Today when we think of big names in baseball, we think of people like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander and so on. But while we think of these as the stars of today, some of the greats were the stars of years past. One of these great past players was Wally Backman.
Wally Backman played for the Mets as the starting second baseman from 1980 to 1988. He played a significant role in the team winning the World Series in 1986. He was a great fielder throughout his career. He was also a very good hitter. As both a key fielder and batter, Wally helped the Mets greatly to succeed in 1986.
After playing major league baseball for 14 years, Wally turned to managing. Traveling across the United States, and even going outside the country, he has kept his current identity as a rising manager in baseball. This season, he has come back to New York to manage our very own Long Island Ducks.
I met up with Wally and asked him some questions.
What do you think was the strongest asset of your game?
I think I was a fundamentally sound player, but I played to win. I did whatever it took to win. If it was taking a guy out a second base, or if it was giving myself up to move a runner into scoring position, or if I had to try and steal a base late in the game, I did all the things I thought to make our team better, whichever team it was. I just feel like I did my job.
What part of being a player has helped you as a manager?
I don’t know, maybe it’s competitiveness. ... I like to compete, I like to see players succeed. I like to put players where they will be best, and I like to see players grow.
How does it feel coming back to New York this season to manage the Long Island Ducks?
Well, it’s where I lived. I built a home on Long Island when I played, and I just love the people of New York. I just loved the times that I was in New York, and they’ve always been good to me. I think it’s by far the best city in the country to play sports in.
What do you plan to do with the Ducks as manager? Will you make any moves with them?
I plan on winning! We’ll make some moves — the teams change every year, a little bit. You keep some of the same players, we’ll change a little. This is the time where I’m starting to look at some players.
What advice can you give to kids who want to follow in your footsteps?
I think the best advice that I could give a kid is to follow your dream, but to make sure you get your education first.
Marytheresa Donohue's seventh-grade class, St. Mary School, East Islip