About an hour before first pitch Thursday, Mickey Callaway will take a walk to the dugout and take it all in.
“I like to watch the fans come in and feel the ballpark come alive,” he said. “I’ve never been able to do that in Citi Field. I can’t imagine what it feels like. That’s when I’m going to get the goose bumps, watching all our supporters come in to see something special. I’m hoping to lead a team that goes out there that plays the game with respect for the fans.”
On Thursday, in New York, Callaway will manage his first game. There are a lot of emotions, he said, the foremost being anxiety.
“I’m anxious to get out there and see what our ballclub can do,” he said. “I’m really proud of what they did in spring training, the way they went about their business and I think I’m excited, anxious. There are probably a lot of emotions that will hit me tomorrow, but I really feel that I’m in a good place to go out there tomorrow and be the best we can all be.”
Callaway certainly hasn’t been shy about implementing changes, and beginning Thursday, he’ll be faced with the mildly terrifying verdict. Do the new things work? Or are the Mets set up for more mediocrity?
On Wednesday, he announced his fairly unorthodox lineup — hitting the pitcher eighth, with Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce hitting second and third. And before that, he preached accountability and hard work over even results. Bruce said Wednesday that Callaway is loath to micromanage, while Todd Frazier and Cespedes said he champions communication (something that, in the past, was in short order around these parts).
“It’s a great learning experience,” Callaway said. “I’m humbled by what managers have to go through. I’m well prepared. We had a really nice spring training. I think everybody did the things they were supposed to do. I feel like everyone is prepared going in.”
He’s already decided on his managerial style — “selectively aggressive,” he said — and thinks it suits his personnel well.
“I think that everybody wants to be an aggressive manager or an aggressive player,” he said. “You have to do it very smartly. I think you can’t just be running and gunning all the time. We’re going to take advantage of the information and we’re going to be selectively aggressive when we can be.”
He insists Thursday is just another game, though Callaway did admit there would be special moments — getting to bring out the lineup card for the first time, or that moment an hour before the game, when he can soak it all in before the real work begins.
“It’s going to be an honor to get out there,” he said. “I think I’m where I need to be.”
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