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NY Yankees visit Auckland's ASB Classic

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/01/2017 Ben Leahy

Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius looks on during day 11 of the ASB Classic. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius looks on during day 11 of the ASB Classic. Auckland's ASB Classic had the feel of the major leagues on Thursday as not only did three US seeds hit centre court for the quarter finals but the New York Yankees paid a visit.

In New Zealand to promote baseball among local kids, Yankees short stop Didi Gregorius also brought along one of the sport's traditions.

Like the famed ceremonial first pitch in the US, he sent down the first three serves to open Thursday's play before returning later to watch US No.7 seed Steve Johnson knock out John Isner in the quarter finals.

"It's awesome," he said of the experience.

While admiring the power with which the tennis pros hit the ball, 26-year-old Gregorius stopped short of giving them credit for playing the more demanding sport.

Not only are players with the Yankees under immense pressure, but they also turnout for 162 games in 180 days of regular season play, he said.

Gregorius took an unusual path to major league baseball after being raised in the small Carribbean Island of Curacao.

After coming into the Yankees to replace club legend Derek Jeter at short stop, he slugged a career best 20 home runs in 2016,

After winning his match and sharing a chat with Gregorius, Johnson told reporters he also followed the Yankees because of his love for Gregorius' predecessor Jeter.

"I grew up watching the Yankees a lot just because Derek Jeter is one of my favourite athletes of all time," he said.

Yet he was also quick to point out his allegiances lay on the opposite side of the country.

"I wouldn't say I'm a Yankees fan, I guess, just because I'm an (Los Angeles) Angels guy," he said.

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