When Mike was a kid, he and his two older brothers got into trouble. Their Dad, Jerry Matheny, was displeased and called his three boys out to the driveway.
"My father is a construction worker," Mike said. "For a punishment, he brought home a dump truck full of dirt, dumped it out on our driveway, gave us three shovels and a wheel-barrow, made a circle in the backyard, and told us to move the pile of dirt back there.
"It took us two days to move it. And when we got it done, he gave us back the three shovels and the wheel-barrow and said, 'Now, move it back.' And we did. And we never got in any more trouble."
His Dad was very adamant about how his sons worked, and how they played the game. "I could strike out four times and that was fine. But it was our attitude—if I threw my helmet, I knew I was going to get it when I got home. Or if I didn't give my best effort, I was in for it when I got home."
Matheny made his big league debut with the Brewers in 1994. He was in line to be Dave Nilson's backup for Milwaukee in 1995. But because of the strike, he was at home in Ohio without the cushion of a comfortable bank account padded by years of raking in the big bucks. Matheny's wife Kristin had just delivered a baby a year before and they had another one on the way and he sat jobless.
- Their two children are daughter Katie, and son, Tate.
Kristin was also an athlete at Michigan, playing field hockey.
- Matheny was suspended for five games for his behavior in the May 31, 1996 game in which Albert Belle stiff-armed Brewers' SS Fernando Vina. Mike charged the mound after Tribe P Julian Tavarez threw a fastball behind him.
- Mike likes to hunt and fish.
- Matheny is a good person. Several times, former Brewer manager Phil Garner referred to Mike as "a great kid—the type of guy I'd want my daughter to marry."
- Mike is hard-working, tough and very respected among players. He is a meticulous workaholic.
- His best friend in baseball is Jeff Cirillo.
- In 1998, Matheny became a bit of a cult hero in Milwaukee when he was hit in the face by a fastball from Pittsburgh's Rich Loiselle. He didn't go down—not even to one knee—and walked off the field spitting blood. Amazingly, he was back in the starting lineup the next day.
Mike is highly respected among teammates and with the fans. He never cheats either of them with his effort. And he is also too polite to turn away a well-meaning friend or fan. Too often, he has contemplated and even tried to use the advice as a remedy for a career .235 batting average (as of the start of the 2003 season). That outside input has often complicated his improvement.
- Long-time broadcaster and former Cardinal Mike Shannon said of Matheny in 2003: "There's no way the average fan can comprehend how much work, time, and effort he puts in. The list is so long ... he does so much for this team. The sacrifices he makes and the time he puts in are phenomenal."
Mike believes God is involved in his life, and he is thankful for it.
"It may sound like a cop-out, and some people may choose not to believe it, but I know nothing is going to happen to me that doesn't first pass through God's hands," Matheny said. "That's truly how I feel. But along with that comes responsibility. I've got to put my work in. I've got to play the game the way it's supposed to be played. I have a lot of responsibility and that's what I'm trying to cover. I'm not trying to beat guys here just to beat them here. I'm not here trying to stay longer just to stay longer."
August 2005: Mike was on bereavement leave for three games to attend the funeral of his grandfather, who died in West Virginia.
- Matheny is driven, always working to understand his pitcher's traits and be able to change game plans midgame.
"It's the only way I know, how I was taught the game and life," said Matheny. "I'm a passionate person overall, and what drives me is my faith in Christ. I know in my heart I have God watching every move and intent. [If] I'm not giving everything I have, I'm not just letting down myself but the people in here, the fans and the God that I serve," added Matheny. (Rich Draper-MLB.com-9/4/05)
Mike freely admits he is not the best interview in the game. Speaking to the San Francisco beat reporters early in the 2006 season, he said, "I'm definitely not the colorful personality that radio or TV would appreciate. You guys know that I'm drab. I just come out with a lot of cliches. There's a reason cliches have been around for so long, because it's the right mind-set. That's how I was brought up in this game, and that's what I'm trying to teach some of these young players. There's a right way to go about this that begins with how you think about it."
SON TATE MATHENY
In 2015, Matheny reiterated his preference that the Cardinals not select the oldest of his five children, Tate, in the draft. Since being a 23rd-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2012, Tate Matheny increased his draft stock with three standout seasons at Missouri State University.
Matheny, a first-round pick, has talked extensively with his son about the process and also about the shadow he'd be shrouded in should he end up in the Cardinals' organization. It is for that reason that the manager requested the organization pass on the outfielder.
"People are going to be on him already, no matter where he goes," Mike Matheny said. "But in this organization, it would be all about me and less about him, and he's done this all on his own. I haven't taken one swing for him or caught one ball.
"The second part of that is it really puts our organization in a tough spot. When you start talking about our instructors and our coaches and managers, I just don't feel like it's fair. I've expressed that to the organization, and they understand and get it. Tate gets it. So with that being said, the organization can do whatever it wants."
Mike said he came to the decision after seeing how players Chris Duncan (son of longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan) and Cody McKay (son of longtime coach Dave McKay) were affected by playing for an organization in which their fathers coached.
Matheny's second oldest son, Luke, honored his letter of intent with Oklahoma State University. (Langosch - mlb.com - 5/5/15)
Mike planned on keeping the game card for the fifth game of 2018 Spring Training, maybe even framing it one day. Years from now, he'll present the card to his grandson, Ryker, and explain how the souvenir commemorates a family milestone.
This is the second year Matheny got to share a Spring Training field with his eldest son, Tate, an outfielder in camp with the Red Sox. But it is the first spring that Tate's young son was in the building as well. For the first time, three generations of Matheny men took part, in some way, in the same game.
Mike managed. Tate played center field. Ryker watched from the stands. "Pretty cool stuff," Mike Matheny said. "It's pretty unique."
And yes, Ryker can be included in that, too, even though he's less than a year old. That's because he's technically part of the Red Sox's organization after the club presented him with an honorary contract last year. "That's something that's done for all the newborns," Mike Matheny said. "I've signed a bunch of them."
Tate Matheny entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh and walked in his only at-bat in the eighth. Before the game, he presented the Red Sox's lineup card and discussed ground rules with the umpires, across from his dad.
"How many people have been able to have a moment like that?" Mike said. "It's rare. The father-son thing doesn't happen very often. That's something that he's been dreaming about a long time. He loves the game, so it's fun seeing him do what he loves to do and being recognized for how he does it." (Trezza - mlb.com - 2/27/18)
MLB.com posed 10 mostly non-baseball questions to Mike to find out a little bit more about the Royals new skipper:
1) Favorite pig-out food? Pizza.
2) Wine, beer, or cocktails? Wine. I love a good Cabernet.
3) Favorite thing you do to relax? During the season, after a game, if I have everything taken care of, I always bring a guitar with me (a six-string or electric). I play at the end of the night. I hate turning the TV on. I feel I get officially dumber with the TV on. I’m not good with the guitar. My kids think I’m good and that’s all that matters. They are my only audience.
4) Favorite all-time baseball movie? And favorite overall movie? It’s changed over time after having kids, so I’d say “Sandlot.” For favorite overall movie, I’ve got a top five, but I’ll say “A River Runs Through It,” a great story about family.
5) Last book you read? “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.” A current Navy Seal turned me on to it so I read it right before we got here.
6) If you hadn’t gone into baseball you’d be . . . . I was actually really close to going into the military at one point. My best friend went. If the scholarship at Michigan hadn’t gone through, I was going into the military.
7) Dogs or cats? Dogs. I have a German Shepherd and the other is the coolest looking little dog, it looks like a miniature Husky. It’s half Pomeranian and half Husky. He has the bright blue eyes like a Husky. It’s called a Pomsky. He thinks he’s the king of the world, he really does.
8) What’s the last thing you fixed in your house without having to call a handyman? That’s a bad question for me because I have serious pride issues and I think I can fix anything. I will do electrical and I will do plumbing, but with plumbing, someone has to come check it out afterward. I do anything with carpentry—that’s one of my hobbies in the offseason, building furniture. We’ve done some lodge/cabins from the ground up, too. I like to learn so if I do have to bring in a handyman, I’m in their back pocket the whole time, trying to learn.
9) If you could go back in time, what era would you like to visit? My grandfather’s era, the World War II era. Those guys, that generation, fascinate me. You just think about the history of time, there hasn’t been more change than one generation has witnessed, than that generation. All they had to go through. Going through the Depression, going through World War II, their fathers probably went to World War I, too. Amazing what that generation did.
10) Who were your mentors? Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy, Whitey Herzog, and Joe Torre. Those were the four guys I could call at any time. (Flanagan - mlb.com - 3/6/2020)
Aug 15, 2020: Mike won his 600th career game, this one against the Twins.
- June 1991: The Brewers drafted Mike in the 8th round, out of the University of Michigan.
- 1998: The Brewers didn't offer Matheny a contract for 1999.
- December 23, 1998: He signed with the Blue Jays.
- November 17, 1999: Toronto released him.
- December 15, 1999: Mike signed as a free agent with the Cardinals.
April 2, 2001: Mike signed a three-year, $9 million contract extension, through 2004.
Right after Mike signed his contract, he called his father and told him to quit his job—retirement money was on the way. His Dad would no longer have to drive a grader on a construction job. His son would be the one working in the dirt—behind home plate.
- December 2004: The Cardinals offered Matheny a two-year contract worth $4 million. But instead, he signed a three-year contract with the Giants, worth $10.5 million. The back-loaded contract included a $3 million signing bonus.