Overcast 51° Good Evening
Overcast 51° Good Evening

Matthews, Davis familiar with big leagues even before getting there

As Mets rookie Ike Davis enjoyed his first homestand in the major leagues last month, his father, Ron, was a constant presence at Citi Field, a smiling figure in a new Mets cap.

Ron Davis pitched for the Yankees and four other major-league clubs. Having a big-league dad often has been cited as a factor in Ike's mature demeanor as he navigates the start of what the Mets hope is a long, productive stay in Flushing.

Ike Davis is not the only Met who has a former big-leaguer as a father. Gary Matthews Jr.'s father - Gary Sr. - had a 16-year career with five teams.

Gary Matthews Sr., whose nickname is "Sarge," was not present when his son broke into the majors with the Padres in 1999. The senior Matthews was a hitting coach with the Blue Jays when his son broke in.

"When I got to the major leagues - no lie - he had seen me play maybe five times my whole life. Maybe," Matthews Jr. said. "He was playing. He was working. He was always gone. I remember he saw me play in college, he might have seen me play a couple games in the [amateur] fall league. He didn't see me play again live until, gosh, maybe my second year in the majors."

Sarge was at Citi Field this week as part of the Phillies' announcing crew. But it's not the first time he has seen the Mets this season. According to Matthews Jr., Sarge watches Mets games on his satellite dish and gives his son tips - through the television set.

"He watches me play on TV all the time," Matthews Jr. said. "From what I hear, he talks to me a lot through the TV. Every time he sees me at the plate, he talks to me, which is kind of a cool thing."

Matthews knows what Davis brought with him to the big leagues because he brought it, too. Both share a sense of having been there before, because in a sense they were, as they experienced big-league life with their fathers growing up.

"It does help," Matthews said. "I think when you first get to the major leagues as a rookie, there's all these things to get used to: playing in bigger stadiums, 40,000 people sitting in the stands, learning to interact with the media, learning how to act with the front office, not being afraid to ask questions, even learning how to interact with the umpires. All of these things I was accustomed to doing before I got here. I had been doing all these things since I was 5 years old."

Ike Davis is a first baseman and his father was a relief pitcher, so there's only so much Ron can tell Ike about hitting. But Sarge was an outfielder like his son, a lifetime .281 hitter, and a former hitting coach, so father really does know best. But it's something Matthews Jr. doesn't take for granted - or use too often - even when he's going bad at the plate, as he has been for most of this season.

"When I'm really struggling, which still applies to this day, we'll have a sitdown or we'll have a talk," Matthews Jr. said.

"I really try not to have those talks too often. It's kind of like a good-luck charm that I use. When it all goes bad, I can call my dad and we'll designate a specific conversation to figure it out. It's guaranteed to get me out of whatever I'm doing at the time. I'm superstitious, so I don't like to go to the well too many times. I save it for when I'm really going bad."

New York Sports