“I’m having a blast,” said an enthusiastic 74-year-old Rich Donnelly during an on-field interview referring to his new position as the head of the New York Mets’ Spring Training Camp for the month of March. After managing the Brooklyn Cyclones for three years from 2011 to 2013, Donnelly coached with the Seattle Mariners, managed for a Mid-West independent team and returned to Brooklyn as a bench coach to Cyclone Manager Edgardo Alfonzo for the 2018 season.
When Major League Camp breaks, Donnelly will stay in Florida when the Mets head north in April to start the season. Remaining in Port St. Lucie, Donnelly will be in charge of Extended Spring Training for the months of April and May where young minor leaguers will hone their skills playing area colleges and intra-squad games.
In June, Donnelly along with his coaching staff will divide up the minor league players into three teams sending them to either the Gulf Coast League at Port St. Lucie, the Rookie League in Kingsport Tennessee or the Brooklyn Cyclones. For Donnelly, the regular season will take him back to his roots to manage a low minor league team at Kingsport.
“I’m looking forward to managing in Kingsport in a more relaxed setting,” said the baseball aficionado who first managed the West Carolina Single-A Greenville Rangers in 1972 for Texas at the young age of 25 after hitting his playing ceiling as a Triple-A catcher. At Greenville, the rookie Donnelly earned the Manager of the Year Award by taking the team to a first place finish while playing in a burnt out shell of a ballpark.
As the manager of Kingsport, Donnelly will be evaluating talent and promoting players to Brooklyn. Next week he will also be providing the Mets with his input on which players will make the 25-man roster for Opening Day.
In one of his classic tongue-in-cheek comments, Donnelly summed up his spring training experience thus far saying, “I’m really enjoying this job. Where else can you start work at 4:30 a.m. and be home by 7 p.m.?”