The general manager of the Mets, Omar Minaya, was the guest speaker at the ninth annual “21 Days of Clemente” sponsored by Latino Sports Ventures, Inc. The event is a remembrance by the South Bronx community of the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who perished in a plane crash bringing supplies to the beleaguered population of Nicaragua on December 31, 1972 after a devastating earthquake did great damage to the people of Nicaragua. The event this December was held at the recently opened Applebee’s in the Gateway Mall at 153rd Street and River Ave.
Minaya, born in the Dominican Republic in 1958, moved to Queens at the age of eight. He attended public schools in the borough. Interestingly, the boy who grew up a Mets fan is now directing baseball activities for that same team. Minaya did not seem uncomfortable only eight blocks south of the home of the New York Yankees as he was joined by many Mets fans that live in the area. He started his remarks with praise of his surroundings,
“It is a cold night, but we are here in the warmth of the Bronx.” He complimented the Mets fans in the restaurant for their bravery, “Yes, this is Yankee country. I give you a lot of credit for wearing Mets hats here today”
Although the purpose of Minaya’s visit to the Bronx was to speak in honor of Clemente, he did not ignore the interest of those present in the 2010 baseball season. When Latino Sports CEO Julio Pabon told those attending that questions would be limited to the topic of Roberto Clemente, Minaya gently interrupted, “It’s winter; they want to talk about baseball. Let’s take four or five questions.”
Minaya responded to those baseball queries without hesitation or annoyance. When asked why the Mets are not pursuing free agent outfielder Matt Holiday in addition to Jason Bay, Minaya replied, “We are pursuing Matt Holiday. It seems to be easier to make a deal for Jason Bay.” It appears at this writing that the Mets are in the forefront of signing Bay. The sticking point seems to be whether the contract will be for four or five years duration.
The GM was asked his opinion of the 2010 Mets starting rotation. He quickly answered, “[Johan] Santana, [Mike] Pelfrey, [John] Maine, [Oliver] Perez , [Jonathon] Niese and possibly a free agent. Minaya tried to assure the Mets supporters the team would be improved next season, “Last year was a very difficult year. Injuries came together. These things happen. These things build character. Things will turn around.”
The New Yorker since the age of eight, refused to malign the Yankees, “I’m not one of those Mets fans that’s a Yankee hater. I’m a New Yorker. I would be happiest to see a Mets-Yankees World Series.”
Minaya, like his counterpart on the Yankees, Brian Cashman, receives criticism more than praise from the team’s rabid fan base. He understands that one in his position cannot have a thin skin, “It’s about what you do, not what they say about you.” Minaya described the incredulous feeling of a Latino boy from Queens who sometimes had to sneak into Shea Stadium because his hard-working but poor parents could not afford to give him the money to go to ball games very often now being a top executive of the team.
The first Latino general manager of a big league franchise was complimentary of the second, Ruben Amaaro, Jr. of the Phillies. He joked “I was there to guide him. Maybe, I guided him too much. They beat us the last two years.”