DUNEDIN, Fla. — After sitting out the Yankees’ game Monday following the news that Daunte Wright had been killed by police in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday, Aaron Hicks said he “just felt like it wasn’t right for me to play that game.”
Hicks returned to action in Tuesday’s 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark.
“It was tough to read that somebody just got murdered,’’ Hicks said of the 20-year-old Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop. “He was a father to his son. He’s also a son to his mother. It’s extremely tough when situations like that happen.”
Hicks had been in the original Yankees lineup on Monday, but told Boone before the game he didn’t think he should play.
Hicks started in center field Tuesday, hitting fifth, a day after telling Boone he was struggling emotionally following the death of Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop on Sunday in Brooklyn Center, Minn. — about 10 miles from where George Floyd died last summer.
Hicks spent the first three seasons of his career with the Twins before being traded to the Yankees.
“I was going back and forth on the drive over to the field,’’ Hicks said. “By the time I got to the field, I just knew it wasn’t right for me to play.”
He told Boone before batting practice of his decision, which the manager and his teammates supported.
Tuesday was different.
“I just felt like [Monday] wasn’t right and [Tuesday] was a day I wanted to play,’’ Hicks said. “I wanted to play and compete. Competing is what gets my mind off it. It was nice to go out there today and have a good game. I just want to keep it going.”
Hicks said he appreciated the support of his teammates.
“It was incredible,’’ Hicks said. “Just them being able to say they’ve got my back, even if they don’t understand what it’s like, what Black Americans in this country have to deal with sometimes. It was nice to hear, ‘It’s all good. We’ll take care of this game for you.’ ”
Boone said he wouldn’t hesitate to allow another player to make a similar decision.
“One of the things we try to encourage here, or foster, is an environment and a culture where you come here and obviously, you’re all in and committed to us as a team, but also you’re yourself,’’ Boone said. “Talking about the things that happened [Monday] and Aaron, those were deeply personal things. You try and respect that as best you can when you haven’t necessarily walked in someone else’s shoes try and empathize with them.”
Hicks was off to a 4-for-31 start with just one extra-base hit, and the switch-hitter had been especially ineffective swinging from the left side, with just a pair of hits in 19 at-bats. Tuesday was the first time this season he was in the lineup and not batting third. He went 3-for-4 with a double.
Hicks has struggled since coming back from Tommy John surgery last season, and his batting average has dropped each of the past three seasons. The early signs aren’t promising in that category this year and though the importance of the stat has decreased, it’s still not ideal.