CONEY ISLAND — For the last quarter of a century, Ed Blankmeyer has been a fixture in the dugout for the St. John’s University, Jamaica, baseball team.
Not only is he the winningest coach in Red Storm sports history, but he also racked up the most wins in Big East Conference history and has carved out a legacy as one of the most successful and respected coaches in all of college baseball.
Sometimes, though, even long-term fixtures can use a change of scenery, especially when there’s an opportunity to manage professional baseball so close to home.
Right after the new year, Blankmeyer resigned from St. John’s and accepted the position to manage the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Single-A short-season affiliate of the New York Mets. He will also serve as the Mets’ extended spring training coordinator and will head to Port St. Lucie, Fla., as pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 11.
“It’s a change and a new challenge,” said Blankmeyer, who coached St. John’s for 24 seasons. “Personally and family-wise, the timing was right.”
In more than 1,300 games guiding the Red Storm, Blankmeyer compiled a record of 829-500-4. He led the Johnnies to 23 winning seasons to go along with five Big East Tournament titles and six regular season conference championships.
He also was named Big East Coach of the Year a record eight times, reached the 40-win plateau nine times, secured 11 NCAA Tournament berths and helped 91 of his student-athletes sign to play professional baseball through the draft or free agency.
“My experience at St. John’s is all about the people I’ve been around — my players, my coaches and the athletic administrators,” said Blankmeyer, only the third coach in St. John’s baseball history since 1956 along with legends Jack Kaiser and Joe Russo. “I have a lot of fond memories, and I’m certainly not going to be a stranger.”
Now a professional baseball manager, Blankmeyer knows his role will change. Instead of recruiting players, he will be tasked with developing some of the youngest players in the Mets’ minor-league system.
“It’s about teaching these guys the Mets’ culture and how to play the game the right way,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting experience the first time doing it with these young guys, but the bottom line is everybody has the same goal: They put the professional uniform on, they want to play in the big leagues.
“At the same token, you have to teach them how to play, you have to teach them how to be good teammates and you want to teach them to do the right thing. The Mets are very high on character. We want guys doing the right things on and off the field.”
Blankmeyer will attempt to balance the desire to win ballgames with ensuring he provides his young players with a professional routine they can build upon as they advance through each level of the Mets’ system.
“It’s an excellent franchise,” the 2018 Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer said of the Cyclones. “The Mets do a wonderful job with that franchise. It’s exciting to be in New York, the greatest place in the world to play. If you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, believe me.”
Mike Hampton, entering his 19th coaching season at St. John’s, will be the interim head coach this spring. Meanwhile, Blankmeyer will gear up for the start of his summer season following extended spring training workouts in Florida.
Though he said he’s more focused on looking ahead to his time with the Cyclones, he surely is grateful to St. John’s for giving him the opportunity and allowing him to flourish for so many years.
“I really appreciate the time I had there,” he said. “The people are just fabulous. I’m certainly going to miss them. When you’re there every day and seeing the same people over and over again, it’s an extended family.
“It’s a great school, and it’s been an honor to work there. I cherish the opportunity they gave me, and I cherish the moments I had there.”
The Mets — and of course the Cyclones, too — are lucky to have a coach like Blankmeyer developing the next generation of players who hope to someday call Queens home.
How fitting that would be, because their manager is the one who called Queens home for 24 impressive seasons at St. John’s.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.