Las Vegas 51′s new pitching coach Frank Viola spoke to Adam Rubin of ESPN NY and explained how he understands the responsibility and pressure he will face coaching a lineup that may include Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Jenrry Mejia.
Viola shared a little humor with Rubin about the upcoming season in Vegas, “It could be the quickest firing of a pitching coach ever.” Viola continued, “The talent there that we’re going to have is going to be incredible. So it’s going to be really a lot of fun.”
“And the good part is, of the guys that could possibly end up there, I’ve had at least half of them at the lower levels. I’m familiar with them.”
Viola spent the majority of his playing career pitching for the Minnesota Twins, an organization he is still very active with, and won the 1988 Cy Young Award with them. He later went on to spend three seasons with the Mets from 1989-1991, before eventually retiring in 1996.
“But I grew up a Mets fan,” Viola, a Long Island native, told Rubin.
After his retirement, Viola stayed out of baseball, except for coaching a Florida high school team and a summer collegiate league. Eventually, he applied for a position with the Mets in Orlando, where he currently lives. He was hired as the Brooklyn Cyclones hitting coach, and later served the same role for low-A Savannah for the past two seasons.
“When I got back into it four years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Viola told Rubin. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a major-league pitching coach. But the way it played out, I have found that I have a great rapport with young players. You get that little window of an opportunity. I had a big-enough name that when they Google me, they realize I do have something to say if they’re willing to listen. It’s just letting them know that you’re in it for them.”
“My career is over. It’s done with. I’m here because I want to see these kids get to the big leagues. And once they realize you really, genuinely care, that’s when they’ll listen.”
“Whether a big-league gig is down the line or not, we’ll play it out and see what happens. But I’m very content and happy being in this organization and seeing the strides it’s making,” adds Viola.
Steven Matz spoke with MMO back in October and shared his opinion of Viola, “Having Frank Viola as my pitching coach this year was a true blessing. Having a 15 or 16 year big league career, he has seen it all. He really knows how to optimize a pitching staff. He knew what each of us were capable of and he didn’t let us do any less. And it showed.”
That is just one of the many prospects that Viola has made a major impact in their development and this coming season will be another big year for the Mets pitching prospects. Viola has done well in the lower ranks, and his experience should make him a good fit to foster many more of these young men and prepare them for the big leagues.