Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ron Villone Ready to Play for the Yankees

For the first time in his 11-year career, Ron Villone is going to get to live at home during the baseball season.

When the Yankees acquired Villone from the Marlins in the offseason, it fulfilled a lifelong dream for the 36-year-old New Jersey native, who grew up a Yankees fan just outside of New York. Villone lives in Upper Saddle River, N.J., and he will live there when the season kicks off in April.

"I'll live at home for the first time," Villone said. "I get to sleep in my own bed. I think that's a bonus. I don't have to worry about some neck problems from different pillows all the time."

While he admits it will be nice to experience the comforts of home, Villone definitely means business this season. He assured that this homecoming won't just be about spending time with family and friends.

"It's great [to be with the Yankees]. I always wanted to when I was a youngster," Villone said. "At the same time, I've been doing this for a while now, so I think it's more about playing on a really good team that has the potential to be a great team and win it all. That's what it's all about now."

Villone has seen postseason action before, but things haven't ended the way he has wanted them to yet. Now with the Yankees, Villone thinks it could be the right time to help bring home the team's first title in six years.

"I've gone to the playoffs with Cleveland and Houston, and I pitched with Houston a little bit, but we got knocked out," Villone said. "It doesn't really mean anything unless you go all the way. I am looking for [a shot at a championship] for me and everybody here. You've got to set your goals as high as they come or you've got no chance."

Villone is set to play for this 10th big-league team.

While the left-hander has his sights set on the chance at a World Series title, the opportunity to do it near his home certainly hasn't escaped him.

"I've always lived in Jersey my whole life growing up, and my family [and friends are] still there," Villone said. "I'm back there for four months a year, so this year it's going to be longer. [I will get a lot] of phone calls and a lot of interest [from friends]. I won't know much more until we start the season, and then we'll see how to judge it.

"It's great. I'm going to be able to see my family and friends, but I've got a job to do and this is most important."

Villone and Mike Myers will compliment the right-handers in the Yankees' bullpen. Villone said he doesn't see himself in just one role this season, since he has the ability to help out with short, middle or long relief and even a spot-start if necessary.

"I've done it all," he said. "If the day calls, I'll be ready for it."

All he has to do for now is get through Spring Training before he can get back home. That's when his days in the Bronx will truly begin.

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