DiFelice Wraps Up First Season At The Helm

Managing always brings about new and often unexpected situations. Those situations can be challenging even for the most seasoned skippers, but it is all compounded when the manager is in his first season. Such is the case for the Kingsport Mets head man Mike DiFelice who spoke about his experiences with Inside Pitch.

Kingsport Mets manager Mike DiFelice, 40, retired following the 2008 season after 12 years in the big leagues with three of his final four seasons spent in a Mets uniform. Now he is back in the organization and in charge of leading one of the system's youngest clubs. Not only does he have day to day role of running his Appalachian League squad, but has the unique task of managing very young players while learning his own craft one year after experiencing the game from the other side.

"My goal is to create better professionals on and off the field and both inside and out," said DiFelice. "From the time they step in the clubhouse until the game ends, it's not just about performance but it's also about the overall the concept of what it takes to play baseball day in and day out, six months out of the year."

"Nobody competes athletically without wanting to win, but at this level we're basically trying to build professional ballplayers. We've got a lot of new, young guys who can do exciting things and who are getting their first taste of pro ball," he continued.

That is a very sound approach for a manager who admits to still getting his feet wet in his new position. There are many things DiFelice picked up along the way but the first change he needed to make was a shift in mindset and general approach to the game.

"The hardest thing for me is trying to separate myself from my playing days to now," he said. "As I go out and manage, I still have a lot of player mentality in me but as the season rolled on, I did a better job of separating that."

"Hopefully my experience, and some of the experience that I've had with guys I've played with, is something that I can pass on to our young guys."

The majority of his roster in Kingsport is filled with members of the most recent draft class, international free agent signings, many of whom have not reached 21 years old, and second-year players. That youth allows DiFelice to impress a dedicated work ethic upon his players that he hopes will pay off in the long run.

"The ultimate goal is to learn the tools to ultimately help the big league club win a World Series, so why not put in more work down here whenever you get the opportunity?," he detailed.

"Myself and my staff are trying to get across the added little things now that will help our guys so they don't have to wait until they move higher up to learn more."

At the same time, he takes a rather aggressive approach with a roster full of young, raw talent and does not try to harness its play. Instead, DiFelice acknowledges that getting the best out of his players is as easy as leaving those to their own devices when on the field.

"In one our meetings at the beginning of the year, we talked about not being afraid of mistakes—playing aggressive," he said. "That's the only way they're going to know what they can get out of their talent. If they play timid, they'll never know what they are capable of and that was something we stressed to the players."

Then there is the age discrepancy between the manager and the players. With many on the roster not having been born when DiFelice began his minor league career, how does the K-Mets manager keep his message on track?

"I try to take everybody as their own individual. I think there is a general concept to be addressed when it comes to playing the game, but some guys are more aggressive than others, some have less aggressive personalities," he explained.

"I'm trying not to compare all of our young guys with how they should act as a big league ball player. I think that's unfair," he added.

"They're still young and came from all different backgrounds to get here, but I'm trying to treat them all like men and trying to address certain things when they happen in a positive way. Personally, I think we're putting out a nice message."

"Each guy in the clubhouse is like a family member now and trying to get those concepts across aside from basic hitting, throwing and catching is very important. Those are the little things that are going to help the players in their quest to get to the big leagues."

The organization has not only offered DiFelice a chance to begin his second career in baseball, but the trust the Mets have shown in a manager with no previous experience speaks volumes for the former catcher who relishes this opportunity.

"I hope that the Mets hired me because of the way I went about the game, how I prepared for the game and the dedication I put into my career and the Mets organization while I was with them," DiFelice concluded.

"I hope they trust that I'll help develop their players. I'm assuming that's why I'm in uniform with the Mets. I'd like to give back all the knowledge that allowed me to have a career in the big leagues."

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nKingsport Mets manager Mike DiFelice, 40, retired following the 2008 season after 12 years in the big leagues with three of his final four seasons spent in a Mets uniform. Now he is back in the organization and in charge of leading one of the system's youngest clubs. Not only does he have day to day role of running his Appalachian League squad, but has the unique task of managing very young players while learning his own craft one year after experiencing the game from the other side.
\r\n
\r\n\"My goal is to create better professionals on and off the field and both inside and out,\" said DiFelice. \"From the time they step in the clubhouse until the game ends, it's not just about performance but it's also about the overall the concept of what it takes to play baseball day in and day out, six months out of the year.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Nobody competes athletically without wanting to win, but at this level we're basically trying to build professional ballplayers. We've got a lot of new, young guys who can do exciting things and who are getting their first taste of pro ball,\" he continued.
\r\n
\r\nThat is a very sound approach for a manager who admits to still getting his feet wet in his new position. There are many things DiFelice picked up along the way but the first change he needed to make was a shift in mindset and general approach to the game.
\r\n
\r\n\"The hardest thing for me is trying to separate myself from my playing days to now,\" he said. \"As I go out and manage, I still have a lot of player mentality in me but as the season rolled on, I did a better job of separating that.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Hopefully my experience, and some of the experience that I've had with guys I've played with, is something that I can pass on to our young guys.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe majority of his roster in Kingsport is filled with members of the most recent draft class, international free agent signings, many of whom have not reached 21 years old, and second-year players. That youth allows DiFelice to impress a dedicated work ethic upon his players that he hopes will pay off in the long run.
\r\n
\r\n\"The ultimate goal is to learn the tools to ultimately help the big league club win a World Series, so why not put in more work down here whenever you get the opportunity?,\" he detailed.
\r\n
\r\n\"Myself and my staff are trying to get across the added little things now that will help our guys so they don't have to wait until they move higher up to learn more.\"
\r\n
\r\nAt the same time, he takes a rather aggressive approach with a roster full of young, raw talent and does not try to harness its play. Instead, DiFelice acknowledges that getting the best out of his players is as easy as leaving those to their own devices when on the field.
\r\n
\r\n\"In one our meetings at the beginning of the year, we talked about not being afraid of mistakes—playing aggressive,\" he said. \"That's the only way they're going to know what they can get out of their talent. If they play timid, they'll never know what they are capable of and that was something we stressed to the players.\"
\r\n
\r\nThen there is the age discrepancy between the manager and the players. With many on the roster not having been born when DiFelice began his minor league career, how does the K-Mets manager keep his message on track?
\r\n
\r\n\"I try to take everybody as their own individual. I think there is a general concept to be addressed when it comes to playing the game, but some guys are more aggressive than others, some have less aggressive personalities,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm trying not to compare all of our young guys with how they should act as a big league ball player. I think that's unfair,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\n\"They're still young and came from all different backgrounds to get here, but I'm trying to treat them all like men and trying to address certain things when they happen in a positive way. Personally, I think we're putting out a nice message.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Each guy in the clubhouse is like a family member now and trying to get those concepts across aside from basic hitting, throwing and catching is very important. Those are the little things that are going to help the players in their quest to get to the big leagues.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe organization has not only offered DiFelice a chance to begin his second career in baseball, but the trust the Mets have shown in a manager with no previous experience speaks volumes for the former catcher who relishes this opportunity.
\r\n
\r\n\"I hope that the Mets hired me because of the way I went about the game, how I prepared for the game and the dedication I put into my career and the Mets organization while I was with them,\" DiFelice concluded.
\r\n
\r\n\"I hope they trust that I'll help develop their players. I'm assuming that's why I'm in uniform with the Mets. I'd like to give back all the knowledge that allowed me to have a career in the big leagues.\"
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