Jauss has deep ties to Rojas, Alou families

December 21st, 2020

NEW YORK -- When Dave Jauss recalls the three years he spent on Felipe Alou’s coaching staff with the Class A West Palm Beach Expos from 1989-91, he pictures two young boys -- Alou’s sons -- running around the home clubhouse at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium.

One of those boys is now the manager Jauss will be working under in 2021.

The Mets announced last week that Jauss will join Luis Rojas’ staff as bench coach, a role he previously held with the organization in 2010 under Jerry Manuel.

Jauss -- who at 63 years old is entering the 34th season of a baseball career spent as an instructor, coach, scout and Minor League manager -- considers the Dominican-born Alou the second-most important mentor he’s had in his life, only after his father, the late Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss.

“Felipe was [a mentor for many of us] in the Expos system,” Jauss said recently in a telephone conversation. “He was mine, personally, professionally and spiritually.”

Jauss spoke from the Dominican Republic, where he is currently managing the Leones del Escogido in winter ball -- a team that both Alou and Rojas have also managed. Jauss got his first glimpse of winter ball in 1990, when he and his wife, Billie, traveled to Miami to watch Alou manage the Leones in the Caribbean Series at the old Orange Bowl. That experience led to Jauss to pursue coaching opportunities not only in the Dominican Republic but also in Venezuela.

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh.’ As much as I want to be a part of October baseball in the States, that is as thrilling a baseball as I've ever been involved in,” Jauss said.

Jauss, who took over as manager of the West Palm Beach Expos in 1992 when Alou made his debut as a big-league skipper with Montreal, often marveled at his mentor's wisdom, which he says was hardly limited to baseball.

“He was also the wisest man I know about the weather,” Jauss said of Alou. “In West Palm Beach, he knew within 10 minutes when it was going to rain … When he said, ‘I think the rain’s going to come down in 10 minutes,’ within eight to 12 minutes, we'd have rain. I think that came from being a fisherman.”

Jauss also spent time with Alou’s brothers Matty and Jay, who, like Felipe, also played in the Major Leagues, and he has fond memories of taking Felipe’s youngest daughter, Valerie, to Disney World. Felipe and his wife, Lucie, are also godparents to Jauss’s oldest son, DJ. Jauss and Felipe, who is 85, still speak several times a year.

“It went far beyond the dugout and the clubhouse and the field with Felipe,” Jauss said.

Jauss reconnected with Rojas in 2011, when Jauss was the Mets’ coordinator of staff development, a role in which he served as a resource for the club’s minor league coaches. Rojas, who joined the organization in ’06, was managing the Gulf Coast League Mets at the time. Jauss’s recalls watching Rojas manage a game in Jupiter, Fla. alongside Alou.

“It was heartwarming,” Jauss said.

According to Mets’ team president Sandy Alderson, the club brought Jauss back for 2021 “because Louie wanted him.”

“My father has always told me that Dave Jauss is one of the best coaches he had in his career,” Rojas, 39, said in Spanish via text message. “He always said that few things got by [Jauss], and that he helped my father tremendously in his rise as a manager. He has a great ability for reading people and coaching them.”

And the choice is not merely sentimental for Rojas, who was 8 years old when Jauss first joined Alou's staff in West Palm Beach. Jauss began his Major League career in 1995 as Baltimore’s coordinator of instruction and spent ten years in the Red Sox organization from 1995-2006 in various roles. He later served Dodgers bench coach under Grady Little (’06-07) and as Orioles bench coach under Dave Trembley (’08-09), and he was part of Clint Hurdle’s coaching staff on the Pirates from ’13-19, which included one season (’16) as bench coach. Last season, Jauss worked as a professional scout for the Yankees.

As a second-year manager in 2021, Rojas hopes to tap into that experience.

“Many things that I wanted for the staff and for the team, he has done then many times in this career,” Rojas said last week, in Spanish, during a virtual press conference. “The vast experience he brings to the staff, to the team and to me, personally, I think that’s where he checked all the boxes.”

For Jauss, becoming Rojas' bench coach is the latest chapter in a friendship that he calls “a blessing.”

“This journey has continued to connect the Alou family and the Jauss family,” Jauss said. “It’s really special for our family and really special for me.”