Champs act as camp counselors
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Something just didn't feel right for Bill Mazeroski in the early spring of 1973.
His retirement from baseball was not abrupt. After playing in just 34 games the previous season, Mazeroski knew it was time to go. Yet, it still felt odd not to pack and head south to Pirate City and join his former teammates in camp.
"When you miss your first spring training, you feel like you're dead and gone," Mazeroski said. "There's nothing to do. I always, always, always looked forward to spring training. That's the start of the year. When that didn't happen ... gee whiz, you felt lost."
This year, as he's done the past several springs, Mazeroski, 74, found his way back to spring training. The Hall of Famer is one of four links to the Pirates' glory days who are in camp as special instructors.
Despite gimpy knees, Manny Sanguillen, 66, hunkers down every morning with the catchers. Bill Virdon, still trim and graceful at 79, tutors outfielders. Kent Tekulve, who'll turn 64 in 11 days, keeps a watchful eye when pitchers toss bullpen sessions.
Combined, the quartet has played 6,244 games, including 57 in the postseason, and won six World Series rings. Through changes in the front office and coaching staff, the Pirates have continued to invite their former standouts to camp to work as teachers and motivators.
"Those are four men who've been part of greatness," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Those men have a hunger to see this thing get real good again. That's why they're here. They want to make a difference."
|The alumni instructors at Pirate City this spring have combined for more than 6,200 games played and six World Series rings:|
|Player||Career games||Playoff games||World Series rings|
Sanguillen feels a duty to come back and teach younger players.
"The tradition in baseball is that way," Sanguillen said. "When I came in here (in the early 1960s), I saw a lot of guys who had been around for 30, 40 years, and they helped us a lot."
Bad knees, a sad side effect from spending decades in a catcher's crouch, limit Sanguillen's mobility. But they don't stop him. A couple of years ago, Sanguillen, disgusted by Ronny Paulino's poor effort in a drill, pushed the younger player aside and squatted behind the plate to snag a throw from the outfield.
On days when the grass fields are wet with dew and slippery, Sanguillen takes a wooden stool out with him. He occasionally rides from field to field in a motorized golf cart, which drew a laugh from Tekulve.
"There's old and real old," Tekulve said, teasing his former batterymate. "I will steal his stool every once in a while, but not his cart."
Tekulve uses some of the insight he gains about the team in the spring during the regular season, when he doubles as a television analyst. But he has a bigger motivation for returning to camp every year.
"I feel for these kids because I know how much they want to be successful," Tekulve said. "There's no better feeling than being on a team that, year in and year out, is competitive.
"The guys in recent years haven't experienced that, and they're really missing something," Tekulve said. "They're missing a part of their career that really overrides individual accomplishment, salaries and awards. I'm hoping this club can get it together and these kids can experience what I did. It's such a great feeling."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snider’s sac fly in 9th gives Pirates win over Braves
- Pirates notebook: Morton hopes to return this season
- Tuesday’s scouting report: Braves at Pirates
- Wednesday’s scouting report: Braves at Pirates
- CF McCutchen returns to lineup, but Braves blast fast-fading Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle weighs trio at 1st base
- Friday’s scouting report: Pirates at Tigers
- Pirates’ McCutchen expects to play Tuesday; Alvarez to start at 1B
- Pirates minor league notebook: Pitcher Heredia finally hitting form
- Pirates’ losing streak extended to 6 games