Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Return Of A Lifelong Friend, Don Mattingly!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Prior to last year, I never knew that June 19th was a holiday.

This year, it came in handy as My Photographer Candy Ebling was able to assist me covering a weeknight game.

These days, diabetes has taken a toll on my ability to drive at night, therefore, this year, I’ve had to attend games with Ebling present. 

Every now and then, I’ll fly solo.

On Monday, June 19, at LoanDepot Park, a lifelong friend came to town.

He’s a guy that I worked with during the 1980’s when he was with the New York Yankees. It’s obvious that we have a history together.

When I started covering the Marlins during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was great working with Don Mattingly under very difficult circumstances via Zoom Calls. 

Lives were being lost and Baseball delayed its regular season until it was time to resume. 

During the Zoom Calls, I learned a lot from Mattingly about Baseball in general and all of the different rule changes implemented during the Covid-19 Season. 

I’m not going to get into them at this time. But we made the best out of the situation.

I’ll never forget the time that Mattingly said that he was looking forward to the day that he would see us in person. I wrote a story immediately after the Media Availability after that demonstrating the like ability of a Hall of Fame Person!

There was one Zoom Call that sent shockwaves through the Marlins organization as well as the Baseball World.

It was a question that I asked about Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull throwing the seventh No-Hitter during the 2020 Season. 

I asked Mattingly what he thought about so many no-hitters being hurled in a short period of time.

You can find out his answer in this video. 

One of My Colleagues Craig Mish got wind of this and he asked Senior Vice President, Communications and Outreach Jason Latimer who asked the question. Latimer responded “Scotty” Morganroth. At the time it came out, Mattingly’s words would go viral and had over 392,000 hits. 

For me, the question seemed like no big deal as a contemplated asking it the day before when the sixth was thrown. But I elected to wait after taking a drive on AIA Ocean Drive. When the seventh was tossed, I was going on that Zoom!

I met Mish about a week later and I remember seeing him on Zoom Calls and introduced myself to him. I asked him a question about Mattingly’s response and he pulled me out into the Media Lounge and said it was my voice. Craig was so Classy that he texted me the clip and sent it to my phone.

Craig began following me on Twitter and he’s taught me a lot about technology so as a result, we’ve become great friends.

This experience will be mentioned in My Upcoming Book, “Adjusting To New Media.”

During the 2021 Season, Mattingly and I finally met in person and to me, I felt like Don was like an older brother to me. The pictures in this story tell it all.

I always enjoyed being a part of the pre-game Media Availability's and I always asked my baseball questions in the middle to not overshadow those covering the team on a daily basis.

But I still got mine in a bunch at a time and my colleagues were great.

When Don and I were alone, he would always ask me how I was doing. I told him I had a myriad of health problems and he said I’m pulling for you to get better. 

During Spring Training in Jupiter, FL, we’d be on the backfields talking about baseball and life.

In 2022, I suffered a pair of concussions in a four-week period and was limited to covering early games that started by 2 PM. 

By June, I got clearance from My Doctors that I could drive at night.

Before a Media Availability, I saw him and he asked me where I have been. I told him about my head injuries and we shook hands, exchanged a hug and gave me advice on how to deal with them. 

As all of our exchanges have been, they were always upbeat and positive. I felt like my older brother was giving me guidance.

On many of my broadcasts and stories, there has been a debate as to whether he belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Mattingly played his entire career with the Yankees for 13-seasons when his debut occurred on September 8, 1982 and his final appearance was October 1, 1995.

He retired with a .307 Batting Average, with 2,153 Hits, 222 Home Runs, 1,099 Runs Batted In.

The only thing that works against Mattingly was his lack of post-season play for the Yankees.

A common comparison that I make is with former Minnesota Twins center fielder, who played for 12 seasons, had a .318 Batting Average, 2,304 hits, 207 Home Runs and 1,085 Runs Batted In. The major difference as far as post-season is concerned is that Puckett won a pair of World Series Championships, while Mattingly doesn’t have a title on his resume.

After playing, Mattingly piloted the Los Angeles Dodgers for five seasons, and made the post-season in each campaign. He finished his tenure with the Dodgers with a 446-363 mark and a .551 winning percentage.

In 2016, Mattingly left the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean where he would be the skipper from 2016-2022. The Marlins made one post-season appearance under his watch and he finished with a 443-587 and a .430 winning percentage. 

In Los Angeles, there would be no issues with payroll. In Miami, the purse strings were tighter and the team was constantly in rebuilding mode. 

Mattingly didn’t take a dumb pill when he came to South Florida.

When the Marlins and Mattingly agreed to mutually part ways in September, it was tough to see him go, but that’s the nature of the business.

But on June 19, 2023, “Donnie Baseball” returned to his old managerial stomping grounds as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. When he came out of the clubhouse, once again, it was time to exchange pleasantries and we took our photos and talked.

The Marlins and Blue Jays did a great job putting this Media Availability together. It’s like we were picking up where we left off. More importantly, he didn’t use this time to criticize his former employer and took the high road.

The video is in this story is a must watch! We reminisced and talked about what lies ahead for Don Mattingly’s baseball career. 

If body language could tell the story, he seemed very relaxed in his role, not worried about wins and losses, and just coaching.

The Marlins would defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 11-0 and Luis Arraez had his third five hit game in the past two weeks. This would put him in the Marlins record books. 

But a rout is counted as one victory and Toronto would proceed to win the next two games of the series 2-0 and 6-3, and win the series 2-1.

It was great to see “The Return Of A Lifelong Friend, Don Mattingly! 

Now, he’s 62 and I’m 60 and both of us are from the Midwest. He hails from Evansville, Indiana, the former AAA Home of the Detroit Tigers while I’m from the Motor City. Yet another connection.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can see his broadcasts by Subscribing to the South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel at no cost.


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