Luis Rojas was appointed as the New York Mets’ manager after years of being a coach and skipper in several minor league stops. He knows the system like probably no other person in the organization, and his peculiar way of motivating his players likely played a role in his hiring.
SNY detailed a story that goes way back to the 2015 season, when Rojas was managing one of the New York Mets’ young core players of today’s roster: Dominic Smith. Smith was selected in the first round of the 2013 Draft.
Rojas managed Smith in several minor leagues affiliates, as the former made his way through the ranks as a skipper and the latter as a player. Rojas told how Smith had reported to the 2015 season a bit out of shape and wasn’t hustling the way the organization wanted.
“I think you hit one homer in Savannah, right? (in the 2014 season in Class-A, Smith had one homer in 518 plate appearances.) So I think it was in his head a little bit,” Rojas said. “I’m a left-handed hitter, first baseman, a strong kid. He wants to hit more homers. So the next year, he came a little bit bigger let’s call it, right?
“For the first month, Dom was a little out of shape and he struggled.”
The Mets wanted more out of Smith, and they got more
At that moment, Rojas asked more energy out of Smith, but he still needed some motivation. And then he came up with a plan.
“I didn’t know this, but they had an intern film me the whole time,” said Smith. “Just me, like me walking around the dugout, me walking on the field, me running out ground balls. And I kid you not, it was pretty embarrassing to see.
“I think that really opened my eyes because I never saw that from that perspective. I only played a certain type of way up until that point, so I never knew how bad it really looked, and then when I saw how bad it really looked, it just changed for me and I learned a lot. Luis helped me develop into the player I am today. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
“This guy was 19 years old and things were so easy for him,” Rojas explained. “We knew that we needed to challenge him and we needed to see things from a different perspective with how the game was going to get at some point. He responded absolutely great. He ended up being the MVP of that league that year.”
Smith hit 11 homers in 197 plate appearances in 2019, with an excellent 133 wRC+. His path to playing time is currently blocked, but he has the talent to break through any time now. The Mets couldn’t be happier.