BALTIMORE — Luis Rojas has circled his calendar since the season opener Tuesday night. The former Mets manager and current Yankees third base coach will make his first trip to Citi Field since he was fired last fall after just two seasons.
And when he climbs into Treeboro on Tuesday afternoon, his intentions are nothing but excitement, joy and love.
“Obviously, it’s a place I love,” said Rojas, who worked his way up to the majors with the Mets through the minor league system. “I love the Queens. The fan base is unbelievable. They’re so passionate. They love their team. I’m grateful. I worked there for 15 years, and I was the manager for two years.
Rojas expects to see some familiar faces. He spent more than a decade coaching and managing in the minors, guiding many Mets players to the major leagues. He was thrust into the manager’s job in the wake of Carlos Beltran being targeted in the Astros cheating scandal and his resignation just weeks before spring training. Rojas led the Mets to a pandemic-shortened 2020 season and then to a 77-85 season in 2021.
Now, the teams are both leading their divisions and the annual matchup, which is sometimes one-sided, has an extra spark of electricity.
“Well, I’m excited to go back just because of the series. Both teams are playing really, really good baseball,” Rojas said. “I’ve been paying attention to how the Mets have been playing lately just because we’re going to face them, so I really want to get some familiarity with that. What they’re doing. But I’ve always been aware of what their record is and when the news comes out and how they’re playing. How good are they?
“The way we’ve played baseball all year, I think it’s going to be a really, really interesting series,” Rojas said. “So I mean the first experience for the Subway Series … that stadium atmosphere, the fans coming together as one in New York. I can see him playing really, really exciting teams like they are right now. are
“So, I’m really looking forward to it.”
For the Yankees, who swept the series 6-0 against the Orioles on Sunday, this could be just what they need right now. They’ve hit their first real stretch of adversity with injuries — including losing Michael King for the season — and have lost eight of their last 13 games.
“There are games, there are series, there are things that come up during the year, especially in the long grind of it, that I think are a little bit of a shot-in-the-arm series,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think any time you have a cross-town rivalry, those games, they add a little something extra.. Like last year, we went to play the Field of Dreams game or when we went to London, when you have a Any big series against. Big divisional series, those are the series that I think are good for us.
“But I also think with where both teams are at this year, I think it’s going to be really good for New York City.”
And ultimately managers, coaches and players know this series is for the fans.
“Just the fans getting into it. That’s always the playoff atmosphere,” Aaron Judge said. “It’s always back and forth.. You never know what’s going to happen. They’ve got a great pitching staff and offense there just to compete. And we do too.
“So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” Judge continued. “Both New York teams are doing their thing. So it’s going to be fun. Like I said, they’ve got a great team there.