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We didn’t get on the phone to talk baseball, but Bobby Valentine and I got to know each other thanks to baseball, and the pennant-winning Mets manager, to start somewhere on his vast résumé, still thinks plenty about the national pastime.
So we wrapped up our 24-minute chat Tuesday with three Bobby V. proposals to improve the game:
1. When a batter gets hit by a pitch on his “body armor,” as Michael Conforto memorably did at the Mets’ home opener, call it either a strike or a ball and then a dead ball. No reward of a free base for savvy equipment choice.
2. Give each team a limited number of shifts to deploy each game, turning the analytical phenomenon into a strategic vehicle.
3. If a pitcher unleashes an offering above the hitter’s shoulders, “Send him to the minors for two weeks without major league pay,” a strong enough disincentive that batters, confident they won’t be brushed back, will feel more comfortable and get off better swings.
Agree or disagree, you always appreciate Valentine’s willingness to think outside the box, his open-mindedness, his progressiveness.
Attributes that could come in handy for a mayor.
Yes, Valentine last week announced his candidacy for mayor of Stamford, Conn., the city where he was born 71 years ago Thursday. He’s serious and, given his popularity and extensive history there, has to be considered a serious contender.
“People have called me the ambassador to Stamford for 40 years or so. A lot of people have even referred to me as the mayor in the past,” Valentine told The Post with a chuckle. “My plate is rather clear at this time after being at Sacred Heart [University] for eight years. … If I don’t do public service now, I’ll never get to do it.
“Mayor is a heavy box to lift, but it’s my hometown, and it’s got a chance of being really good. We’re a big city in this little corridor. I’d like to see it progress in the right direction.”
As Sacred Heart’s athletic director since 2013, Valentine oversaw the construction of a fitness facility named after him as well as a “Student-Athlete Enhancement Center.” A line of succession for him is in place, he said. In 2011, he worked as Stamford’s director of public safety. So his administrative and managerial experience go well beyond running the Rangers, Mets (whom he led to the 2000 World Series), Red Sox and Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines twice (the second time, winning the Japan Series in 2005). And don’t forget the lead role he took, while with the Mets, helping people after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He is running as an “unaffiliated” candidate, opposite the incumbent David Martin and Connecticut State Representative Caroline Simmons, both Democrats. The election will be held on Nov. 2.
Valentine explained: “The political spectrum now is something that I really have no taste for. I can’t believe the two-party system has allowed ‘hate’ to be a word that’s commonly used from both sides as often as it has. I’ve never played that game. I’ve never even hated the opposition, as much as I wanted to beat them. To be unaffiliated with any party, I think, is the only way you should do it today.”
In his campaign, Valentine intends: a) to prioritize the development of new business in the wake of the pandemic (he has owned an eponymous restaurant in Stamford for decades); b) to promote the importance of diversity in the city’s education system (“Getting an education in a diverse atmosphere is the education you need. I got my education in baseball that way”); and c) to plan for the “movement of people” throughout the city, from roads to bike trails to allowing for the younger generations’ interest in scooters.
Asked to identify his most important baseball lesson that can translate into a mayoralty, Valentine said: “I just think it’s the overall idea of bringing people from many different cultures together to work as one. That’s what baseball teams are. When I went to the foreign country of Texas and had to try to speak that language and be an outsider and bring people together there. And to bring them together in Japan, New York, Boston, that’s really tough duty.
“That’s where a city like Stamford needs leadership. You have to let people know that you care, because the lesson in baseball always was they didn’t care what you knew until they knew that you cared. I think that has to be my feeling going forward.”
Manager, mayor, macher: No matter his role, or one he’s trying to land, Valentine makes it compelling. Why would his most impactful competition yet be any different?
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