Mattingly Playing for Boston? A Close Call

Preston Mattingly is happy he's a Dodger but there's still enough Yankee in him that he thanks his present organization for another thing, " I might have become a Red Sox," he says with almost a shudder. "I'm glad the Dodgers kept me from that."

For as the supplemental portion of June's draft loomed, several organizations were calling Pres, who was back home in Indiana, to tell him of their intention to make him a selection when their turn came. The Yankees were one, so were the Twins and another were those guys from Boston.

The Twins didn't figure for their turn came after the others but the Sox were choosing ahead of the Yanks and that meant he miight go to them. And the thought of wearing the uniform of the team that he'd learned to deplore while growing up the son of New York legend Don was a bit too much.

But the Dodgers had the first pick in the supplemental round so they solved everything for Preston by selecting him. Now, as he winds up his first year as a pro, he's very glad they were the ones that got there ahead of the others. And he knows why there are those that regard his selection so high as something of a surprise.

"I know why Baseball America and some others didn't have me rated up there, " he says. "I didn't go to any Showcases or play in any summer leagues like all the other guys who were talked about."

Not that he was idle during his summer vacations. It's just that in and around his many trips to New York where his dad played and where he now serves as batting coach for the Yanks, Preston played in a summer basketball league.

When you think about it, that figures for he was good enough at playing hoops to make all-state in the sport (as well as earning similar honors in football as a wide receiver).

Naturally, he had college offers in those sports as well but he'd made up his mind that it would be baseball and had accepted a scholarship to the University of Tennessee if he didn't get the pro offer he liked.

And he may well have spruned the Red Sox to wear Tennessee orange but the Dodgers gave him a million reasons to join them.

They did so because they loved his athleticism and felt that he could become a hitter in something of his dad's mold. He certainly didn't disappoint as a rookie. Despite the fact that he didn't concentrate on baseball while in high school back in Evansville, Ind., he hit very well in the Gulf Coast League.

He was ripping through the league when a coach decided to bring out more power by getting him to pull the ball more. He tried but it fouled up his swing, his average plummeted so, among other thngs, he placed a call to his father.

"He told me to go back to what I was always doing before," he related later. That consisted of spraying the ball to all fields. He did, steadied himself and wound up with a very respectable .290 average. with one home run and led his team in RBI with 29. He also showed off his considerable speed, stealing 12 in 15 tries

He's been in the Arizona Instructional League this fall where he's continued to hit well. One thing that hasn't happened is any switch in position for he's stayed at shortstop.

This despite predictions that he'd have to find a new position as a pro. He certainly had an unorthodox manner in playing the position but that's been smoothed out quite a bit. He has the range and hands to stay there although he may not have the arm strength.

Right now, though, he's a shortstop in a Dodger uniform. And all are content with that. Except, of course, the Red Sox.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories