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Get Mattingly A Ring


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THE RIGHT MINDSET: Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi are quick to point out the influence Yankees hitting coach Don Mattingly has had on them. Mattingly has never won a World Series.

September 22, 2006 -- ST. PETERSBURG - Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi share more than a taste for Jack Daniels, good times and pinstripes.

With the Yankees' ninth straight AL East title clinched, the free spirits want to show their appreciation to their hitting coach by putting a World Series ring on Don Mattingly's hand.

"I want to win a World Series for Donnie," said Damon, whose Orlando bedroom growing up was decorated by Mattingly posters. "He deserves it for all he has done for this organization. In my opinion, he was a Hall of Fame player with his hitting and his Gold Gloves. Unfortunately injuries cut short his career."

Giambi, who regularly credits Mattingly for rescuing him from Hitters Hell in 2004 and turning his career around, relishes the chance to deliver a ring to his guru.

"There would be nothing better than to get one for Donnie," said Giambi, who unlike Damon, doesn't have a World Series ring. "I know he had only one chance in 1995 and they were eliminated but to get a World Series ring for him would add to the Yankees' lore. That would be another link in the Yankees mystique and the World Series."

If the Yankees cop their 27th World Series title next month, Mattingly's fingerprints are going to be all over the trophy. Unlike other years, when the pitchers were expected to carry the Yankees through the postseason, this time Mattingly's hitters will shoulder the load due to uncertainty in the rotation. And since the lineup houses future Hall of Famers and All Stars at every position, it's easy to see why the Yankees have a chance to slug their way to a World Championship.

Mattingly flashed a smile when told of his pupils' wishes.

"It makes you feel good to hear that but it can't be about that," said Mattingly, who is in the third year as hitting coach after a playing career that was good enough to have his No. 23 retired. "It's got to be about the players. The emphasis is on them and they have to play and they have to perform but it would be satisfying to be part of it. And I wouldn't mind it."

Not only does Mattingly work with many hitters who have World Series rings, he dresses with coaches who slip them on and off. Lee Mazzilli, Larry Bowa and Ron Guidry have World Series rings. And manager Joe Torre can pick from four to wear.

This isn't the first time Damon is dreaming of somebody else getting a ring. In 2004 after his Red Sox broke Yankee hearts in the ALCS, Damon dedicated the World Series to former Sox who never were fitted for rings.

"I wanted to win that year for Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans," Damon said. "I wanted to win for Bill Buckner. Those are the guys who went through so much."

According to Damon, Mattingly's life won't be defined by a World Series ring because of the person he is.

"The type of person he is, that's No. 1," Damon said. "There are a lot of baseball players who turn out to be [jerks] but Donnie is incredible. People would feel very fortunate if they met him."

Damon believes he has known Mattingly a lot longer than he has.

"When I started with baseball my favorite player was George Brett," Damon recalled. "Then Don Mattingly came along and he wowed me with the type of swing he had. Now he is my hitting coach and it's pretty amazing

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