The New York Mets today announced that former Mets' infielder Wally Backman has been promoted to manager of the Binghamton Mets after spending last season at the helm of the Brooklyn Cyclones (SS-A). The Hillsboro, Oregon native led Brooklyn to an impressive 51-24 record in 2010 and the New York-Penn League Championship Series where the Cyclones fell to the Tri-City Valley Cats.
"I remember when I first got to Double-A [as a player]," Backman said. "I knew that I was on the right track. Certain players are really going to work hard for their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues. It's all based on fundamentals. If the players buy into the system, we're going to be good in Binghamton. I like to win. It's still about development, but I believe winning is part of development.
Pitching coach Marc Valdes will join the Binghamton staff after serving in the same role for the Savannah Sand Gnats from 2009-2010 and hitting coach Luis Natera returns for his third straight season with the B-Mets.
Backman, 51, enjoyed a 14-year Major League career with five different teams, including nine years with the Mets. Heralded for his hard-nosed play, he was a member of New York's 1986 World Championship team. As a second baseman with the '86 Mets, Backman had a career year with a .320 batting average over 124 games in the regular season. He batted .275 for his career with 10 homers, 240 RBI and compiled a sparkling .980 fielding percentage in 1,102 games played.
"It's exciting to be with the Mets," Backman said. "It was almost like a homecoming coming back to the Mets last year. Being traded for the first time, takes a piece of you. I would say my heart never left New York."
The Mets drafted Backman with the 16th overall pick in the 1977 Major League Baseball Draft out of Aloha High School in Hillsboro, OR. Upon being drafted, the highly-touted infielder started his professional career with Little Falls, the Mets short-season-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League, at the tender age of 17. He cracked the big leagues for the first time in 1980 as a September call-up. The scrappy infielder made his Major League debut September 2, 1980 as a 20-year old and pounded out two hits against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He retired following his release from the Seattle Mariners in May of 1993. Backman began his managerial career in 1997 in the independent Northeast League. After three years in the Western Baseball League (1998-2000), he was hired by the Chicago White Sox to skipper Winston Salem (High-A). In 2002, he was promoted to Birmingham (AA) where he led the Barons to the Southern League Championship. The Arizona Diamondbacks snapped him up in 2004 to lead the Lancaster Jethawks (High-A). Backman skippered them to an 86-54 mark, which yielded him Sporting News' "Minor League Manager of the Year" honors. He was named the Diamondbacks manager in November of that year, but was relieved of the position four days later. Backman managed the South Georgia Peanuts in 2007 and the Joliet JackHammers from 2008-2009, both of which are independent league teams.
Pitching Coach - Marc Valdes
Valdes, 38, begins his fifth year in the New York Mets organization and first at the Double-A level. He spent 2009-2010 as pitching coach of Savannah (Low-A). In 2010, the Sand Gnats finished second in the South Atlantic League with a 3.08 ERA as a team. He joined the Mets in 2007 as the pitching coach for Kingsport (Rookie) where he served for two seasons.
The right-hander spent six seasons in the Major Leagues (1995-2001) with four different teams: the Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. In 144 games, he compiled a 12-15 record with four saves and a 4.95 ERA. From 2002-2004, he pitched in the Japanese Professional League for the Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi Dragons. Valdes was drafted 27th overall out of the University of Florida in the 1993 Major League Draft by the expansion Florida Marlins. He is the Gators all-time leader in wins (31) and innings (394.2). He is a native of Dayton, OH and currently resides in Tampa, FL with his wife, Heather.
Hitting Coach - Luis Natera
Natera is entering his 14th season in the Mets' organization as a coach or coordinator, including four seasons as the B-Mets hitting coach (2000, 2008-2010). Natera, has served as a hitting coach for New York at five different levels, including St. Lucie (2007), Low-A Hagerstown (2005-2006), Rookie Kingsport (2003-2004) and Low-A Capital City (1999). He was also a member of the coaching staff for the Rookie Gulf Coast League Mets in 1998.
He served in his native country as coordinator of the Mets' Dominican Academy in 2001 and 2002. An infielder, Natera played shortstop in the Mets' organization from 1984-1988 advancing as high as the Low-A South Atlantic League. He lives with his wife, Maria Elena, and their sons: Luis Alberto, Jose Luis and David Luis. Luis Alberto played for the DSL Mets (Rookie) in 2009 and 2010.