After 10 years of various roles in the Toronto Blue Jays system, Mike Mordecai is ready to return home to his family.
The former major leaguer with the Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and Atlanta Braves and two-time World Series champion confirmed he is coming back to Dothan to become the head baseball coach at Northside Methodist Academy.
He officially will be introduced as the Knights’ coach at a meet and greet event Thursday night at the school. Mordecai is currently the manager of the Blue Jays’ AA team, the New Hampshire River Cats. He will finish out the season with the Manchester, N.H., team before coming to NMA.
The Birmingham native is no stranger to the area, having served four years as head baseball coach at Houston Academy from 2006-09, leading the program to the playoffs all four seasons and to a 61-46 overall record. He was named Dothan Eagle Small Schools Coach of the Year in 2007 after the Raiders went 20-12 and advanced to the state semifinals.
Though he moved into the Toronto organization, his family remained in Dothan.
“Getting back close to the family and spending some time at home with my wife and kids and still be a part of baseball and teaching young people, not only sports, but the game of life is what has drawn me (back to Dothan),” Mordecai said.
Mordecai has four kids – a daughter, Taylor, and three sons, Jackson, Jacob and John Michael. Taylor is a teacher in Atlanta and is getting married next spring. Jackson is a sophomore at Troy University, Jacob is a 17-year-old junior who is home schooled and John Michael is a sixth grader at Northside Methodist.
Mordecai said the chance to coach his youngest son, one he describes as the athlete of the family, is another part of his decision to return to Dothan.
“For me to actually be around and coach him as he gets older will be something I will cherish,” Mordecai said.
Mordecai, who won World Series titles as a player in Atlanta (1995) and Florida (2003), added he felt like he has gone as far as he can at the big league level, making it a good time to step away from that part of his life.
“I have been doing what I am doing for quite a while and I feel like I kind of fulfilled everything I wanted to do (in the big leagues),” Mordecai said. “I would love to be a big league manager someday, but there are way too much hoops of fire to jump through for that to happen.”
He began his tenure in the Blue Jays organization as minor league infield coordinator, a role that allowed him to work with infielders at all the team’s minor league levels. After three years, he was promoted to coordinator of instruction for all the minor league teams in 2015 and then to assistant field coordinator for the minor leagues in 2017.
Last season, he joined the major league ranks as Toronto’s quality control coach under manager John Gibbons, assisting the big league coaches with that they needed, but mostly helping hitting coach Brook Jacoby. He was assigned this year to manage the Fisher Cats.
He also had previous minor league managerial experience, serving as head coach in 2005 for the New York Penn League’s Jamestown Jammers, a Short Season A affiliate of the Marlins.
Mordecai said aggressive play and strong fundamentals are the foundation of his philosophy as a coach.
“Aggressive running the bases, very aggressive running the bases,” Mordecai said. “I also believe in being selectively aggressive as an offense and put pressure on a defense when you can, but also play small ball.
“You don’t really run into many high school teams that can pop the ball all over the park. If we have those guys we will give them those opportunities, but you have got to be able to bunt, hit and run, move runners and manufacture some runs.
“Pitching wise we have to throw strikes – that is plain and simple. We will not try to fool anybody. Defensively, we have to learn how to catch and throw it to the right base.”
A 12-year veteran in the major leagues, Mordecai was mainly a utility player who played third base, shortstop and second base in the big leagues. A sixth-round draft pick by Atlanta in 1989, he played for the Braves (1994-97) under Hall of Fame coach Bobby Cox before finishing his career with the Expos (1998-2002) and Marlins (2002-05).
In 179 games, he finished his big-league career with a .244 batting average with 24 home runs and 132 runs batted in. His best season was in 2001 with Montreal when he hit .280 with three homers, 17 doubles, 32 RBIs and had a career-high 101 total bases.
The new Knights coach graduated from Hewitt-Trussville High School near Birmingham in 1986, playing baseball, basketball and football at the school. He played college baseball at the University of South Alabama where he was a two-time All-American and was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference team every year. He majored in criminal justice and minored in sociology at the Mobile school.
Mordecai takes over at NMA following Kaleb Shuman, who left the program to become the head baseball coach at Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook. In addition to his duties as baseball coach, he will teach history and world geography at NMA.
“It is a good school, a good Christian school,” Mordecai said of Northside Methodist. “It is a program that is first class and they are good people there. I am looking forward to it.”