WASHINGTON -- When Aaron Barrett was growing up in Evansville, Ind., he spent a lot of time hanging out at his friend's house. It just so happened that the friend, Preston Mattingly, was the son of Don Mattingly, then a Yankees star and now the Dodgers' manager.
"He was just like everybody else," said Barrett, a rookie reliever with the Nationals. "That's what was so cool about Don, he was one of the most humble big leaguers I've ever met. He was so down to earth."
Barrett got to see Mattingly in a much different setting on Monday, when the Dodgers started a three-game series at Nationals Park. The two took a picture together on the field several hours before the game, with Barrett tweeting, "Great to catch up with Donnie! It's been a long time … Pretty surreal!"
"Growing up around him, obviously he was like a childhood idol. It was a big deal," Barrett said. "Obviously the biggest name to ever come out of my hometown, so it's pretty neat to now just be on the same stage and get to see him."
While Barrett estimated that he hadn't seen Mattingly in about three years, he spent a lot of time with him growing up, especially during the offseason and before Mattingly returned to baseball as a coach with the Yankees.
Barrett's older brother was good friends with Mattingly's oldest, and Barrett remains good friends with Preston Mattingly. The two played together at Central High School in Evansville, and Preston even served as a groomsman in Barrett's wedding. The two remain in touch and got to visit during the Nats' recent trip to Houston, as Mattingly -- who spent six seasons in the Dodgers' Minor League system -- now plays Division I basketball at Lamar University.
"We just grew up with that family," Don Mattingly said of the Barretts. "So we were at their house, and they were at our house. I remember him being kind of a funny kid, quiet, and the whole family's athletic. … Good kid, good to see him."
Being friends with Don Mattingly's son had its perks for Barrett over the years. Mattingly would help out with their Little League and high school teams, using his keen eye to tweak their swings. He'd do the same when big leaguers such as Derek Jeter came to visit.
"I still remember when Jeter came in one offseason," Barrett said. "They had a batting cage at their farm and so I'd go over and he'd break down their swing. I remember Jeter took a couple hacks and [Mattingly] was like, 'You need to do this.' It was unbelievable."
Several years later, Mattingly isn't giving Barrett any more tips, at least over the next few days.
"He said, 'Hey, I've been rooting for you, but I'm not rooting for you these three games,'" Barrett said.