On occasion, Orioles manager Buck Showalter will wax poetic about certain baseball subjects as if he were sitting on a country porch, telling stories and sipping lemonade.
Thursday afternoon was one of those times — when Showalter was asked about managing this weekend against Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly, whom Showalter played with in the minors, managed in the majors and has remained close to over the years.
"You know how people say friends are people that know all about you and still like you? That's kind of where this one falls," said Showalter, who talked for more than 10 minutes about Mattingly. "I've known Donnie since he was 20, 21. He helped my career a lot [because] I knew I wasn't going to be a left fielder or first baseman for the New York Yankees when I saw him. He was going to be. This is before he hit for any power."
Mattingly, a six-time All Star who played under Showalter with the New York Yankees from 1992 to 1995, is in his third year as a big-league manager, all with the Dodgers. This will be the first time the friends have faced each other — the Dodgers have been to Baltimore only once since the 1966 World Series, in 2002.
"It does not surprise me that he's managing, and he's a good one," said Showalter, who played with Mattingly in 1981 at Double-A Nashville and in 1983 at Triple-A Columbus. "Donnie just had a great presence about him. He had a real pure heart. He's real sincere. I think players see that."
Showalter said two of his most vivid memories in baseball involve Mattingly. The first was in the 1995 playoffs at Yankee Stadium, the first time Mattingly experienced the postseason in his illustrious career.
"One of my proudest moments was seeing him get introduced in the playoffs in 1995. That was pretty cool," Showalter said. "To this day people will tell you that's the loudest they've ever heard the stadium."
The other occurred a few days later, after the Yankees lost to the Seattle Mariners in the American League Division Series. It was on flight back from Seattle that Mattingly, beset with chronic back pain, told Showalter he had decided to retire.
"That was pretty emotional for both of us," Showalter said. "You think you've had a bad day? Get on that plane ride from Seattle. That was a long flight for a lot of reasons. Between losing that [playoff series] and having that conversation with him."
Showalter eventually stopped himself from talking about Mattingly, saying, "I could keep going. I like him. [But] I'm not going to like him for three days."