By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 19- Former Yankee icon Don Mattingly returned to Yankee Stadium on June 18, as skipper of the L.A. Dodgers. Although the Yankees and Dodgers had met for a MLB record 11 times in World Series play Tuesday’s scheduled game was the first time the two teams were to meet in a regular season contest at the legendary ballpark in the Bronx.
The beleaguered manager, whose club is in last place in the National League West, spoke of his current situation, “It’s not fun. It’s not something you want to go through.”
The manager, subject of many rumors that he will soon be fired, talked of his desire to continue in his present position, “I want to do a great job for this organization. I like where I’m at.” He also expressed his desire to keep managing regardless of what the future holds, “Honestly, I feel I can manage anywhere. I like the challenge.”
On a more upbeat note, Mattingly discussed his great, young players, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershw, “That’s like looking into the future.”
The Dodger field chieftain remarked upon his 2008 opportunity to manage the team in the Bronx that he had played on for 14 seasons and coached for an additional four years, “I felt like it [not obtaining the managerial position] was a blessing. It would have been really hard to do the job [with the family problems]. It brought me to L.A. [as a coach with Joe Torre]. The experience was really great to me.”
In his lengthy talk with reporters, Mattingly reminisced about his debut at Yankee Stadium, “My fondest memory was the first day I was called up.”
His relationship began several years before that day in 1982. Mattingly was drafted in the 19th round of the 1979 MLB First Year Player Draft. After nearly three years in the minors, he was called up in late 1982. The first sacker played outstandingly for 14 seasons in pinstripes until he retired because of back problems after the 1995 season.
During his career, the small-town, soft spoken man with a laid back personality became a special fan favorite. That circumstance is still something Mattingly doesn’t fully grasp, “I don’t quite understand the relationship. I only just played and they [the fans] seemed to appreciate it,”
Mattingly and the fans were disappointed that the long-awaited contest was postponed by rain. The two games will be played in a day/night doubleheader on Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.