These are a few of Buck's favorite things

New Mets skipper Showalter waxes poetic about what he missed during time away

January 7th, 2022

Buck Showalter is back in baseball now, back in New York, back with the Mets. He first managed in New York, with the Yankees, 30 years ago in 1992. He last managed in 2018 with the Orioles and worked in television after that, with both the MLB Network and with YES.

But those were three years without a baseball team. I asked him some of the things he missed about a managing life that began for him when he was 35 years old, when he and general manager Stick Michael began the work of making the Yankees matter again.

1.) “There will be some things on this list about Spring Training, and some of them might sound corny to people. But not to me. I missed the start of Spring Training. I even missed that first smell of cut grass in the morning. Man, I love Spring Training mornings.”

2.) “And I missed those first 10 spring games or so. That’s when everything is positive, and present, and last year is a distant memory. No cuts or demotions coming anytime soon. Everything still new. I’m telling you, those first 10 games or so in the spring are special.”

3.) “I always looked forward to the first team meeting. I’ll look forward to it this year especially. You ask anybody who’s ever been around me on that particular day. I’m unapproachable for at least a couple of hours before I first address the team. I’m gathering my thoughts, because it’s important to get the message right.”

4.) “This one’s kind of funny, but I always used to look forward to the Spring Training talent show for first-year guys.”

He laughed then.

“I swear, one year in Baltimore T.J. McFarland might have started making the club with his impression of Mike Ditka.”

5.) “Man, I missed a crisp, really well-run drill happening right in front of you in Spring Training. It’s one of the moments when you see that guys are starting to get stuff, and understand that drills like this are important.”

6.) “Something else I missed? That first pot of black coffee on a Spring Training morning, and then taking a cup outside with you for a minute and feeling the sun on your face.”

7.) “I missed a locker room coming to life, in the spring or the regular season. ... I’m the first one there, already in my office when the first players start to show up. But I like to come out and watch the room come to life. Seeing guys start to prepare. Seeing what starts to happen in the training room and the weight room and even with the coaches. Seeing the dynamic of a team begin to form.”

8.) “I missed being a part of a team more than anything. I’m not saying I wasn’t a part of a team in television. But a baseball team is different. Special. I missed having a common theme that starts out in the spring and plays out across the long season. I love working with a general manager and helping put the pieces together, not just with the team, but with the coaching staff.”

9.) “I even found myself missing the give-and-take with the media. Understanding what they need. Hoping that both sides understand it’s not some kind of contest either side is trying to win. If you’re going to manage in the big leagues, and especially in New York, where little things can turn into big things, you better understand it’s something you need to be good at.”

10.) “I miss the murmur, once you get to the field, of a crowd starting to file in. I don’t know if I’d call it a din, exactly. But I missed that sound.”

11.) “I miss the looks you see being exchanged between coaches and players when something gets executed, in a drill or in a game, and they catch each other’s eyes and it’s like, ‘Yeah, I got it.’ The best emotions are spoken without a word sometimes.”

12.) “Those first two minutes after a win. Missed those a lot. That’s all you get sometimes after the last handshake, a couple of minutes. Then you’re on your way back inside, back to your office, and you already feel like it’s the next day.”

13.) “Minor League reports belong on this list, too. Reading them and seeing how people are doing and giving you a sense of an organization as a whole. This prospect got three hits. This kid made a great play, and it’s there in the reports. It’s another part of the routine of wholeness.”

14.) “Late nights. Long plane rides. At some point my light might be the only one on in my part of the cabin. I don’t sleep on planes too well. ... Working on the next team, the next city, the next game. Turning the page. Moving on to the next series, the next set of challenges. Closing the door on the series you just played.”

15.) “Man, I missed day games. There’s a certain crispness to day games, with that baseball sun back on your face.”

16.) “The workout before Opening Day was always real special. We’ve all made it. We’ve made it to the season. It might be a calm before the storm, but no game that day. Everybody smiling. Everything ahead of us. All’s right with the world.”

17.) “The day before the playoffs start is even better. I remember the first time Mr. Steinbrenner complimented me was before Game 1 in ’95, before we played the Mariners. He patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘Nice going, kid.’”

18.) “More than anything, I missed the whole process of being part of putting a winning team together. A winning culture. Being a part of something like what’s happening right now, in real time, with the Mets.”

He paused then.

“Is this enough?” he said.

“More than enough,” I said.

“Damn, this is a great game,” Buck Showalter said.