was in high school, he was already a skilled player. He started his career as a pitcher but he was a threat with the bat in high school, batting .505. He spent two years in the Japanese minor leagues before making his first major league appearance in 1992.
Mark Teixeira, power hitting first baseman for the New York Yankees, was already a top baseball player in high school and the Boston Red Sox wanted to sign him in 1998 when he was only 18. Teixeira preferred getting an education first at Georgia Tech, where he again shone as a baseball player. In 2001, with a batting average of .427, Teixeira received the Dick Howser Trophy as national college baseball player of the year. Later that year, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers.
Kevin Youkilis, relief third baseman for the New York Yankees, played for over eight years with the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in June, 2012. Youkilis was first signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2001 after setting baseball records in college. He had the most home runs and walks of any University of Cincinnati baseball player and he batted .366 during his college years.
Robinson Cano, power hitting second baseman for the New York Yankees, was first signed by the Yankees in 2001 and he made his first appearance for them in 2005. Since that time, he has won six major awards: four Silver Slugger awards (2006, 2010-2012), two Gold Gloves (2010, 2012), and this year's World Baseball Classic's MVP award.
Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees since 2008, began his major league baseball career as a catcher in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs. He played for the Cubs for four seasons before moving to the Colorado Rockies in 1993. Three years later, Girardi was traded to the New York Yankees, serving as their regular catcher through four seasons, including through three World Series (1996, 1998, 1999). Girardi went back to the Chicago Cubs in 2000 and played with them until 2003, when he switched to the St. Louis Cardinals for what turned out to be his last season as a player.