NEW YORK (AP) — As mayor of the nation's largest city, Bill de Blasio has become accustomed to making tough decisions and moving on.
But there's one decision he made a decade ago that he can't get out of his mind: As a Little League manager, he kept a tiring 8-year-old pitcher in the late innings of a crucial playoff game.
"He didn't want to come out and I didn't want to let the father down and I didn't want to let the kid down," de Blasio said. "So, I decided in that case to give the kid one more chance. And he was disastrous."
"That was one of the reasons we did not win that playoff game," he said. "I remember it like it was yesterday."
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, de Blasio talked about his love of baseball, his three years coaching his son's Little League team and how he often draws upon that experience in managing a city of 8 million people.
"It was a real leadership and management lesson that I still think about," he said. "Trying to get a bunch of 8-year-olds to do something is an amazing challenge."
For de Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, baseball is his great pastime. Even in a hectic week directing the city's handling of an Ebola diagnosis, he's sneaked peeks at the Kansas City Royals-San Francisco Giants World Series games.
"I love the game really, really deeply," he said.
De Blasio was a city councilman a decade ago when, after first helping out with his daughter Chiara's team, he became co-coach of his son Dante's squad.
His method of managing the young ballplayers sounds familiar to anyone who has watched him at City Hall: He took a group with disparate backgrounds and, after discussion and deliberation, aims to build a consensus.
"He would have team meetings constantly, before and after every game," said Patrick Gaspard, now the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, whose son was on the team. "Bill did a great job instilling a real sense of responsibility and leadership. He included the kids in a series of key decisions and made everyone feel included."
De Blasio can recount in great detail many moments from his son's Little League career. He remembers once, at a youth tournament in Cooperstown, talking to an umpire who hailed from Montana.
"He had finished his regular career, had retired and had decided to be an umpire at youth tournaments all over the country," the mayor said. "And I was like, 'That's what I want to do.'"
De Blasio, who played Little League only a short time growing up in Massachusetts, has made no effort to hide his fandom of the Boston Red Sox even as he governs the city that is home to its greatest rival.
He once forced a Yankees-loving city councilman to recite an ode to the Red Sox. He wears Red Sox gear to other teams' games. And he made Gaspard trudge through a cold Boston winter day to catch a glimpse of a dormant Fenway Park.
"He has a boyish goofiness about his fandom," Gaspard said. "Hearing him wax on about Big Papi is like listening to him talk about a family member."
De Blasio was campaigning in Pennsylvania for John Kerry in 2004, and it prevented him from watching with his family when the Red Sox won the World Series that October, the team's first in 86 years.
"I kept telling myself that this election is incredibly important for the future of my country, the country that my kids will live in, so I will stick to my mission," he said. "I have regretted it ever since."