ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s been more than two decades since Hensley Meulens played for the Yankees, but he’s never forgotten where he started his professional career.
“I was groomed to be a winner,” Meulens said Thursday.
Meulens, 50, who interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial opening Thursday, signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old international free agent from Curacao and made his big-league debut four years later. He recalled winning championships in the minors with the Yankees, capturing another playing in Japan and earning three World Series rings as the Giants’ hitting coach from 2010-16.
“Everything that was instilled in me, especially winning and becoming a true baseball player, I learned here in the Yankee family,” Meulens said during a conference call.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Meulens played for the Yankees from 1989-93 and also spent time with the Expos and Diamondbacks.
“I’ve been away from here for 24 years, but every time I go somewhere, people say, ‘Oh, you used to play for the Yankees.’ Nobody ever says, ‘You played for the Diamondbacks or the Expos,’ ” he said. “Nothing against those organizations, but I always get associated as a big prospect for the Yankees. Growing up here was essential for me and the person I became. Winning and playing the game the right way I learned right here.”
Meulens became the third person, joining Rob Thomson and Eric Wedge, to interview for the job. Former Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone, an ESPN analyst, is expected to interview Friday.
Meulens recently became Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s bench coach. He managed in Venezuela winter ball for three years and led the Netherlands to the World Baseball Classic semifinals in 2013 and 2017.
Among the primary reasons the Yankees moved on from Joe Girardi after 10 years were problems of “connectivity and communication,” in the words of general manager Brian Cashman. Those are considered strengths of Meulens, whom Bochy has been pushing privately as manager material for several years.
“I’ve been known to be a great communicator with guys because of my ability to speak different languages,” said Meulens, who is fluent in English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and Papiamento, the official language of Curacao. “But not only that. I’m a guy that likes going around the clubhouse, talking to guys, finding out how guys are feeling.”
He said that can require more effort than just asking the question.
“Sometimes players tend to not give information to the coaches, and so you don’t know if a dog died or something,” Meulens said. “That’s the way, as a coach and when I managed, I conduct myself. You have to understand, as a coach, you’re kind of a psychologist at the same time. Having an understanding of the player and maybe easing his problems a bit goes a long ways to getting the player ready to play.”
While the Giants are known as an organization that warmed to analytics later than others, Meulens said he is open to all of what that means. That’s a wise approach, because the Yankees have the largest analytics department in the majors.
“The managers that are having success and want to have success,” he said, “they have to come up to speed with that kind of stuff, because it’s facts.”