Most everyone across baseball leaves for spring training this weekend in Florida or Arizona, with some form of preparation behind them, physical, mental, winter baseball experience, rest for the nearly nine months required to get to the final day of the World Series.
Recently, everyone in uniform or in the Marlins organization received a letter from Don Mattingly laying out some of the little things he hopes they will all keep in mind as they begin the long, steep grind of the season.
As Mattingly mentions near the end of the letter, this was not his original writing. The body is a letter Jim Leyland sent to everyone in the Pirates organization before spring training in 1988. “I was given a copy of this and while thinking how it applies to our (Marlins) club this season, I was awed by how 29 years later, it still perfectly applies,” Mattingly said Tuesday. “He is an amazing man, obviously one of the greatest managers of all time.”
The original letter was sent out before Leyland’s third season as a major league manager. In 1986, he took over a Pirates team that had finished last three consecutive years. In ’86, Leyland’s Pirates also finished last, but crept to 80-82 in ’87, and the year he sent this letter, they went 85-77, then won the National League East in 1990-91-92.
Leyland’s career spanned one World Series title, three pennants and 1769 victories, 16th most of any manager, more than Hall of Famers Dick Williams or Tommy Lasorda. There is no doubt that Leyland someday will join his friends Tony La Russa and Sparky Anderson in Cooperstown.
This spring Leyland is managing Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, representing Major League Baseball. If he wanted, he could simply dig out the original copy of the letter he sent to those 1988 Pirates. It remains timeless, and on point.