County College of Morris alumnus and former professional baseball player, Joe McEwing, received Manager of the Year honors this past November for his outstanding work coaching a minor-league team.
McEwing coaches the Winston-Salem Dash, the Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
In his first full season with the team, McEwing managed his club through a turbulent season that found the Dash without a ballpark to call home, forcing the club to play the first half of the season almost exclusively on the road.
The constant changes of a minor league roster, stemming from incidents like call-ups and completed injury rehabilitation assignments, also challenged McEwing this season.
McEwing’s ability to keep his team focused and playing at a competitive level through adversity, coupled with his constant professionalism and up-beat attitude, earned him respect and recognition from his players and fans.
McEwing has always displayed an enhanced level of confidence and optimism, from his playing days at CCM to his time in MLB. During his four seasons with the New York Mets (’00-’04), McEwing’s work ethic and attitude endeared themselves to Mets fans, who dubbed the scrappy player “Super Joe”.
McEwing had a stellar career at CCM. During his two seasons with the Titans (1991-1992), McEwing was awarded First-Team All Region twice, First-Team All Conference (’92) and Second-Team All American (’92). During McEwing’s best season in 1992, he set the single-season batting average record for Div. 1 baseball, batting an unbelievable .495. Both of McEwing’s seasons at CCM saw the Titans capture Region XIX and Garden State Athletic Conference Championships.
McEwing was a 28th -round draft pick in 1992 of the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent the next seven years trying to make it to the big leagues.
McEwing remembers those days and what it was like to be a struggling ball-player just trying to make it. He uses that experience to teach his team the game, and how to handle the pressures off the field as well.
“I try to deal with players as individuals,” McEwing said. “I try to remember what it was like when I played, and treat everyone the same.”
McEwing played for a few marquee-name managers, such as Tony LaRussa and Bobby Valentine, and has incorporated certain aspects of theirs into how he now manages.
“I was very fortunate to have played for some of those guys,” McEwing said. “I take bits and pieces from all of them.”
But McEwing’s biggest influence came from his friend and mentor, George Kissel. Kissel was a major part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor-league organization and was renowned for his baseball knowledge, passion for the game, and respect for all players. Kissel passed away in October of 2008, at the age of 88.
“He forgot more baseball than I’ll ever know,” McEwing said, speaking of his friend. “He was a huge part of my life, both in baseball and personally.”
McEwing must have retained some of that great knowledge passed along to him, and is now using that to help motivate and educate his own team.
“I’ll never forget how hard this game is,” McEwing said.
McEwing looks back fondly on his days at CCM, and credits the school with helping him achieve a lot of what he has today.
“CCM molded me into a person…not just a baseball player,” he said.
McEwing has also managed to stay humble about his success in baseball. When asked about his time in the big leagues, and more specifically about playing in the 2000 World Series with the Mets, McEwing’s reflection was genuine.
“Dreams come true. Obviously, I wished the results had been different,” he said, touching on the fact the team lost the series in 5 games to the New York Yankees. “But being part of something so significant and special, like the Subway Series, was great. Having the whole world focused on the center of the sports world, the Mecca of sports… that was fun.”