When the next group of New York Yankees prospects come through the team’s minor league system, Pittsfield native Nick Avanzato will have a role in their development.

Avanzato, 31, started the new year with a new job. The Yankees named the Pittsfield High School and University of Massachusetts graduate as their director of Minor League Operations.

“It’s basically making sure that players and staff have everything they need to succeed on and off the field,” Avanzato said. “All the way from guys coming in from the [First Year Player] draft, all the way up with our affiliates in the U.S., all the way up to Triple A. Dealing with our affiliates on a day-to-day basis, helping with travel, housing and player movement. Making sure everyone has what they need to succeed.”

Avanzato was a 2013 graduate of the McCormack Department of Sports Management at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He spent nine months as an intern with the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and also was an intern with the Yankees in 2014.

He worked for the Yankees as an affiliate video manager, working with minor league teams in Pulaski, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C. Avanzato then moved to Minor League Operations at the Yankees’ winter headquarters in Tampa, Fla. He worked his way up to manager of Minor League Operations in 2019, and held that job until January, when he was named to his new position.

“I’m excited about taking on a greater role in Minor League Operations,” he said, “and leading that department now, the day-to-day operations of the minor leagues. So I’m very, very excited for it.”

While the position is primarily administrative, the Pittsfield High School graduate does have some input when it comes to player development.

“I am involved in some of those discussions and decisions,” Avanzato said in an interview with The Eagle from his office in Tampa. “I would say that’s more the expertise of our on-field coaching staff, with those specific player programs.”

Avanzato manages operations that includes four farm teams and two teams at the Tampa complex. The Yankees have a Class AAA team at Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pa., the Double A team is in Somerset, N.J., the High Class A team is the Hudson Valley Renegades in Fishkill, N.Y., and the Low A team is located in Tampa.

Avanzato said he and Yankees management started discussing the move in December with Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ vice president of Player Development, whom he reports to. Reese had once held Avanzato’s job. Reese spent eight years in the minors with the Yankees and played 12 games in two seasons in The Bronx. Also involved was director of Player Development Eric Schmidt.

“I think they kind of had an idea of what they wanted to do,” Avanzato said. “I’ve kind of taken on a leadership role the past few years with some new responsibilities. I’m really excited to be a part of the team.”

Avanzato could not comment on the state of the team vis a vis the current Major League Baseball lockout. He did, however, say that the Yankees minor league teams are proceeding along as usual in getting ready for the start of their seasons. The Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders will open the Triple A season on April 5, while the remaining Yankees minor league teams will begin play three days later.

“I’ve definitely grown a lot the last few years, and continued to grow and develop, and enjoy the opportunity to interact with our staff and players on a daily basis,” he said.

Avanzato chuckled at the last question: Does he want to be Yankees general manager Brian Cashman some day?

“I’m happy in the job I’m in right now,” he said. “I love player development, and I love seeing minor league guys develop. It’s really cool when you see a guy when he’s first drafted or when he comes over to the United States from the [Dominican Republic complex], and seeing his progress over the years, both on the field and off the field, growing up as a young man and developing.

“It’s really rewarding, that’s for sure.”

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. 


Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.