Guy Conti, now known as the 73-year-old Mets Spring Training Czar, may keep things rolling in Port St. Lucie, but there is not a mean bone in his body.
Conti, now a Mets Senior Advisor who was one of Willie Randolph‘s first coaching hires for the 2005 season, has been working with the club for nearly 20 years. He’s been a big-league coach, minor-league instructor and minor-league pitching coach, including a stop with the Binghamton Mets – then managed by Lee Mazzilli – several years back.
And this was after he was in the Dodgers organization and tutored a young pitcher named Pedro Martinez at Great Falls. Pedro calls Conti, whom he credits with teaching him English, my “White Daddy.”
“Guy is one of my favorite people,” said Hall of Famer Martinez. “He really helped me when I was a young kid.”
Prior to that – Pedro was in Great Falls in 1990 – Conti, who spent some time in the Houston Astros organization as a catcher, was a basketball coach at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, not far from Erie, Pa., and the small town of Albion which is his hometown.
We first ran into Conti, quickly learning what a good guy and fun he was, back in our Pittsburgh days when one of our winter beats was Pennsylvania Conference NCAA Division II Basketball. Conti, a baseball guy, was tabbed to coach men’s basketball by the Fighting Scots athletics department back in 1975.,
It was supposed to be temporary, but Conti piloted the Fighting Scots to a 24-5 mark in 1975-76 and ended up coaching men’s hoops through 1983-84, recording a 140-98 mark, a .588 winning percentage, fourth-best all-time at Edinboro.
“I did OK for a baseball guy,” said Conti, naturally clad in a Mets baseball uniform. “You covered me then. We had a lot of fun.”
When I mentioned one Edinboro player of Conti’s – 6-foot-5 Marcus Thompson, who was a bruising freshman in 1980-81, he broke into a big smile and a chuckle.
“Marcus Thomps0n, you remember those guys,” Conti said with a chuckle. “They were something. I think of those basketball kids from time to time.
“You should have seen these kids I had at Edinboro,” Conti said to anyone who will listen in the clubhouse. “Those were some fun days.”
At the tie, however, Conti, the baseball guy, was looking to get back into the game he loved the most. He hooked on with the Dodgers, held several minor-league coaching positions for a number of yeas, then joined the Mets, who has been with for 18 years.
He’s seen every clubhouse in the system – major-league and minor league – and is valued by the organization, having run things in Port St. Lucie for nearly 15 years.
Conti makes the schedule each day in Florida, but with Spring Training’s end looming, he will perform whatever duty is asked of him. He’s had a baseball life, enjoys working with young players and genuinely lists Sandy Koufax as a friend.
He nay be the Mets’ Spring Training Czar at this juncture, but Conti’s real love is the game and helping players he works with get better.
Even if he remembers those days at Edinboro.