BALTIMORE — Luis Rojas has had Tuesday night circled on his calendar since the very beginning of the season. The Mets former manager and current Yankees third base coach will be making his first trip back to Citi Field since he was fired after just two seasons last fall.
And there is nothing but excitement, happiness and love in his intentions when he heads over the Triborough Tuesday afternoon.
“Obviously, it’s a place that I love,” said Rojas, who worked his way up through the minor league system to the majors with the Mets. “I love 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.”
Rojas expects to get emotional seeing some familiar faces. He spent over a decade coaching and managing in the minors, guiding many of the Mets players to the big leagues. He was thrust into the manager’s job in the wake of Carlos Beltran stepping down after he was targeted in the Astros cheating scandal just weeks before spring training. Rojas’ managed the Mets through the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and then a 77-85 season in 2021.
Now, the teams are both leading their divisions and the annual matchup, which sometimes has been lopsided, has an added spark of electricity.
“Well, I’m excited to go back just because of the series itself. Both teams are playing really, really good baseball,” Rojas said. “I’ve paid attention to how the Mets have been playing, more so recently just because we’re going to face them, so I really want to get some familiarity on what they’re doing. But I’ve always been aware of what their record is and when news pops up and how they’re playing, but now just looking up like a little bit closer, I can see how good of a team they are.
“The way we’ve played baseball the whole year, I think it’s gonna be a really, really interesting series,” Rojas said. “So I mean the experience before for the Subway Series … the atmosphere at the stadium, the fans in New York coming together as one. I can see it as being really, really exciting with the teams playing like they are right now.
“So, I am really looking forward to it.”
For the Yankees, who pulled out the series against the Orioles with a 6-0 win on Sunday, it could be just what they need right now. They’ve hit their first real period of adversity with injuries — including losing Michael King for the season — and having lost eight of their last 13 games.
“There are games, there’s series, there’s things that come up within the course of the year, especially in the long grind of it, that I think are a little shot-in-the-arm series,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I think anytime you have that crosstown rivalry, those games, they add a little extra something. Like last year, we went to play in the Field of Dreams game or when we went to London. When you play a big series against a big divisional series, these are series that I think are good for us.
“But I also think where the two teams are this year, I think it’d be really good for New York City.”
And ultimately managers, coaches and players know this series is all about the fans.
“Just the fans getting into it. It’s always a playoff atmosphere,” Aaron Judge said. “There’s always a back and forth to it. You never know what’s gonna happen. Just the competition; they got a great pitching staff and offense over there. And so do we.
“So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” Judge continued. “Both New York teams are doing their thing. So this is gonna be a fun one. Like I said, they got a great team over there.”