Nine months of the year, Don Mattingly is all business. From spring training until the grueling 162-game Major League Baseball season ends, it is never-ending, 12- and 13-hour days in a rapid-fire succession of cities.
After a stellar playing career with the New York Yankees, Mattingly — a 1979 graduate of Reitz Memorial High School — became the team’s hitting coach under his friend and mentor Joe Torre. He followed Torre to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and became the team’s manager in 2011. Mattingly and the Dodgers agreed to part ways after the 2015 season and he became manager of the Miami Marlins, quickly turning them around in his first season.
But what’s life like in Evansville during the off-season?
Just before Mattingly reported to the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, for spring training, Tucker Publishing Group President Todd A. Tucker sat down with Mattingly in the kitchen of his North Side home (where he said he would be “most comfortable”) and discussed why Mattingly always will call Evansville home.
Evansville Living: What do you miss about home when you are gone for an extended period?
Don Mattingly: Family — my wife, kids, and brothers and sisters. I really only look back during the season and wish I was home when I’ve been away for a while and I’m kind of tired — it is the Fourth of July-times I miss.
EL: Do you sometimes wish you had a simpler lifestyle?
DM: Well, the good thing I get when I am home is to be able to do some things I want. The time I am here, I usually don’t have any true time obligations. As far as work, I can be on the phone or email without having to be in any specific place.
EL: Say it is mid-December, with no demands on your time — what is your ideal day?
DM: Usually it would start with Louis (Mattingly’s 2-year-old son) sleeping in. It’s nice for Lori and I to hang out. You know, we got into yoga a bit this last year. Just to leisurely get lunch, work out, and to get out and shop.
EL: When you return home after the season, what do you do?
DM: When I get home, it’s weird. It’s hard for me at first because I have been working and I just don’t know what to do. I end up cleaning out drawers, the garage, driving Lori crazy by doing stuff that makes her ask, “What are you doing?”
EL: Tell me about Mattingly Charities; there seems to be a lot of momentum.
DM: We try to reach those less fortunate, under-served kids and give them more opportunities through sports. That’s what took us to the Boys & Girls Club starting out, then combining with the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana. We’re now talking with the Glenwood Leadership Academy.
EL: You could be living in larger, more glamorous markets where you have been during your career — New York City, Los Angeles, and now Miami. Why do you feel you will always come back to Evansville?
DM: It’s just back to home for me. Lori and I have talked about it. We always will have a place here. As you get older, you look for warmer weather at times, but we always will have a place here and I think it is the comfort of being home.
EL: Who are a few local people who have influenced you the most?
DM: Certainly my brothers Randy and Michael from a family standpoint. And my father (Bill), but I didn’t realize until much later how much he influenced me. He never pushed me and never criticized. That helped me play without fear.
People around town I looked up to were Bob Griese (former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins), who made it big. Quentin Merkel (former Memorial High School baseball coach and coach of Mattingly) was a huge, huge influence on me. He would just push me to get better, to improve.
EL: Ever run across Midwest players who have backgrounds similar to yours?
DM: Yes; guys who love it, play, and have fun. A lot of the Midwest guys are hard working, grinding type guys.
For more information about Mattingly Charities, visit mattinglycharities.org.