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Luke Weaver opens up about becoming Yankees’ ‘silent assassin’ after career-altering struggles

Yankees reliever Luke Weaver has made his way around the league, but he is having his best season yet in The Bronx. He takes a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What is different about being a New York Yankee?

A: Well, the color scheme is one. I’m just joking. Yeah, it’s different because I grew up as a Cardinal through the system, right? And there’s a lot of history in that organization. But when you look at all the 30 teams and then you look at just the history, I know a lot of people talk about it, but there’s just nothing quite like it. And the platform that’s created in that city, and the expectations that come with it are all just a part of the persona, just the aura, just kind of the Mecca of all teams in a sense.

Q: How would you describe the Yankees’ aura?

A: Just expectation of winning. I think it’s just like it’s ingrained into the fans. Obviously they’ve had a ton of success watching many teams achieve the final stage. The expectation and that aura just comes with the pressures that you enjoy as a player, because you know you’re fighting and playing for something that’s bigger than you and something that feeds into your soul.

Q: What was it like for you putting on the pinstripes for the first time?

A: Yeah, definitely a cool moment, definitely a double-take. Maybe you’re looking in the mirror, maybe you’re looking just down at the fabric. It’s one of those things I think most players, but speaking for myself … you never thought you’d be a Yankee until you were, and it’s definitely something that I look back on and I’ll be grateful and appreciative that I was able to put on the pinstripes and be part of that fraternity.

Q: If you were to give a recruiting pitch to Juan Soto to sign long-term with the Yankees, how would you do it?

A: (laugh) Well, it sounds like you want me to give the front office an idea from an insider’s access standpoint, and I don’t know if I could do that — no I’m joking. Half the time I can’t get guys to come do this or that, let alone get him to sign a whatever amount of contract. … I’d just wine and dine him. I’d find out all the things that he really enjoys and just take one out of the textbook and make sure he was set up nice and take care of his family and just about get him on the brink of like, “Well now you kind of have to sign something.” I think you can’t go wrong with some dessert, and all the essentials in between.

Q: What amazes you or impresses you the most about him?

A: I mean, there’s a list for sure. Playing against him for a while, obviously you know he’s a great player, he plays with a type of demeanor that is different from a lot of players, and it makes him great. I think the one thing that impressed me most is just who he is as a person. I’ve been extremely impressed on how he carries himself, his work ethic, and then as a teammate, sharing knowledge, receiving wisdom. … I’ve just been very impressed with everything he does on the baseball field and how it matches up so well with who he is as a person. He’s a guy that if I never play with him again, he’s got a fan for life.

Juan Soto AP

Q: What impresses you about Anthony Volpe?

A: How mature he is as a young guy. This is a very, very difficult place to play. He came out last year and proved himself right out of the gates, and he’s taken over a position that people got real comfortable with Derek Jeter there. He’s got a big smile, he’s got a great head on his shoulders, and he’s really smart, and he takes it really serious. I think the most important part is he has fun along the way, and I think that’s stuff that these older veterans are instilling in him and carrying him under their wing with.

Q: Do you sense a hunger in this Yankees team to win a World Series for the first time since 2009?

A: (Chuckle) We just simply look at the size of most of our players, I’d say their appetites are pretty big. At the end of the day, everybody wants it badly. As bad as fans want it, I think at the end of the day we want it just as bad, if not more. For me, I’ve never gotten to the playoffs, so I want more than anything just to get there, but to tell me that I can go win a World Series or have a chance to on this team just fires me up and it propels me to go, so I can imagine how these other guys are feeling.

Q: Do you guys feel like you’re a championship team?

A: I don’t think we think that way right now because we’re just focused on the game-to-game, but when we look up at the end of the season and you ask that same question, every single one of us would have said there’s not a doubt in our mind that we had the ability to do this.

Q: Describe your mentality on the mound.

A: Silent assassin. … The type of person who you never saw coming. … I guess it would be like a movie, right? I’d be like someone that’s blending into the public but yet is doing things behind the scenes to help save the city. … I try to think of like I’m just blending in like a normal dude, just this skinny, tallish guy, but on the mound there’s just like ability and ferociousness that’s ready to take on any task and save the day if need be.

Luke Weaver Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Do you miss starting, and how do you explain your success adapting to the bullpen?

A: Starting is definitely an awesome position. … At the end of the day, life takes you one way or another, especially your career, and you just adjust, and the bullpen is not any much easier. It’s got its own (chuckle) ways of making it tough, and even giving you back success, so it was just all about adjustments, it was all about the mindset of accepting where I’m at and being present with it, and then finding ways to tailor routines and ways to get to specific places on the mound or self-adjustments and doing that in a smaller span as opposed to pushing it through six innings or so.

Q: Is there one pitch that you believe has taken you to a different level?

A: Well, I don’t know if it’s necessarily one pitch as it is feeling healthy and confident. I think the cutter has really helped bridge the gap, having been a fastball-changeup guy majority of my life, it’s helped create a little bit of balance in the two.

Q: What was the low point when you lost your confidence?

A: It’s tough at this level. It comes early as a young player, it comes in the middle and it comes late. It shows up in all different ways, it comes quick and it leaves slow, and sometimes there’s times where it doesn’t come at all for a while. I think at the end of the day you have to treat it as if it’s a storm. Most storms are going to come in and cause some havoc, then you’re going to see some sunshine soon after, or at least hopeful to see it. But there’s just going to be some of that grind, some of that trial-and-error to what’s going on, but you just gotta keep the confidence alive and know that what you’ve done has gotten you there, and there’s ways to help and there’s people that want to help you do it.

Q: What’s your weight right now?

A: Well, that’s personal. (Laugh). I’m usually sitting around 180.

Q: How does a guy … I guess skinny, I can call you skinny …

A: Wiry!

Q: OK, how does a wiry guy like you …

A: There we go.

Q: Throw 97 mph? Are you at 97 now?

A: Yeah, I’ve been able to hit that in games, and I think a couple of times I’ve hit 98. … To your question, I don’t know, it’s just always been in my DNA. I grew up and played shortstop all the time and pitched kind of secondary and just always had a good arm, just always had the arm speed, and never really had the (chuckle) heavy frame by any means, and just found ways to efficiently get it done, and just carried it all the way up until now. It’s nothing new for people to kind of question or look at me in a certain way of, why? … I just kind of explain it as you’re looking at any other player and you just kind of scratch your head: Well how do you do this? Or, how do you do that? I think that’s the beautiful thing about baseball, there’s no perfect body type that gets you a certain result.

Q: Are you one of those guys with a metabolism that you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight?

A: That would be correct. I’m the type of guy who eats five pounds over his body weight and then wakes up the next morning under the body weight he started with.

Q: Do you still relish proving people wrong?

A: It’s not the forefront of what I do and in the way I think. I’m not one of those guys that sit there and can remember everyone drafted in front of ’em or opportunities that were missed and they shouldn’t have been. I just truly try to live in the present and get things prepared for the future the best I can. As a human being I think anybody would be lying if they said they didn’t slightly relish in some moments that yield some success or results that wasn’t attainable by some, or at least in their thought process.

Luke Weaver Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Q: What were the doubters saying about you?

A: There’s just moments through the ups and downs where people are going to double down in certain situations and believe you can’t do things. It’s nothing specific, but you just go through those down times and you feel like people lost confidence and hope in what you can do. Those are things you’ve got to battle through, but with the right support system and especially your own self, you just look back and you’re just like, “You made the wrong decision.”

Q: What is the biggest adversity you had to overcome?

A: I wouldn’t say there’s a specific thing, I would say there was kind of a consistent time period. I felt like 2019 was my first injury, and I just kind of stumbled into the next couple of years dealing with injuries and poor performance, so it was kind of just like a time period there where everything just seemed to kind of go wrong, and bad news, and just inconsistencies trying to adjust and make ways to not be in pain and to be successful. That just felt like a rut that was hard to get out of, but through time and patience and just determination. … I guess you just sit there and you prepare your fields, right? And you wait for the rain to come and you don’t get to control the rain but you prepare for it too, and when it finally comes, then you get to reap the harvest, and I think that’s just the mindset.

Q: What drives you?

A: Well, I think what drives me is just a very competitive mindset, something that’s just instilled no matter if it’s outside of baseball or anything I do, but from a true perspective, my family, the support and love that they bring, the kids that I have, and my faith, that’s probably the biggest one.

Q: Describe fatherhood.

A: Something where we see amazing highs and we see some tough lows. The grind is real, it’s alive and it’s beautiful at the same time. I think it’s just like a really thunderstorm — it could be scary, it could be tough sometimes, but when you’re in the right mindset and the right setting, it could just be a really peaceful, relaxing time watching a movie and reading a book. So it just has beautiful ends to both sides.

Q: Lyla is 4 ¹/₂ .

A: She’s a lot like me — she’s goofy, she’s very independent, she’s a leader, she’s very strong-willed, she’s got a good mix of mom and dad. She’s someone that I don’t necessarily worry about when it comes to breaking into the world at the right time, but I wonder what this is going to look like because there’s some things where you’re curious on how it blossoms.

Q: How do you accept the fact that your wife does not like mayonnaise?

A: Oh gosh. I think there’s tradeoffs, right? That’s one that it’s not a big deal for me. My daughter has a red flag for it now too, so now we got two women in the household who don’t want anything to do with mayonnaise.

Q: Why is your wife Olivia the perfect one for you?

A: We have a very similar personality. We’re goofy, we like a lot of the same things, we are fire and ice when it comes to certain things, and we balance out each other in those ways. She always knows what to say even though she feels like it’s the wrong thing (chuckle). She helps me stay even-keeled and humble throughout any success or failures, and challenges me on a daily basis to be myself.

Q: And Wrigley?

A: She’s a Golden Retriever. We got her in 2014 when I got drafted.

Q: She’s a good big sister to Lyla and Landon (1 year old)?

A: Oh, she’s the best. She’s the type of dog that you pray and hope to have. She’s very, very relaxed and laid back, but yet she shows the energy when she’s ready to play. Our kids love her to death.

Q: How are you goofy?

A: If you’re going to tell a joke, like I’m going to tell the witty dad joke. I’m just a play-on-words kind of guy. … The body gets a little loose on the dance floor. … There’s a bigger personality that kind of hides behind the I guess somewhat reserved front. It’s a consistent evaluation from teammates over the years. After a certain amount of time then you truly start to see how my operation goes. It’s an inside joke for most of them because Nick Ramirez even said something like, “If I would have known this is your personality earlier, I might have liked you faster,” or something like that (laugh). It made me laugh, because I’m like, “What do you want me to do, be myself right away?” Sometimes you just got to come into an environment and you got to feel it out. … It doesn’t make sense, like you’re not just going to walk into a public place and just start doing crazy things. You’re going to assess, and you’re going to do what you need to do, and then when you get comfortable, then you start to break out whatever you need to break out.

Q: You won’t try another anthem standoff?

A: I’m done, I’m retired from that. I’m not one that tries to break any rules. I’m definitely the guy who gets nervous going to the principal’s office. That one got away from me quick. Being thrown out was definitely a shock and something I never thought would happen to me. I was pretty rattled for about a week after it.

Luke Weaver celebrates with Austin Wells Getty Images

Q: If you could face one hitter in MLB history to test your skills, who would it be?

A: I think Barry Bonds in his prime would be crazy. I think like a Ted Williams. … Tony Gwynn would probably be an extremely, extremely hard at-bat, because I’ve felt fascinated by guys that are able to control the strike zone and to not have any swing-and-miss. So then it creates the challenge of like … there’s no holes, right? So there’s the challenge of head-to-head and you want to get the strikeout, I think that’s how you measure up, like are you capable of getting this guy?, and I think that’s kind of how I measure it.

Q: Jackie Robinson.

A: He’s “the man!” I remember growing up, my mom and I worked on a lot of projects together when it came to picking historical figures, and baseball is a big part of my life through and through, and he seemed to be the guy that I always gravitated towards. … There’s just a lot of significance to what he’s done for our game and for life. He deserves every bit of the respect and honor he gets.

Q: Where can I find a blue duckbill platypus hummingbird?

A: Oh, man. Endangered species or at least now extinct.

Q: You were an avid bird-watcher?

A: I don’t want to get it twisted on the word avid. It’s just based off of people who really, really take it serious. I don’t want to do them any disservice in what that definition might mean. But yeah it was something of interest.

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Thank you

Q: Describe your Striking Out Poverty campaign.

A: I think the way it sounds to me is trying to put an end to a lot of unfortunate people in unfortunate situations, and try to bring life back into their souls and to their bodies and try to sustain populations in areas that are just very, very malnourished.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Happy Gilmore.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Will Ferrell.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: A good ribeye with some sides.

Q: What would you want or hope Yankees fans to say about you?

A: I guess I would just want them to remember me as someone who was extremely competitive. I think (Alex) Verdugo’s got this thing going about being dogs, just someone who had that tenacity. But then on the other side of it as a person, had fun and brought life into the clubhouse and made it enjoyable for them to watch this team.

Q: Are you proud of yourself for being where you are now?

A: I am proud of overcoming the things that come within this career. Obviously there’s deeper things in this world, but at the end of the day, there’s been a lot of grit, there’s been a lot of low moments that I’ve had to dig deep in order to keep pushing to create some high ones. It’s been a really cool journey, and one that I look back and it’s a story that I’m more than willing to want to tell and to share and to help people grow.

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