NEW YORK -- Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner was presented with the overall Heart & Hustle Award Tuesday night at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's 18th annual Legends for Youth Dinner at Capitale in Manhattan.
"I was taught to play with a lot of passion, and to be recognized this way, voted on by fellow players, it means a lot to me," Gardner said. "I have to give credit to a lot of people. My dad taught me at an early age to play the game the right way. My wife Jessica pushes me every day to be better on and off the field, to be active in the community and give back. I'm thankful that I have a lot of good friends and family who have been with me the whole way."
Gardner, who hit .264 with 21 home runs and 63 RBIs in 2017, is under contract with New York through '18.
"I'm going to continue to work hard and play hard and play the game as long as I'm able to," he said. "Whether it's one more year, two more years or four or five more years, I've been blessed with being in New York the last 10 years. I think everybody who knows me knows I will keep working hard to get the most out of it that I can.
"Right now I am trying to focus on the present."
Gardner said it has been an "unusual" feeling this offseason with uncertainty for the first time over who will be managing him at Spring Training.
"I've never played for any manager other than Joe Girardi," Gardner said. "I'm going to miss him. I've had a lot of good times with him and we won a World Series together in 2009. I haven't talked with any teammates about it yet. I don't really know what direction they're headed with it, but I just trust that [GM Brian] Cashman obviously is going to take his time, and you trust the process that they're going to make the right move. No matter who they go with, I feel good about our team that we have going into next year. I'm excited about our team."
The Yankees far exceeded expectations in 2017 and came within one game of reaching the World Series, losing to Houston in the American League Championship Series. How excited is Gardner going into Opening Day next season?
"Overall we've got a pretty good team," he said. "We've got some young guys who have just burst upon the scene. Aaron Judge winning Rookie of the Year and MVP consideration. Luis Severino, one of the top guys for Cy Young. We've got a lot of bright young talent and it's going to be an exciting year."
When asked what would make a good Yankees manager, Gardner said he has seen a wide variety of hires for MLB vacancies lately.
"Every year, unfortunately, you leave the season and think the same group of guys will be back, but every time you go to Spring Training there's a different group of guys there," he said. "Usually it's player turnover, but obviously this year with a new manager it will be a little bit different. I don't really know what to expect but I like our team."
Gardner added, "I think there are a lot of great candidates out there." When asked if just-retired ex-teammate Carlos Beltran would make a good candidate if interested, he said, "Obviously that is something I would support."
As of now, Gardner enters next spring as a likely starting outfielder along with Judge and Aaron Hicks, with Jacoby Ellsbury a fourth outfielder. Asked about that outfield picture, Gardner said "player personnel things work themselves out."
Gardner got a half-inning taste of managing at the end of the season, but don't expect him to be a player-manager. "Coaching my kids is as close as I would get," he said.
Mark Newman is Enterprise Editor for MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.