Don Mattingly Chat On AOL 05/09/98

Welcome to the AOL Sports Dome as Real Fans presents Yankee great Don Mattingly live for a chat event tonight. We're very excited to present Donnie Baseball to you tonight and give fans a chance to ask Don about his life as a Yankee and his life after baseball. As you may know, Don Mattingly had his number 23 retired by the Yankees on August 31, 1997 Mattingly finished his career with 222 career home runs, 1099 RBIs and 2,153 hits in 14 major league seasons. He had a career batting average of .307 and won a batting title in 1984 with a .343 average. He won seven Gold Gloves and was a six-time All- Star. As you can imagine, we're very excited to have Don Mattingly tonight for a chat. Without further adieu, let's get to the questions ...

How is retirement treating you?

RFDonM23: Great, really! It's been an experience that took a while to get used to. My time was structured for so long, it some some adjustment. Even during the winter, you knew spring training was coming, but NOW, I have to get used, to having all this time on my hand.

OnlineHost: Any thoughts of getting back into the game in some capacity?

RFDonM23: Many thoughts! I'd love to get back into the game at some time... I had a few opportunities this spring, but I thought about being away from my farm, my kids, and all the travel. The timing isn't quite right now, but as my kids get older, I'd like to get into coaching and management. We'll see what opportunities open for me when the time comes.

Question: Hi Don! Were you upset that the Yankees won the World Series right after you retired?

RFDonM23: It was tough to deal with for a little bit, because I was with the team for so long. I was a big part of the building process, so it was tough to watch. Obviously, my career had been more fulfilling if I had actually won a ring. But when the decision came for me to retire, it was done entirely on my own terms. It was time to get out. I feel good about my decision.

Question: Donnie, who was your favorite baseball player growing up?

RFDonM23: Growing up.. .DEFINITELY Rod Carew... I wanted to be just like Rod in every way... wearing the pants down low... hitting the ball the opposite way, etc. I also loved George Brett, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, Don Baylor, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount. I even had the honor of facing Nolan Ryan... Not many complaints from me!

Question: What was your reaction when the Yankees called and told you that you're number was going to be retired?

OnlineHost: The Yankees retired Don Mattingly's number on August 31, 1997

RFDonM23: Well, surprised for sure! The first year out, I left the door open to possibly come wasn't until the press conference in NY that Mr. Steinbrenner announced the retirement of my number. I feel honored to be retired among Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Billy Martin... I never really took myself that seriously when I played, so this is a tremendous honor.

Question: If you could re-live any moment in your career, what would that moment be?

RFDonM23: Umm... I guess the biggest thrill for me was coming out of the dugout in the first game the playoffs in New York against Seattle. Being pumped about being in the game, in the stadium was a great feeling, and a memory that will never go away. The memory is so fresh and it was such a cool moment.

Question: Don, You have some of the quickest hands with the bat in baseball. What did you do to develope this tremendous hand speed?

RFDonM23: Honestly, I don't think I did anything. My hand speed is God-given I worked on eye-hand coordination and hand strength. There were a few things I did, but a lot of what happened was God-given.

Question: Would you consider taking a coaching position if offered? What if that offer came from Buck Showalter's Arizona Diamondbacks?

RFDonM23: I think everything would involve timing for me. I can do just about anything if I'm motivated to do it. It wouldn't necessarily have to be at the Major League level.. I would possibly like to teach, and follow MY role models...I've learned a lot from many other players, and I would like to follow in their footsteps. Even at the Little League level, I would love to be able to teach.

Question: Was George Steinbrenner a positive or negative influence on the teams you played on? What was the largest impact he made on the club?

RFDonM23: I think at times positive, and at times negative. Overall, I would have to say positive. The biggest impact he made can be seen now... getting to the playoffs is his plan coming together. You knew in your heart that everything within your power was going to be done to win. You were there to win the World Series... and there was no other purpose to his actions with the team. He is a driven person who wants nothing more than to win.

Question: Now that you're retired, who's the best fielding first baseman in baseball?

RFDonM23: That would be tough for me to say.. while you're playing, you see a lot of different players. It would be tough to say... but Grace with the Cubs is good...JT Snow is outstanding, as is McGwire, Wally Joyner is great.. Tino Martinez is improving... it would be hard for me to say who is actually the BEST...JT and Grace are probably two of the best out there, but there are a lot of good ones.

Question: Don, with the aging of Yankee Stadium so prominently featured in the news recently, I'd like to ask your opinion on whether the "Bronx Bombers" should leave it for a new stadium elsewhere?

RFDonM23: Well, if it could be avoided, I would say they should stay at Yankee Stadium for as long as possible. When you think about all the great players that have played there, it makes it hard to think about them leaving to play elsewhere.

Question: Don, what do you think about your chances to make the Hall of Fame?

RFDonM23: I don't know! I guess it depends upon what they judge it on. If they go on pure numbers, I probably don't do as well...I feel like I did what I did, I played like I played, and worked as hard as possible...I don't like politics, so I'll let the powers that be decide that question. I felt that I could have played with everybody, so we'll have to wait and see.

Question: What made you retire when you did? Was it mostly the back problems?

RFDonM23: Definitely NOT back problems. What made me retire was motivation. I was getting really tired of the travel, the hotels, missing my kids, etc. My kids had their "little groove" going, and it was getting hard to disrupt their lives. I found myself not wanting to be there a lot. I had given too much for a long time, and it was getting to the point where it was hard to put out the effort to remain a competitive player. Time was telling me to get out. Even though I loved the game, it was time.

Comment: Don I hope you get to see this . I've been a Yankee fan since my first game as a child when i saw Mickey Mantle. Never have I seen a player with your spirit. You will always be in my heart and always be remembered.

RFDonM23: That's cool! One thing about New York that I've the connection people made with players. It kinda became old-timers day... how people relate you to the other greats that played for the Yankees... Generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters makes the historical side of the game so cool. To be a link among the generations has always been a special thing to me.

Question: What baseball players, past or present, do you most admire, and why?

RFDonM23: That's SO hard.. there are so many guys that I admire.. and for different reasons... to pick just one would be so hard. If there was one guy that I'd like to play like, it would have to be George Brett. He played so hard, and you saw the fun in his eyes when you played. You hear the phrase "I wanna be like Mike", well, I wanted to be like George.

Question: Don, Has your work with Children's Help made any advances in the realm of medicine? And explain Children's Help.

RFDonM23: Children't Health Fund started as a mobile medical unit that brought health care to needy families in New York. People in hotels, shelters and the like who do not get proper health care. This Mobile Medical Unit would go to them and provide free medical treatment to these people. When Kim and I had our first child, we began to get involved with many organizations that help The Health Fund began treating these children, getting them into hospitals when necessary and help. In terms of advancements, it has helped many people to get the health care they would normally would have received. I think everybody deserves a chance to be healthy. Take Ear Infections for example... A child needs medication to prevent the problem from getting worse. No medication means the child remains ill, cannot hear, and then their grades in school suffer. They need an education to improve their situations... If they are able to get their medication, and get proper health care, they'll be better off becoming a productive citizen.

Comment: Donnie, as a life long Yankee fan I just want to thank you for a great decade and want to let you know we still miss your presence at the Stadium...

Question: What kind of drills and advice do you recomend for a young baseball player?

RFDonM23: I guess one drill for young players is plain old "Pitch and Catch". It's amazing how this can help in developing form, foot position, endurance, etc. This is also good for muscle development. Hitting off a tee is also helpful in developing short strides and level swings.

Question: Don, do you attend many games these days or follow on TV?

RFDonM23: I kinda watch through highlights... I will watch more as the summer goes on.. right now though, I just watch highlights. I DO watch a lot of games around here in Evansville.. actually watching 6 or 7 games week right here!

Question: Who was the hardest pitcher you had to hit off of?

RFDonM23: Mark Langston... we was tough on me because of his running fast ball... He had a good hard breaking ball, and also had a slider.. He gave me more trouble than anyone!

Question: What, in your opinion, is the biggest reason we've seen more home runs in the last few years?

RFDonM23: I think more instruction at the younger level... If you think back, they look back at the big guys with big swings. Now we have guys like Frank Thomas.. big guys with short swings that allow fewer holes in hitter's swing areas. Aluminum bats have also affected their batting styles. It is very hard to get a guy out on the inside with an aluminum The pitcher has been pushed back a little bit because of aluminum bats.

Question: Don, I heard that you used to spend three hours at home (before even going to the stadium) for batting practice to get ready for a game. What was your routine?

RFDonM23: I think that was exaggerated... a bit. I worked out for my back towards the end of my career. I spent maybe an hour or so doing back work. You get so sick of everybody asking "How's Your Back'...etc. I set myself up with enough equipment at home so nobody had to see me work out... It was a way for me to do my work at home, the way I wanted to do it.

Question: Why did you choose number 23? Does it have any special meaning?

RFDonM23: It does now! I chose 23 because it was half of 46, which was my number before that... and, I had just turned 23 so it stuck with me.

Question: Don, don't you have a computerized screensaver available?

RFDonM23: Yes... Blackhawk Graphics was nice enough to create a cool screen saver and PC which is available at It looks great, and it catches me on a good day!

OnlineHost: Don, I understand you raise and train horses ... tell us about it...

RFDonM23: I can't tell you that I TRAIN horses... LOL. We raise them for breeding purposes... but we still have a lot to learn Raymond Shively and Todd Miles are great people in the industry... My wife shows, my kids show, and it's great for the family, and for developing a sense of hard work. It's a lot of physical work, and it's great for developing patience and watching things grow and develop in time.

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Copyright 1998, Joseph L. Riccitelli, Jr.