Mendoza shows passion, drive as new Mets manager

'I know the expectations from the fan base ... I can't wait to get started. I know I'm ready'

November 14th, 2023

NEW YORK -- On the day he learned he was to become the Mets’ new manager, Carlos Mendoza was at home, feeling a bit fatigued when his youngest son, Andres, asked him to head outside for a catch. As father and son were tossing the baseball, president of baseball operations David Stearns called Mendoza’s cell phone.

The 43-year-old went inside, sat down next to his wife, Francis, and listened to Stearns deliver the news. Francis began crying. Mendoza’s sons, Andres and Adrian, jumped up and down with excitement.

Nine days later, Mendoza was still emotional as he donned a No. 28 Mets jersey for the first time at an introductory press conference at Citi Field.

“Man, this feels good,” Mendoza said. “This feels great. This is a special day for me, my family and the Mets organization.”

Tuesday’s media availability marked Mendoza’s first public-facing duty since the Mets finalized his three-year contract earlier this week. Throughout the event, he offered some glimpses of how he might operate as a first-time manager.

On his lack of experience 
As a boy, Mendoza lived in the same apartment complex as Luis Aparicio, the only Venezuelan-born player in Cooperstown (for now). They sometimes ran into each other in the elevator, giving his mother occasion to explain Aparicio’s accomplishments to him. Years later, as chance would have it, Mendoza played for Aparicio in the Venezuelan Winter League. Through that experience, he began learning some of the skills he plans to use himself as a Major League manager.

Other influences on Mendoza’s managerial career include Dusty Baker, Rob Thomson and Willie Randolph, all of whom taught him ways to lead -- whether overtly or by example. They are lessons Mendoza plans to take with him into his first career managerial gig.

“I’ve been preparing for this since I started coaching,” Mendoza said, referring to his time in the Minor Leagues and with the Yankees. “Every stop along the way, and especially my last six years here in New York, I know it’s real. And I know the expectations from the fan base. It’s one of those things where I can’t wait to get started. I know I’m ready, and I know I’m prepared.”

Added Stearns: “I think there’s going to be an adjustment period for a first-time manager. I think Carlos is about as well-schooled and experienced and has the perspective as anyone could.”

On the stresses of New York 
Although Mendoza has spent the past six years on Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s coaching staff, he has never been tasked with addressing the media on a regular basis. Major League managers generally hold media briefings twice daily, making them the most public-facing people in the industry. Many first-time managers can find that jarring, especially in New York, where the sheer number of media members is far larger than in other markets.

But Mendoza appears eager to embrace that part of the job. On his first day, he addressed media members by name and spoke about his hopes for their relationship. He answered questions in English and Spanish. He name-checked popular Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. He also referenced his experience as a manager in the ultra-competitive Venezuelan Winter League, where fans and media members alike watch games intently.

“It’s as simple as understanding that’s part of the job -- a huge part of the job,” Mendoza said, addressing the media directly. “You guys are here for a reason, right? I’m kind of the bridge of communicating through you to the fan base. So I think it’s important. And those are some of the things I’m really looking forward to as a manager now.”

On the culture he hopes to build 
Like most new managers, Mendoza spoke in platitudes at his introductory press conference, talking about the importance both of trust and communication off the field, and of fundamentals and hard work on it.

For some teams, such simple ideals can be difficult to achieve. The Mets have confidence Mendoza can tap into the right formula in part because of his budding relationship with Stearns, whom he did not know personally before interviewing for the job.

According to Stearns, the Mets’ search process included two distinct phases. Initially, Stearns called around the league to gain insights into Mendoza and other candidates. Once he drew up a short list of contenders, Stearns spent significant time with them to determine if their personalities would mesh.

“The more time Carlos and I spent together,” Stearns said, “the more we both felt comfortable that we had the ability.”

Building those relationships is an ongoing task that will continue as Mendoza begins fleshing out his coaching staff, with only pitching coach Jeremy Hefner guaranteed to return. The key to building a strong culture, Mendoza said, is surrounding himself with the right mix of people.

“I understand people are saying this is a big challenge, especially for a guy that’s never managed at the big league level,” Mendoza said. “I understand the city of New York. I’ve been here for the past six years, and I know how passionate [fans] are. I understand. I see this as a great opportunity for not only Carlos Mendoza, but for the New York Mets.”