Gibbons' new job deepens special bond with Mets

January 3rd, 2024

NEW YORK -- For John Gibbons, it was a homecoming of sorts after the Mets named him bench coach last month. He has a long history with the club dating back to 1980, when he was the 24th overall pick by New York in the MLB Draft.

Gibbons played eight years in the Mets organization, including Major League stints with the club in 1984 and ‘86. He then returned to the organization in ‘91 to become a roving Minor League instructor before becoming a manager starting with Class A Short Season Kingsport four years later. By ‘99, Gibbons worked his way up to Triple-A Norfolk before joining the Blue Jays as a big league coach and manager.

Almost 44 years after being drafted by the Mets, Gibbons sounds like a guy who bleeds orange and blue. He will never forget the first phone call he received after he was drafted. It was from team historian Jay Horwitz, who was then the club’s public relations director. He informed Gibbons that he was a member of the Mets. Gibbons was attending Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas, and had no idea the Mets were looking at him as part of their future.

“That’s where it all started as a player. The Mets gave me my first shot at my dream to play in the big leagues. It didn’t work out,” Gibbons said via telephone. “Without the Mets giving me a coaching opportunity, none of this other stuff [like working with the Blue Jays] happens. There is a pretty good bond there with the Mets. I met so many good people over the years. It’s almost kind of natural that I’m coming back.”

Gibbons, 61, said his relationship with new manager Carlos Mendoza is off to a good start. Gibbons called Mendoza a straight shooter, and they had some laughs over the phone. They also consider Blue Jays associate manager Demarlo Hale a friend. Hale, who was Gibbons’ bench coach when both were with the Blue Jays from 2013-18, suggested to Mendoza to give Gibbons a shot as the bench coach.

After the interview with Mendoza, Gibbons spoke with the front office. By Dec. 4, Gibbons was officially named the bench coach.

“It just felt right. I’m not a guy chasing that [managerial] job anymore,” Gibbons said. “I’m a member of the Mets. I would love to help them get back to the top. There is a good foundation there.”

That foundation includes right-hander Kodai Senga, shortstop Francisco Lindor, outfielder Brandon Nimmo, first baseman Pete Alonso and infielder/outfielder Jeff McNeil. As a former catcher, Gibbons wants to help Mendoza put a good bullpen together. Going into Spring Training, closer Edwin Díaz is the only reliever with a guaranteed spot on the roster.

Gibbons is interested to see how third baseman Brett Baty performs in 2024. He calls him ultra talented and is aware of his struggles for most of ‘23. Baty was a first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, and Gibbons knows what Baty is going through.

“I’ve been in his shoes,” Gibbons said. “I was the top prospect coming up, and it didn’t work out for me. Put it this way: I probably feel his pain a little bit. Everybody thinks you should [be successful from the start] like [Darryl] Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, [Lenny] Dykstra and those guys. But that’s rare. [Baty] is going through the natural progression. I’ve been there, done that. Maybe, I can help some guys out. That’s what the Mets expect out of me, too.”