SSTN Interviews Former Strength/Conditioning Coach & Author: Jeff Mangold
Today we are here with author and former New York Yankees strength and conditioning coach, Mr. Jeff Mangold. Jeff is the co-author of Power and Pinstripes: My Years Training the New York Yankees, along with Peter Botte of the NY Post. He served as the head strength and conditioning coach for the Yankees from 1984 to 1988 and from 1998 to 2006. During his tenure, the team won nine straight American League East titles, appeared in five World Series, and won three World Series championships in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Mangold also worked for the New York Mets from 1993 to 1996 and designed the strength and coaching facilities at both Yankee and Shea Stadiums. It is a pleasure to have time with you this afternoon, thank you for coming to Start Spreading the News.
I appreciate it! It is a pleasure to be here with you.
So I’d like to begin, can you please tell us about your book?
In my book I share from my experiences as a strength and conditioning coach- going back across my entire professional career while showing the relationships that a strength and conditioning coach has with all the members of an organization at both the collegiate and professional levels.
Within the book I share many stories that help to showcase that everybody is human, everybody has their own things that they are dealing with. For many players they found a comfort in the media-less weight room or coming and talking with me. Secondly, the book is about timing in life, changes, and taking chances. Much of the book is also about being in the right place at the right time, understanding the various situations one would have to deal with, and treating others with respect,
What inspired you to write about your experiences with the New York Yankees?
I was blessed to be in a unique position in my professional career as someone who got to view the game of baseball from the dugout game in and game out. I got to work with tremendous warriors and players who would give everything they had to win, and the feeling of that competitive drive was addicting. However, it was my friends who after years of me telling these stories encouraged me to bring them all together and it sounded like a fun challenge. Thus, Power and Pinstripes became a book to share another side of baseball while also encouraging others to never sell themselves short, to dream, and be passionate about those dreams.
In your book you talk about the drama of George Steinbrenner’s quick fuse with the hiring- and firing- of managers. How was that a challenge for you?
There wasn’t much turmoil that I ever had with the managers. My first manager was Yogi Berra and we had an open-door policy towards physicality, getting in shape, and being limber. The organization trusted me as well as Gene Monahan (the head athletic trainer). However, Billy Martin was skeptical about strength and conditioning so you had to tread lightly around him and take what he said with a grain of salt.
In your career, you had a “transactional period” between working with the Yankees and the Mets, and back to the Yankees. Could you explain that?
Well, I never thought I’d be a strength and conditioning coach in baseball. I definitely thought it was going to be in football, where I was indoctrinated in this field while I was a student at the University of Nebraska and a volunteer assistant to their strength and conditioning coach. This was at the beginning of the acceptance of strength and conditioning, and given the physical reputation of Nebraska football, other colleges were looking to follow. That led me to the University of Florida, where I first connected with George Steinbrenner who became interested in starting a program for the Yankees. I would take the job to do so, but to answer your question, the biggest thing was not burning my bridges. This helped me get a job with the Mets when a colleague went to work for them as well as my return to the Yankees when they were looking to change course again in the late 1990’s.
When you returned to the Yankees, they had this new upcoming class of superstars with the Core Four. Was there a difference in your job because of their successes on the field?
In the Yankees of the 1980’s and the Mets of the early 1990’s there wasn’t a lot of success, postseason glory, or trophies and stuff like that. But when I got to the clubhouse for the Yankees in the late 1990’s there was a much different feeling. It was much more intense; players were much more focused, and they didn’t let up.
In your book you discuss a lot about players, which chapter do you think is most eye-opening about the experiences in Major League baseball?
To see the extreme fight in the Yankees in 2001, even in the year we didn’t win it all, was probably the most interesting. The way Joe Torre rallied the team after falling behind 2-0 in the ALDS to the Oakland Athletics was great. Uniquely, how Joe handled losing in 2001 is also an interesting story for people to learn about.
As a student looking to one-day join the health professional world, how did you go about your career in becoming the head strength and conditioning coach for the Yankees?
I always thought I’d end up being a gym teacher or sports representative and I would say I got to my career by taking advantage of my chances. When my sister had a connection for me at a sporting goods store in Nebraska, I moved out there. However, even though I quickly learned I didn’t enjoy product lines, the experience was nice and allowed me to spend my time after work at the local YMCA to work-out. While I was there a professor from the University of Nebraska noticed how hard I worked and helped set me up for a meeting with the football team and Boyd Epley [the strength and conditioning coach]. After that I learned more about the field and became interested in helping athletes get stronger, bigger, and faster.
When you look at the sport today, could you offer some insight into why it seems so many more players end up getting injured?
You know, some things you can just give a definite answer to very concrete and others. It’s more of a gray area. And if somebody had the answer to that they’d have their own island and just be sitting around on the beach, I’ll tell you that.
But, part of it is the force these players are generating which is so strong that their connective tissue cannot withstand the torque. And the other part is that players in the past might’ve tried to play through some of the pain to stay away from the trainers, versus possibly today’s athlete.
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
While it’s been written about before and is in my book as well, the significance of the Yankees game after 9/11 with President Bush throwing out the first pitch. I was 30 to 35 yards away and the intensity and speculation of everything was impossible to understand. There are some excellent documentaries that were done on TV, but it is hard to capture that moment.
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
I don’t like to be pinpointed to just one, but to throw out a few names: George Brett was just top level. Dave Winfield and to get to see him play every day was special given his ability to run, hit, and just how physical he was. Another name like that would be Bo Jackson and how focused he was on being great in more than one sport.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
The St. Louis Cardinals
Who was your favorite player?
On the Cardinals: Bob Gibson and Lou Brock.
What is your most prized collectible?
My 1998 World Series Ring. That was really exciting and took a while to get used to. That’s when you really pinch yourself.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
The Zac Brown Band, the Eagles, and Crosby Stills and Nash.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
I would probably say pizza. And, my favorite pizza place was probably Frank’s Pizza in Oakland, New Jersey.
And is there share anything else that you’d like with our audience?
Don’t sell yourself short of your goals. You never know who you’re going to meet and if you’re motivated you’ll be able to adjust to meet those goals. With that, also have that trust and faith in the Lord.
Awesome! Thank you for taking the time with us. I wish you continued success, always.
Please keep in touch!