Letter gives some insight into Mike Matheny, coach and manager

by on January 20, 2012 · 3 comments

Mike Matheny

Image by Jared Kelly via Flickr

The question has been asked since the day he was hired. “What kind of manager is Mike Matheny going to be?”

It was asked of the players, the existing coaching staff, and it was asked of Matheny himself.

The players seem genuinely excited about playing for Matheny, as evidenced by Chris Carpenter‘s comments at Winter Warm-Up.

“I know that Mike’s gonna be prepared. I’ve known Mike before you guys knew Mike. I played with him in Toronto. He’s a special man, great leader, positive guy, excited, prepared. Not that you can replace Tony La Russa, but I’m not sure you could pick a better guy to lead this organization. I know that he’s excited about it, I know the players in the clubhouse are excited about it. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to seeing his face every day and see what he has to bring to this team.”

So the question remains, what exactly might he bring to the Cardinals? Perhaps the same things he outlines in a letter to parents of the youth team he coached in St. Louis, his most recent managing job prior to the Cardinals?

Posted at the website for Mac-and-Seitz Baseball and Softball, a training academy run by former Major Leaguers Mike Macfarlane and Kevin Seitzer, the letter pretty firmly and matter-of-factly outlines Matheny’s expectations of his young players – and their parents.

Some of the highlights:

I always said that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat.

So no Colby Rasmus return then, coach?

My main goals are as follows:

(1) to teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way,

(2) to be a positive impact on them as young men, and

(3) do all of this with class.

Reds and Brewers fans should have a field day with that.

The boys will not be allowed at any time to show any emotion against the umpire. They will not shake their head, or pout, or say anything to the umpire. This is my job, and I will do it well. I once got paid to handle those guys, and I will let them know when they need to hear something.

Hrmm, has he had this conversation with Carp yet?

I am completely fine with your son getting lessons from whomever you see fit. The only problem I will have is if your instructor is telling your son not to follow the plan of the team.

Still not looking good for a Rasmus return.

Every boy on this team will be worked as a pitcher.

Now you see what John Mozeliak meant when he called Skip Schumaker a “super-utility”?

I am a stickler about the thought process of the game. I will be talking non-stop about situational hitting, situational pitching, and defensive preparation. The question that they are going to hear the most is “What were you thinking?” What were you thinking when you threw that pitch? What were you thinking during that at bat? What were you thinking before the pitch was thrown, were you anticipating anything? I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and the mental may be more difficult, but can be taught and can be learned by a 10 and 11 year old.

Looks like there may be hope for Tyler Greene yet…

Speaking of batting order, I would like to address that right from the top as well seeing that next to playing time this is the second most complained about issue, or actually tied for second with position on the defensive field. Once again, I need you to know that I am trying to develop each boy individually, and I will give them a chance to learn and play any position that they are interested in.

Keep that outfielder’s glove close by, Matt Adams.

The boys will be required to show up ready to play every time they come to the field. Shirts tucked in, hats on straight, and pants not drooping down to their knees. There is not an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field. From the first step outside the dugout they will hustle. They will have a fast jog to their position, to the plate, and back to the bench when they make an out. We will run out every hit harder than any team we will play, and will learn how to always back up a play to help our teammates. Every single play, every player will be required to move to a spot. Players that do not hustle and run out balls will not play. The boys will catch on to this quickly. The game of baseball becomes very boring when players are not thinking about the next play and what they possibly could do to help the team. Players on the bench will not be messing around. I will constantly be talking with them about situations and what they would be doing if they were in a specific position, or if they were the batter. There is as much to learn on the bench as there is on the field if the boys want to learn. All of this will take some time for the boys to conform to. They are boys and I am not trying to take away from that, but I do believe that they can bear down and concentrate hard for just a little while during the games and practices.

All kidding aside, this last passage is my favorite part. Now, it’s clearly not quite the same managing million dollar men as it is managing a youth team (and their parents), but it’s clear that Matheny is an intellectual guy, much like his predecessor, and thoroughly invested in the fundamentals and preparation. So in other words, not much different than any other manager, really, but reading this letter gave me a bit more insight into Matheny’s personal goals for his teams and confirmed what many of us have already suspected about his mindset and motives.

Let me know as soon as possible whether or not this is a commitment that you and your son want to make.


Mike Matheny

My son and I are in, coach. We’re really looking forward to Spring Training.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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Cardinal70 January 20, 2012

To be fair, your son may have trouble with that “no pouting/crying” bit. Don’t know how strict Coach Mike will be on that.

Great find and nice analysis!

PH8 January 20, 2012

Maybe the boy can get a pass if he’s really slick with the leather.

Evan W. Murray January 23, 2012

What a fabulous letter! As a small college 4 yr. player, a youth coach of several yr., and a lifelong Cardinals fan, what a great experience it would be to play for Mike Matheney!

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