The night Dave Magadan became a hero to this 6th grader

I was in sixth grade and I remember it well. Like it was yesterday. It was an amazing time to be alive, for a Mets fan. Fall of ‘86. The Mets spent the summer crushing (and fighting) the rest of the national league into submission. Only thing left was to clinch the National League East division, and get ready for the play offs.

My homeroom teacher that year was Mr. Russo. Mr. Russo was a Yankee fan. The type of Yankee fan that would bring up Lou Gehrig and Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle to an 11 year old Mets fan. I didn’t know a lot about baseball back then. But I knew I didn’t like the Yankees, or their fans.

I remember we would take turns getting in front of the class and give a current events update. We would take turns. I believe two or three kids would go up and give a report, then he next day, another two or three kids would do the same. My reports were always about the Mets. Last nights game. Or a general update of the past week or so. I’m pretty sure these were supposed to be legitimate news stores. Not sports updates or lessons on Mookie Wilson’s WAR or his OPS+.

But I didn’t care. Plus it was fun to flaunt the Mets success in front of Mr. Russo.

Just before school started, my dad gave me a stack of the small, pocket size notepads. They had these (fake?) leather covers and I thought they were the coolest things ever-next to the ‘86 Mets, of course. I would take all my Mets current events in these notebooks.

I made sure to have one ready on September 17, 1986. The Mets magic number was down to one. The Mets- I knew they would- would clinch the division tonight. They won that game of course, and the rest is history.

I prepared my report for Mr. Russo’s class. I watched every second of that game. My whole summer was coming to a conclusion in this game. It was all leading up to this point, and I couldn’t be more excited. As the game went on a new hero emerged. Dave Magadan! He went 3 for 4 that night. Plus 2 RBIs. He led the team that night. A September call up leading the team I was obsessed with all summer. And, he’s Lou Piniella—Yankee legend Lou Piniella’s cousin*. I was so excited to give me current events report that day. Dave Magadan became my hero over night.

*For some reason I always that Dave was Lou’s nephew. But my sources say they are cousins. Dave’s dad and Lou’s mother are brother/sister.

From that day on, I was a Dave Magadan fan, and I followed him on and off, during his fairly long career.

Magadan played 16 season for seven clubs. He got his first taste of the majors as a September call up that fall of ‘86, and finished his career after the 2001 season with San Diego. Over that time he played for Oakland, the Cubs, Seatle, the Marlins and Houston. Magadan was twice traded for pitcher Jeff Darwin.

Magadan was never a power guy – 42 home runs in almost 5000 plate appearance. But he could always make contact and had command of the strike zone. That led to a pretty impressive .390 obp for his career.

Magadan’s best season was in 1990. He played in a career high 144 games that year, with a slash line of .328/.417/.457. He also had career highs in double (28), home runs (6) and RBIs (72).

His career ended after the 2001 season, with the San Diego Padres. In 1582 games, Magadan had 1197 hits, 218 doubles and 495 RBIs.

Magadan actually had a pretty impressive amateur career. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Red Sox right after high school. Magadan didn’t sign with them, and decided he wanted to go to college, instead.

In three seasons for the University of Alabama, Dave was named to the All-SEC team each season. In 1981, Magadan lead Post 248-West Tampa to the American Legion national championship.

Dave Magadan’s last year at Alabama was 1983. That year, he hit .535 with 114 hits and 95 RBIs. The Crimson Tide made it all he way to the final game of the College World Series, when they lost the final game to University of Texas-a team featuring Roger Clemens.

Baseball America named Dave Magadan it’s College player of the Year in 1983, and in 2010, he was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

The New York Mets took Magadan in the 2nd round of the 1983 draft. He skipped his final year of college, and joined the Mets farm system that summer.

Immediately after he retired, San Diego hired him to be a roving Minor league instructor. He filled that position for the 2001 and 2002 season. In fall of 2002, Magadan was names the major league hitting coach for those Padres.

At that time, the Padres also just opened their new ballpark, the pitcher friendly Petco Park. Batters struggled the first few seasons there, and Magadan was fired after three and a half seasons.

He landed on his feet though, and Magadan was hired by the new, young General Manager in Boston, Theo Epstein. The two met while Epstein was with the Padres front office.

Magadan lasted 6 seasons in Boston, winning the World Series with them in 2007, his first year as their hitting instructor.

From 2012 to 2015, Magadan was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. He has been the Diamondbacks hitting coach since 2016.

Looking back, Dave Magadan has a pretty solid career. From high school to the pros, and now as a coach. But it’s still that one night, in September of ‘86, that sticks in my mind.

 

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