GLENDALE, Ariz. – In his 14-year playing career, Don Mattingly exuded a quiet confidence. He played like nothing could rattle him, an important trait for a player who spent his entire career with the New York Yankees.
But on Sunday, the first-year Los Angeles Dodgers manager conceded he had some jitters about standing up to give the first speech to the entire team when the position players arrive in camp Monday.
“How long have I been thinking about it? The whole winter,” Mattingly said when asked about the speech. “A lot of it is talking from your heart, but making sure I have some type of direction.
“You make notes over time. There will be parts of that speech from things I might have heard my second spring training that I ever went to as a player.”
Mattingly said he was nervous when talking to the pitchers and catchers when they reported Wednesday.
“It’s the first time. You’re starting out and you’re trying to create an environment and let the players know how you think,” Mattingly said.
The pitchers and catchers will have one more workout at the teams’ spring training facility in Glendale on Monday. Most of the position players have already been working out at the facility this week, but Monday is their official reporting day.
The speech is an important one for Mattingly to set the tone and direction of his first season as a major league manager. He inherits a club that lost its way in the second half of 2010, going 80-82 and finishing fourth in the N.L. West.
Mattingly was the hitting coach for the past three years, so he has relationships with the majority of the roster, which is largely intact from a year ago – only six players on the 40-man roster were not with the Dodgers last year.
“I think the one thing that I have established over the last three years is how well they can rely on my consistency. I don’t ever change,” Mattingly said. “Some guys know me better than others. I want them to know the way I think and the way I think about playing the game.”
So far in camp, the way Mattingly wants the Dodgers to play is with an eye on the details. He says the stuff that doesn’t get noticed – like backing up throws to the bases and getting in the right position to defend a bunt – is going to be a big part of his message.
“You won’t see it on ESPN, but those things help you win ballgames. That’s what we want them to understand,” Mattingly said. “All of the little things that form your ballclub, I want them to feel like they know it.”