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Simon says he'd like another chance

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BRADENTON, Fla. — The burly first baseman for the Netherlands team looked familiar to the fans at Manatee Community College.

Randall Simon heard them call to him the other day as he walked to the plate during a tuneup game before the World Baseball Classic.

"They were screaming at me, 'Oh, that's the sausage guy! Randall, we haven't forgotten you,' " Simon said. "That was cool. As long as people don't take it the wrong way, I don't have any problem with it. It's good for baseball and for me too, because they keep remembering me."

Then again, it's hard for anyone to forget the sight of a Pirates player whacking a giant, jogging sausage on the head with a bat. Footage of the incident is immortalized on YouTube .

On July 9, 2003, Simon was in the Pirates dugout during a game in Milwaukee. Before the bottom of the sixth inning, the Brewers' sausage mascots ran their famous race.

Simon reached out with a bat and bopped the Italian Sausage. Mandy Block, who was inside the costume, stumbled and crashed into the Hot Dog.

Simon was arrested, paid a fine and was suspended for three games by Major League Baseball. Later that season, Simon was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

"It was an accident," Simon said. "Things went the wrong way. But that's part of life. You put it behind you. I want to show people I am a good person."

Simon, who is 33 and hasn't played in the majors since 2006, when he appeared in 23 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, will use the WBC as an audition for pro scouts.

"I thank God for the opportunity to play against major-league teams again," Simon said. "I hope I perform (well). It's great exposure for me. I'm in shape. I can still play."

The Netherlands will play the Cincinnati Reds today and the Minnesota Twins tomorrow before starting WBC round-robin play Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

Simon, who went 3 for 5 with two RBI in the Netherlands' 5-4 loss against the Pirates on Tuesday, is not the only former Pirates player on the Dutch team.

Across the diamond from Simon was third baseman Yurendell DeCaster, whose major-league career consists of three games with the Pirates in 2006. The pitching coach is Bert Blyleven, who won a World Series ring with the Pirates in 1979.

Blyleven plans to be in Pittsburgh in August, when the Pirates mark the 30th anniversary of the "We Are Fam-a-lee" champions.

Blyleven was asked to coach in the 2006 WBC, but it did not fit into his schedule. This time, he called Netherlands officials and offered to help.

"It's an honor for me to be part of the Netherlands team, since I was born there and my parents are from Holland," Blyleven said.

The Netherlands team has been training at the Pirates' minor-league complex. Blyleven asked Kent Tekulve, who is in Pirates camp as a special instructor, to talk with some of the Dutch pitchers who use a sidearm motion.

"Teke was a great help," Blyleven said. "If I had Frank Viola here, I'd want him to talk about the changeup. Of course, I talk about the curveball."

Blyleven paused and smiled.

"We want to get Nolan Ryan here to talk about the fastball," he said. "We'll find out if he has a little Dutch in him."

Additional Information:

Today's game

Pirates vs. Minnesota Twins

1:05 p.m. · McKenchnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

Probable starters: Pirates • LHP Tom Gorzelanny; Twins • LHP Francisco Liriano

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