Swing and a Hit in the Great White North

Don Mattingly talks the Blue Jays, MLB’s pitch clock, Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame induction, and more

For Don Mattingly, there’s no learning curve the second time around as bench coach.

After seven seasons as a Major League Baseball manager, Mattingly says his duties haven’t changed that much in his first year with the Toronto Blue Jays as they read the midway point of the 2023 season.

“You still have to prepare like when you’re managing,” the Evansville native said by phone just before MLB’s All-Star break June 9-11.

But there are fewer responsibilities.

“You don’t have to meet with the media twice a day,” Mattingly says. “You don’t have conversations with the front office. There’s a little bit off the plate. Other things are pretty similar.”

In addition to the Toronto players coming off the bench, he also passes on his managerial experience to John Schneider, who is in his first full year as skipper the Blue Jays, who headed into the All-Star break tied for third with the Yankees at .544.

After his 14-year career as the New York Yankees first baseman, Mattingly didn’t know what role to play in his first season as a coach — hitting, then bench — under Yankees manager Joe Torre in 2004.

“I was learning on the fly,” Mattingly says. “Joe really didn’t need much help. (With Toronto) I can be another set of eyes and ears and voice for John and lend whatever experience I have.”

Mattingly says living in Toronto has been a breeze.

“I live 10 minutes from the stadium,” he says. “I don’t have a car. I walk to the ballpark every day. If I need to, I rent a car or take an Uber. It’s the city life, and I’ve really been enjoying it.”

Openly critical of the “Grand Old Game” — saying when he was the Miami Marlins manager that it was virtually unwatchable at times because of the plethora of strikeouts and lack of action — Mattingly loves the new MLB rule changes, especially the pitch clock, that were implemented this season.

“The rule changes have been very good,” says Mattingly, who earned National League Manager of the Year honors in 2020 in guiding the Marlins to their first playoff berth since 2003. He also led the Los Angeles Dodgers to three successive NL West titles in his five years as manager.

“The clock has been great,” he adds. “It’s picked up the pace of the game. There’s not as much walking around that evolved over time. There have definitely been more stolen bases. No shifts. It’s attributable to more base hits.”

He’s pleased to see the upcoming induction of Evansville native and former Jasper High School standout Scott Rolen to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 23.

While Mattingly earned six All-Star berths and nine Gold Gloves at first base, Rolen made seven All-Star appearances and won eight Gold Gloves as one of the best third basemen in history. Rolen also helped spark the St. Louis Cardinals to their 2006 World Series championship before ending his playing career with the Cincinnati Reds in 2012.

“Scott was a great player,” Mattingly says. “I would’ve loved to have played with that dude. What an athlete he was.”

As for Mattingly, once a Yankee, always a Yankee. Kind of like Yogi Berra, who spent all but one year in his Hall of Fame playing career with the Yanks.

“When you are drafted by a team and play your whole career with a team, you become identified with that club,” says Mattingly, who was interviewed for an upcoming documentary of the 100th anniversary of Yankee Stadium. “Even though Yogi managed and coached for different teams, people will always think of him as a Yankee.

“When I’m in Toronto, it’s 100 percent. When I was in L.A. and Miami, I was with them 100 percent.”

He’ll always be known as a New York Yankee, but Mattingly’s heart remains in Evansville, where he and wife Lori in 2015 relocated the headquarters of Mattingly Charities. Read more about the couple’s River City connections in “Home Base” in the February/March 2023 issue of Evansville Business magazine.


Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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