When New York Mets manager Buck Showalter asked how he would feel when lining up against the New York Yankees for their two-game Subway Series this week, he kept things short and sweet.
“Proud,” he said. “I’m going to feel proud.”
See, Showalter has been on the Bronx side of New York’s baseball landscape well before he called Queens home.
The Mets skipper, who is leading his team to new heights in 2022, is in pursuit of finally winning his first-ever World Series ring in his 21st season of managing. A journey that began with the Yankees 30 years ago.
Showalter helped build the Yankees toward its dynastic phase that saw them dominate the second half of the 1990s with four World Series wins in 1996 before a three-peat from 1998-2000 — though he wouldn’t be with the organization to see it.
After taking over a fledgling franchise as a 36-year-old in 1992, Showalter took the team to its first playoff appearance in 14 years in 1995 — though that drought should have ended a year earlier had it not been for the strike. But an ALDS loss to the Seattle Mariners prompted his departure, making way for Joe Torre and a golden generation for the Yankees.
A rather unceremonious end to a 19-year run in that organization, but an important one to lay the foundation of a successful career in baseball that led him to Arizona to Texas, to Baltimore, and now to the Mets — who visited the Yankees this week for a quick Subway Series.
“You spend 19 years you have certain memories. It’s like going to elementary school or high school and then you go to graduate school,” the now-66-year-old said about being in the visitor’s dugout at Yankee Stadium. “The things I was exposed to and the things I was allowed to be around shaped me. You learn things you should do and other things you shouldn’t do. We’re all a product of the things we’re exposed to in our lives.”
Yet Showalter is now the skipper of what could very well be the best team he’s ever coached in his four decades of professional baseball experience. The Mets are on pace to have the second greatest regular season in franchise history and lead an uber-competitive NL East with the defending World Series champion Braves nipping at their heels.
All the while, Showalter has jumped up to 20th on the MLB all-time list of most managerial wins, passing Ralph Houk, Fred Clarke, and Tommy Lasorda this season.
Needless to say, that hasn’t allowed him to pay too much attention to what’s been going on in the Bronx as the Yankees are trying to claw their way out of a miserable stretch that saw them go 10-20 over their previous 30 games heading into the Subway Series. Still, they hold a healthy advantage in the AL East over the likes of the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s been about the Phillies, it’s been about the Braves,” Showalter said. “A lot of teams would love to have their problems. They’re having a great year and they’re a tough team… hard to beat. They’re a really good team, well put together. But it’s been about the Mets.”
That being said, the importance of the Subway Series has not been lost on him — his first experience of the rivalry coming 30 years prior in the exhibition Mayor’s Trophy Game that predated interleague play.
“It’s important to our fans. That’s the bottom line. If it’s important to them, it should be important to us,” Showalter said of the rivalry. “You could sit around and say that it’s just another game but let’s be frank, it means a lot to our players and our fans.”