Joe McEwing played his final season of pro baseball in Pawtucket back in 2007. That was after playing in over 750 Major League ballgames with Cardinals, Mets, Royals and Astros. Although he came through Pawtucket in the twilight of his career, his fire, grit and determination were apparent. That’s why I’m not surprised he is passing along those same qualities to the young men he now guides as manager of the Charlotte Knights.
McEwing, who earned the nickname “Super Joe” while a player with the Mets, was a hard-nosed competitor who could play any position on the field. He made such a lasting impression on his manager with St. Louis, Tony LaRussa, the skipper asked McEwing for a pair of his spikes when he was traded to New York.
In his first season at the Triple A level, the Knights manager was glad to be back at McCoy. “I love coming back here. I loved playing here. It’s an outstanding city and a great atmosphere to compete in. Loyal fans, good fans. The city of Providence is outstanding.” McEwing added that he was looking forward to a nice dinner after the day game, presumably on Federal Hill. He added “Seeing some familiar faces and old friends is nice. It’s a joy to come back.”
Even though the Knights are a sub .500 team, they are thriving under McEwings’ infectious enthusiasm. “I’ve been very fortunate, you know, I’ve got an outstanding staff to work with and players that go about their business the right way. It’s nice to see the development of some of our younger guys, mixed in with the veterans. The younger guys I’ve had the last couple of years at Winston-Salem, it’s fun to see their development and watch them grow. They play hard and that’s all we can ask for as a staff.”
After two seasons as a manager at the lower levels of the minors, McEwing is now theoretically one step away from becoming a Major League skipper. He couldn’t pinpoint just one of his former managers that he has gleaned something from. “I take bits and pieces from everybody I come across. Managers and players. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great individuals. LaRussa, Bobby V (Valentine), Buddy Bell and Art Howe…you hate to name names because you don’t want to leave anyone out. I’ve learned from every single one of them. You try to adapt it to your own style. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Not a big surprise that Joe McEwings’ greatest satisfaction comes through helping others. He didn’t hesitate when asked about the best part of his job. “Seeing other kids’ dreams come true. That means the most to me. I had my time and obviously I’d like to get back to the Big Leagues, but I’m in no hurry. To see other kids’ dreams come true is pretty rewarding to me as a manager.”
When Joe was a PawSox player, we occasionally talked about our shared love of the Howard Stern Show. While he was a Met, McEwing struck up a friendship with Stern Show Executive Producer and uber-Mets fan, Gary Dell’Abate. McEwing says he hasn’t really kept in touch. “Bababooey! No I haven’t talked to him lately. That’s something I need to do. Great conversations. He’s a great individual.” McEwing admits that he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to read Dell’Abates’ best selling autobiography- “They Call Me Bababooey”. “I don’t really have the patience to read.”
One area where Joe and I differ, is when it comes to the manager of the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen. McEwing says he doesn’t interact much with him during the season, but did quite a bit during Spring Training. “Ozzie’s a great guy. I really like him.” McEwing intimated that all of Ozzies’ rants and raves are calculated. “He takes the heat off his players and directs it towards himself. He’s a good guy.”
I know a good guy when I see one. You can’t convince me on Guillen, but Super Joe really is just that, Super.