Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin face off in the Mets-Padres series

SAN DIEGO – They were hired with a lot of fanfare during the off-season and have received rave reviews in Major League Baseball for their early work with their new teams. Both have won three Managers of the Year Awards and, if things continue, they would be strong contenders in this year’s poll as well.

But before they became peers and fast friends, the director of the Mets Buck Showalter and his San Diego Padres counterpart Bob Melvin shared a moment together under different circumstances. He came to Yankee Stadium in 1994, when Showalter, then 37, was a third-year manager who led the Yankees under owner George Steinbrenner. Melvin, who was 32 at the time, was old in his final season.

“Bobby saved my job,” Sawalter said, explaining that he had three catchers on the roster at the time and was looking for an extra right-handed bat to face a tough left-hander for a game in May. He found the unorthodox idea of ​​using lightning rod Melvin as his designated blower. “Sir. Steinbrener was ready to kill me.”

Melvin responded to the unusual mission by losing a three-pointer at home to Arthur Rhodes of Baltimore at the end of his first game at the Stadium that year, setting the tone for the 5-4 victory.

“When he received that blow, I said, ‘Oh, thank you, Bobby,'” Swalter said.

Standing at Petco Park Stadium here Monday before the start of the Mets-Padres series – a meeting of the teams with the first and third best records in the National League, won by the Mets, 11-5 – Melvin smiled at exaggeration and said that he does not believe that what turned out to be the last of his 35 games in the big league saved any work. He remembers it, however, for a different reason.

Schwalter, Melvin said, “was explaining to me why I was playing against certain kids. “This is the first time I have ever hired a manager to do this.”

In addition, Melvin added, Showalter initially approached him that day with the idea of ​​playing him on the first base. But Melvin’s eyes told the manager that his catcher backup was not comfortable with it – Showalter still uses what he calls “eye talking” today – and so Showalter used him as a definite striker.

“Selling was probably more difficult, in DH someone like me, in the front office or whoever had to answer,” Melvin said.

But their discussion boosted Melvin’s confidence, allowed him to fully prepare, and Homer was partly rewarded for Swalter.

Such moments have always been part of Showalter’s methodology. And for over 19 seasons managing Seattle, Arizona, Auckland and, now, San Diego, Melvin has never forgotten that lesson. These days he also applies it regularly.

“Although he is the coach and there is a clear distinction, I felt like he was with us,” said Mets player Mark Canha, who played for Melvin for seven years in Auckland before signing a two-year free agent contract. with the Mets this winter. “That’s how I feel about Buck. We are together, we are all looking for the same thing. “There does not seem to be any motivation for him other than how we will win today.”

Showalter’s attention to detail is unsurpassed, and with Billy Eppler, the Met’s first-year general manager, some of the Yankees’ former members are evident. Although Showalter, 66, is 20 years older than Eppler, their foundation in baseball in many ways came from the same curriculum. Gene Michael was the general manager and Bill Livesey was the detective director during the Svan Walter Yankees era. Brian Cashman was the Assistant General Manager. Epler later worked in the Yankees’ reconnaissance department and was eventually promoted to assistant general manager under Cashman.

Because of this, Eppler said, Showalter’s focus on even the smallest detail was well known.

“I know, how long is the bus ride to the park? What kind of water is on the plane? ” said Epler. “So is he. It’s like, oh. I’m getting a kick out of it. “Someone else is also thinking about this line!”

Showalter said he knew he would work with Eppler because he’s Michael’s student and “picked up the phone with the guy who rang first.

“We share the same passion,” Showalter said.

Part of that passion led Showalter to make a phone call one night this spring as he was returning home from the band Mets’ Florida. In the parking lot outside a Subway sandwich shop, he said he sat in his car in the dark for about an hour, using the time zone difference to catch up with Melvin, who was in Arizona. Three Mets players – Canha, pitcher Chris Bassitt and outfielder Starling Marte – had played for Melvin in Auckland and Showalter had questions.

“The time was right, because I was going to call and ask him about Manny,” Melvin, 60, said of the avid Manny Machado, who played for the Baltimore Showalter. “It was a long discussion. “And I think we probably talked a few more times this spring.”

Information is the key to building relationships. And with the spring workout shortened by the padlock, Showalter and Melvin were trying to get information as quickly as possible and from as many different sources as possible.

“Mark Canha is a left-wing hippie,” said Showalter. “Chris Bassitt is right. Not the right thing, but the right thing. However, they are best friends. It’s a great story. Bob said they sit on the plane and discuss politics and more. I told Bob that I wish our country would go that way – you think that, I think that, let’s talk, civilly. Paints an image. “You’re trying to get the kids started.”

Melvin, Schwalter said, “sees players and things similar to the way I do.

“We do not have all the answers,” he said. “We must always keep in mind the end of the race. “You may not do your best tonight to win the next three games.”

The fact that the Padres managed to chase the leader of Auckland’s career into managerial victories was a thunderbolt right now last October and the first signal that the A was about to start another reconstruction project. Melvin is a native of Bay, California graduate and wore No. 6 in Auckland as a tribute to Sal Bando. It was much more emotional for him to leave than most people understood. But with coaches Ryan Christenson, Matt Williams and Brian Price, he quickly feels comfortable in San Diego. The only blow was an absence of six races for prostate surgery last month, but Melvin is back and healthy now.

“His communication is one of the best I’ve ever seen to let us know where we are and what our expectations are, even things like coming to us and explaining why he made some of the moves he made,” Joe said. Masgrove, the ace of the Panthers rotation.

In other words, it’s very similar to what Melvin’s former governor once did – and he still does today with his Metz.

“I consider him a real friend,” Melvin told the Showalter. “There are acquaintances in baseball, there are friends of baseball. But he’s a guy who, off the field, we talk to during the off-season, we call each other, even when he did things on ESPN, he yelled at me. We have never been to dinner together, but I consider him a friend. “In baseball, that’s farther from someone you just admire on the court.”

Not that there are no differences. Recently, Showalter said, his younger sister Melanie scolded him, saying “the organization and detail is great, but you know what, every now and then I really like spontaneity. “Every now and then, it’s okay to be spontaneous.”

Showalter told this story with a conscious smile and a shrug during a chat at the Dodger Stadium’s visiting director’s office over the weekend. What are you going to do; he seemed to be saying. A tiger can not change its stripes.

Melvin, meanwhile, has managed to change his own. He has long been familiar with hard sweets during races, but only in the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth innings. And over 11 years in Auckland, candy in the ninth had to be green.

Now? They are just barrels of root beer in Padres coffee in the ninth inning.

“And we had two or three departures,” he said. “Well, it worked.”

The Padres actually had four, but like the old Manager of the Year awards once the season starts, who counts?

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