Speaking with the New York Times’ Karen Crouse on condition of no-steroid-questions-please, the
disgraced retired Mark McGwire discussed his new gig as an independent hitting tutor in what the reporter calls Big Mac’s “Greta Garbo moment”/
œI™m such an easygoing guy, he said. œI don™t need to sweep away any bitterness. His foray into tutoring, he said, is not about what it can do for him, but what he has to offer. œI believe I have so much knowledge to give and help people improve as baseball players, he said.
For the four major leaguers who were in his midst this winter ” Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby of the Athletics, and Chris Duncan and Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals ”McGwire™s guidance was like a cross between fantasy camp and physics class.
œYou walk up and it™s Mark McGwire, of all guys, teaching you how to hit, Schumaker said last week. œYou think he™s just so big and strong and that™s why he hit home runs. But he really knew what he was doing at the plate.
McGwire was just as enthused as he discussed the collaboration. œIt was really cool that Matt called and said, ˜Let™s work together,™ McGwire said of Holliday. œNext thing you know we™re working with Bobby and Skip, too.
The exalted seldom make excellent teachers. Their gifts, a language indigenous only to them, are not easily translated. But McGwire may be an exception, perhaps, as he suggested, because he was self-taught. œThe evolution of my swing, from college to the major leagues to the last day I played, was all done by myself, he said.
Tony La Russa, who managed McGwire in Oakland and St. Louis, said last week that two injury-filled seasons, in 1993 and 1994, caused McGwire to reconsider his original approach to hitting, which consisted of seeing the ball and swinging at it. McGwire began studying pitchers and discovered he could detect their tendencies. He learned to make adjustments.
œHe became really smart about his stroke, La Russa, the Cardinals™ manager, said. œHe got really smart about how to strategize the at-bat against the pitcher.
Holliday said he did not worry that someone might look askance at his association with McGwire. œI wouldn™t ever not want to have somebody in my life that could be a good friend or somebody I could really enjoy or learn from based on what other people might think about it, he said.
Elsewhere in the article, Crouse reminds us that McGwire turned down an earlier opportunity to fill a similar guru role with the Cardinals, citing an unspecified family matter. Chances are, if McGwire were once again wearing a Cardinals uniform, he’d not so easily avoid questions about his PED use or that of his peers.