LOS ANGELES -- The framed lineup card from the first big-league game Ron Gardenhire ever managed hangs on his office wall in Minnesota. At his home in San Diego, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy sometimes goes back to 1995 and his first game in the pilot's seat when he looks at the framed lineup card hanging in his home office.
In Los Angeles, with first-year skipper Don Mattingly's first game in the books this week, that Dodgers lineup card is ... um ... ah ... well, it's gotta be around here somewhere.
Where the heck did it go?
|First-time manager Don Mattingly would rather pore over a lineup card than save one from his first game. (US Presswire)|
No, he isn't.
"[Traveling secretary] Scott Akasaki brought me some tickets from the game," Mattingly said. "I'm not huge on that stuff, honestly."
What he's huge on is details, small ones, the ones microscopic enough that one on top of another add up to something bigger, and then put a few more details on top of those and it becomes something bigger still.
"You don't come out of Evansville, Ind., become a late-round pick, end up in the Yankees organization, win an MVP award, win a batting title and have your number retired in Monument Park just for showing up," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "Those are all special accolades.
"I see him being the same type of manager as he was a player."
Interesting thing about the current Colletti-Mattingly partnership is this: When Dallas Green left the Cubs' organization to become Yankees manager in 1989, he also took a few of his Cubs buddies to fill out his coaching staff. Colletti was working for the Cubs at the time and periodically spoke that year with Green -- his first boss in professional baseball -- Charlie Fox, Billy Connors and Lee Elia.
"They continually talked about Don Mattingly as a player and as a leader," Colletti said. "I wasn't asking. I didn't need to know."
Yet they loved Mattingly so much they persisted in talking about him. So, too, did others in baseball circles over the years.
Now, with the Dodgers' hot 2-0 start, who knows? Maybe others will be talking about Mattingly.
"I was pleasantly surprised I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be," Mattingly said of Thursday's opener. "I was still apprehensive. But I felt more nervous on the first day of spring training."
But Donnie Baseball connected squarely that day, too.
"Don told us the first day of spring training that he would do his best not to forget how hard this game is," Tony Gwynn Jr. said. "I've been fortunate to play for three managers who played the game at this level [Mattingly, Bud Black and Ned Yost] and I'd never heard that before.
"When a guy is on second base with none out and you've gotta get him to third base, or when you've gotta get a bunt down, it relaxes you a little more."
There will be nervous times ahead, both for Mattingly and for the Dodgers. The new car smell can last awhile in a new manager's office. But a few bad decisions and a cord of losses, the smell veers toward bad fish a lot more quickly than you think, too.
And one unseen battle Mattingly inherits is that Dodgers fans are coming into this year in a foul mood after watching Frank and Jamie McCourt urinate all over their franchise for the past two years. No, they're not exactly teeming with patience.
Which made Clayton Kershaw's 2-1 gem in the opener all the more welcome. Thanks to the blossoming ace, Mattingly's most difficult decision for much of the night was when to take a sip of water. Strategically, his most difficult decision came in the sixth: Whether to allow Kershaw to bat with two out, the bases loaded and the Dodgers up 1-0. He did.
"He's our guy," Mattingly explained. "He was pitching good, his pitch count was fine. We needed one more inning out of him."
The details guy -- who wanted so badly to manage that he took the unusual step of preparing for his first major-league job by accepting a gig managing an Arizona Fall League team last autumn -- has been so consumed with the day-to-day since Day 1 of spring training that he has had no time for sentimental moments.
"Yesterday, you can either let it help you or let it hurt you," Mattingly said. "Yesterday's gone.
"I mean, it's gone."
Speaking of which ... forget, for now, the disappeared lineup card.
Only memento he saved from Game 1 was the baseball from the last out. And that was only because closer Jonathan Broxton did everything but cram it down his throat.
"It was pretty hard to get him to take it," Broxton said. "I tried to give it to him on the field, but he didn't want it.
"Then we came into the clubhouse and I said, 'Here, here's the ball' again. And he said, 'No, it's yours.' I finally said, 'You take it, because it's your first one.'"
A true closer, Broxton refused to back down until he closed this deal.
And now Donnie Baseball's managerial career is up and running. Suitable for framing, or not.