NEW YORK -- What "Coach Prime" -- Deion Sanders -- is accomplishing at the University of Colorado is no surprise to Mets manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter has a special friendship with Sanders, who played for Showalter when they were both with Double-A Albany-Colonie, then a Yankees affiliate, in 1989.
So, after Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Reds at Citi Field, Showalter stayed up to watch the Colorado vs. Colorado State football game, which didn’t end until close to 2:30 a.m. ET. Sanders guided the Buffaloes to a 43-35 victory in overtime to push his team’s record to 3-0 to start the season.
“Tell Deion he can’t do something. He will show you [he can],” Showalter said. “You know what people don’t get is that he has really good coordinators. Good coordinators don’t go where it’s not going to be good.
"I’ve been watching his coordinators. They do little things like clock management. They got into a real emotional game [Saturday] with Colorado State. I loved Deion’s calmness throughout the game. He didn’t panic. I’m proud of him.”
Showalter remembers Sanders the baseball player and called him one of the best he managed in the Minor Leagues. Sanders’ foot speed, according to Showalter, was second to none. Most importantly, Sanders had a special relationship with his teammates.
“If we had an election on our team, he would have been elected captain. He is very smart, very calculating. People don’t get it. He is a good teammate,” Showalter said. “The players loved him because he humbled himself. He was different in baseball. He wasn’t 'Prime Time' in baseball. He was Deion. He knew I had a certain kinship with him. He listened.”
Showalter was the one to inform Sanders that he had been promoted to the big leagues with the Yankees. At first, Sanders thought he was being promoted to Triple-A Columbus, and asked to stay with Albany-Colonie. But Showalter repeated the news again. Sanders dropped the phone and had his then-girlfriend hear the same news from the skipper.
“We did a podcast last year and we laughed about the memories in baseball,” Showalter said. “He will tell you to this day that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing he ever did. He was something. Watching him play was a lot of fun.”
Sanders didn’t quite have the success in baseball that he had in pro and college football, but he was a very good player with excellent speed and a bit of power, too. He was an outstanding outfielder and had a respectable .263/.319/.392 slash line with 39 home runs and 186 stolen bases for four big league teams -- the Yankees, Braves, Giants and Reds -- from 1989-2001.
On Oct. 11, 1992, he played an NFL game for the Atlanta Falcons in the afternoon, then suited up for the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series on the same day.