Hensley Meulens thinks he has the communication skills the New York Yankees want in their next manager, and he can display his prowess in five languages.
A former Yankees player and current San Francisco Giants coach, Meulens was born in Curacao and speaks English, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch and Papiamento.
”Believe it or not, you kind of find yourself using them more than you think, especially nowadays there is a big percentage of Latin players in the game, and they keep coming from all angles,” he said Thursday after becoming the third candidate to interview with general manager Brian Cashman and his staff.
”Guys from Asia, there’s more and more coming over to this side to try to play in the major leagues,” Meulens said. ”Even from Curacao, there’s more guys than ever now playing in the major leagues. You find yourself talking these different languages to all of them. What I find, especially with the Latin player, is the connection with explaining something to them in their own language and their comfortable with and they seem to comprehend it better.”
He estimates he is 50 percent fluent in Japanese.
”When I was working with a hitter, I could say stuff in Japanese that was short and quick and compact, so they can understand what we’re saying,” he said.
Nicknamed Bam Bam after the ”Flintstones” character because of his power as a youth, Meulens won four titles in his first five years in the Yankees minor league system, made his big league debut in 1989 and remained in the organization through 1993. He played three seasons in Japan, returned to the major leagues with Montreal and Arizona, then finished his playing career in Mexico in 2002.
”I’ve been away from here for 24 years,” he said, ”but every time I go somewhere, people was, oh, you used to play for the Yankees. Now, nobody ever says he played for the Diamondbacks of the Expos.”
New York announced last month it was not offering a contract to Joe Girardi, who had the job for a decade. Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson and former Cleveland and Seattle manager Eric Wedge interviewed last week.
The 50-year-old Meulens has been a major league coach with the Giants for the last eight seasons and was shifted last month from hitting coach to bench coach. He managed the Netherlands at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. His first big league manager interview was an unsuccessful bid this year with Detroit.
”I was groomed to be a winner,” he said. ”All my career I’ve won a bunch, and that never changes,” he said. ”I’m a guy that likes going around the clubhouse, talking to guys, finding out how guys are feeling, so I have an understanding an idea if there is anything going on, that I’m aware of. Sometimes players tend to not give information to coaches and so you don’t notice if a dog died or something.”
Meulens works three times a week during the offseason in Curacao with major and minor leaguers based there, a group that includes Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius. He says managers and coaches must have skills as psychologists these days.
When Meulens played, he heard information mostly from his coaches.
”Nowadays I think the manager’s got to be a little more involved, where the player gets to hear from him, as well,” he said.
He faced 10-12 people during his Yankees interview.
”You have to talk about analytics and answer questions about how you would construct the lineup, taking in there is a lot of numbers involved now,” he said. ”I was cautious of how I answered those questions and realizing if I do take this job, there’s going to be more and more on the table.”
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