It Doesn't Take Much Imagination. (Gannett News Service 2/23/94)


     FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It doesn't take much imagination to
  guess how much Don Mattingly would love to play in a World Series.
     A championship ring would validate his distinguished career.
     More significantly, it would end those sad September stories
  that pity him as seemingly destined to become his generation's
  Ernie Banks.
     Surprisingly, Mattingly now downplays his World Series dream -
  at least publicly.
     "Everybody has that dream of getting that big hit in a World
  Series," he said after completing a spring-training workout at Fort
  Lauderdale Stadium.
     "I may have said things differently in the past. But I don't
  feel a void in my heart. I feel blessed, really. I look back at all
  the great things that have happened in my career, and I don't feel
  a void."
     "He's guarded at times about people saying he hasn't won the Big
  One yet or he doesn't have that championship ring," third base
  coach Willie Randolph said. "He's enough at peace with himself and
  his career that he's not obsessed with it."
     It has been seven years since his last great season. It has
  been nine seasons since he hit .324 with 145 RBI and 35 home runs.
     But Mattingly, who turns 31 on April 20, produced an echo last
  season when he hit .291 with 17 home runs and 86 RBI, flirting with
  .300 until fading. He hit .250 in September when his aching right
  wrist was an unspoken hindrance.
     "A lot of people were writing him off," said Randolph, his
  teammate during five of his six great seasons between 1984 and 1989.
     "I wasn't worried about him bouncing back. He is a champion. I
  say that because he's proven himself as a batting champion and just
  by his every-day attitude. Who knows how hurt he was last
  September? He didn't complain. He challenged himself.
     "I've always admired his work ethic and fire. He approaches
  each at-bat like it's the seventh game of the World Series. That's
  what has made him the great player he is."
     Mattingly seemed re-born during the Yankees second-place finish
  in the American League East last season, their first above fourth
  place since 1986.
     "It felt at least like a building block, a foundation for a
  better year," he said. "I expect a lot out of myself this year and
  a lot out of the other guys in this room. I feel good about our
  chances."
     "Donnie probably felt a little tease to be that close and not
  to get over the hump," manager Buck Showalter said. "That's
  probably going to make him hungrier this year."
     Earlier in his career, when he was surrounded by Dave Winfield,
  Rickey Henderson, Randolph and Don Baylor, he might have taken a
  World Series appearance for granted, never dreaming it would prove
  so elusive.
     "I always felt that winning was something that was going to
  happen," he said. "I didn't worry about it."
     His troublesome back seems sound. He had November surgery to
  relieve tension on his wrist ligament.
     He'd like to be remembered for more than those six great
  seasons. He may not want to admit it now as much as he has in the
  past. But he'd love to be remembered as a world champion.

Copyright 1994, Gannett News Service, a division of Gannett Satelitte Information Network, Inc.

CORBETT, JIM, FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It doesn't take much Imagination., Gannett News Service, 02-23-1994.




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