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Scenes from Spring Training: A day with the Twins, Part 2

Mar 10, 2010, 9:25 AM EDT

Tom Kelly and Mark McGwire.jpg

“I’m tellin’ ya, Mac. If you simply do what I did and say boring things all the time, those pesky reporters would leave ya alone. Now, what say you and me go beat up Gardenhire so I can get my team back?”

I may have gotten that quote wrong. Can’t find my notes. A pity, really.

After the Nathan news I decided to just walk around and see what I could see. As evidenced by the above pic, Tom Kelly talking to Mark McGwire is one of the first things I saw.  Nothing particularly interesting was exchanged, but it seemed like a good photo to take.

The Cardinals took batting practice right after that, with Big Mac standing behind the cage, just a couple of feet in front of me.  I studied the subject for a while. He seemed to talk like a normal person, giving some instruction to the batter in the cage. He sneezed once, which suggests even more human traits. At one point he checked his watch, which suggests that he’s concerned of matters temporal, while most monsters tend not to be.  It was almost enough to make me think that everything I’ve been reading about the man was wrong.  I risked speaking to him:

“Hey Mac, what are the biggest differences between spring training as a player and spring training as a coach in terms of routines, preparation, things like that,” I asked.

“Well,” McGwire started, not taking his eyes off the hitters, “the biggest thing is I don’t have to do it.”

Do it?  What could he mean? Shoot steroids?!  Freebase the bone marrow of infants?!

“Train. A lot less physical stuff, that’s for sure.” McGwire chuckled.

After that, the guy hitting fungoes asked La Russa — who was standing nearby — if he’d hit them for a while. La Russa said he had to do something else so the other guy kept hitting.  I asked McGwire why they don’t ask him to do it.  He said “the guys say I hit ‘em too hard.”

It was at that moment that I decided that Mark McGwire is just a plain old hitting coach. Just as I couldn’t think of anything particularly interesting to ask, say, Howard Johnson or Don Baylor, I can’t think of much interesting I’d ask Mark McGwire.  Nor do I think he’d say anything all that interesting even if I could think of a good question.  McGwire was an interesting diversion for a couple of cold, news-barren months.  Now he’s just a coach. No more, no less.

I left the field and made a slow walk to the press box.  I passed a brick wall with the National Professional Scouts Hall of Fame on it.  It wasn’t the most impressive Hall of Fame I’ve ever seen, but I’m sure the enshrinees’ mothers are proud. All four of them.

Back upstairs I sat down and watched the grounds crew clean up the divots and detritus of a morning’s worth of BP and infield practice and prepare the field for the ballgame.  If there’s anything more aesthetically satisfying than watching fresh chalk lines get laid down, I’m not sure what it is.

  1. Dan Whitney - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    Freebasing the bone marrow of infants?
    /golfclap

  2. Dan - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    I just want to say, Craig, that these spring training articles have been so enjoyable to read. You really make me feel like I’m experiencing the nuances of spring training myself. Your enthusiasm and love for your job and the game of baseball really comes across and it’s a complete breath of fresh air. Keep it up!

  3. Charles Gates - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    So La Russa treats fungo hitters differently than bullpen arms? I would have thought there’d be a different fungo-er (?) for each fielder, and certainly for fly balls vs. grounders.

  4. Jonny5 - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Want to spice thing up a little? This would be great for debate, But someone feels the Phills have the greatest infield of the modern era, beginning in 1947……. http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/20100310_Bill_Conlin__Phillies_have_best_infield_of_baseball_s_modern_era.html
    “Say hello to what is potentially the greatest all-around infield of a modern era that began in 1947 when Jack Roosevelt Robinson kicked down the door that had barred players of color from the major leagues.” Bill might just be onto something here…

  5. Jason @ IIATMS - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Was thinking the same thing. I’m a champion of random thoughts and utterances, but that one is profoundly superior.

  6. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    While it’s a great infield, by all measures the Yanks > Phils last year. Most of the offensive stats are a push (R/H/HR/RBI) until you factor in the Phils had 158 more PAs. The Yanks had more walks, less strike outs and the triple slash numbers all favor the yanks.
    Or in other words, cumulative WAR of 21.4 (Y) > 17.9 (P). Should be a fun “competition” this year.

  7. Jonny5 - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    COPO, you’re forgetting the defense is just as important. I’m thinking Philly has NYY beat in that aspect Philly>NY 76 errors for the Phills NYY 86. And that’s with the Phills having about 70 more chances to make an error as well. And the Offense is going to vastly improve this season for Philly with Polanco taking over for Feliz. The article was looking forward to this season. And it will be a fun competition.

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