Mattingly was 21 as the Yankees gathered for spring training in 1983. He was competing for the first base job with Ken Griffey, Steve Balboni, and others.
Donnie Baseball said: “Griffey was one of my idols when I was a kid watching Cincinnati on television. It’s a tough thing watching a guy in the World Series, and four or five years later you’re trying to get his job. But I have to tell myself I want that job. I have to support my family, too. That’s one thing you have to forget – you’re a young kid and they’re way up there. You have to bring them down to your level. They’re people, just like anybody else. I have to feel proud of my performance. If I’m a little shaky and think the other guy’s great, it’s not going to help me any.”
Mattingly had hit .349, .358, .314 and .315 in his four minor league seasons since being drafted in June 1979. He took over the starting job in June of 1983 and kept it, but didn’t get any rookie of the year votes in ’83.