Matt Merullo is a positive, upbeat guy. He is also a real solid baseball man. He is also in his first year as a manager in the Orioles organization and about to lead the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds into a new season, beginning Monday night at Ripken Stadium.
He brings a lot of experience to the O's and his job in Aberbeen. He was a backup catcher in the big leagues with the White Sox, Indians and Twins. For 13 years (from 1998-2010), he was the Northeast area scouting supervisor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He is also a third generation pro ballplayer. His grandfather Lennie Merullo was the shortstop on the last Chicago Cubs team to make the World Series in 1945, and his dad Leonard Merullo played in the Pirates organization in the 1960s.
Many years ago, when current O's vice president Dan Duquette was looking to get into the scouting business, he sought the advice of an older scout named Lennie Merullo. Several years later, Duquette would hire that man's grandson to manage his Aberdeen farm team.
Matt Merullo is a baseball lifer but about to manage a minor league team for the first time.
"I grew up with a grandfather that was a scout, and I hung around the old time scouts," Matt Merullo said. "I played as a journeyman-type catcher for a number of years. Playing every day in the minors and being on the bench in the majors, I had a lot of time to soak things up.
"I played for Jeff Torborg, who helped me a lot as a player. Another big influence was Tom Kelly with the Twins. One reason I chose this number, 27, is I want the guys to play all 27 outs. Play the whole game and play it the right way."
Matt Merullo is fitting in well in the O's organization and excited to manage his first game Monday.
"This is definitely a place where I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be at this time in my life, and I'm really thankful for it," he said yesterday at Ripken Stadium before putting his team through a workout.
Matt Merullo wants to be a manager that supports and helps his young Aberdeen players in every way. He wants them to know he has their backs.
I asked him what kind of manager the Aberdeen fans could expect to see this year.
"A manager that always believes in his players," he said. "You can't find all your answers in books, but I've been pouring over Tony LaRussa's last book and Terry Francona's last book.
"A line that hit me from LaRussa's book was, 'It's a lot more fun to believe in your players than it is to doubt them.' We'll have an aggressive style of play. We'll all make mistakes, but I hope they are aggressive mistakes. I learned in scouting if you don't try, you can't fail. But you have to try, you have to lay it all out on the line."
Matt Merullo pledged to back his young players, especially when they go through some expected struggles.
"I'll give guys chances to pull themselves out of slumps and tough times," he said. "Fans may get a little frustrated with me, but these kids need to learn how to battle back and go through down times. A lot of them coming out of college, they'll go through a brief down time. I want to be a guy that communicates to the human being under the uniform."