Still all about the team
MESA, Ariz.–In 1987, after Andre Dawson got plunked by the Padres’ Eric Show, a young Greg Maddux was told not to retaliate. If he did, he’d be on the first bus back to Triple A.
Still just trying earn his keep at the big-league level, Maddux did not heed those words and uncorked a fastball at Benito Santiago. He wasn’t sent down right away, but he did earn respect.
“It’s all about the team,” he told me, when recalling that story a couple of years ago.
On Monday, the man who probably will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball history took his turn….throwing batting practice.
It was very non-descript. I’m not sure anyone else saw it. And in his illustrious career, it was the FIRST time he had ever done it. He’s thrown BP to his kids before, but all these years he’s been in camp as a player and never done it.
In the cage were three young catchers–Robinson Chrinios, Blake Lalli and Steve Clevenger. All three probably hadn’t been born or at least were toddlers when Maddux plunked that guy nearly 23 years ago.
There might be a little paunch to his middle these days, but excuse the guy for enjoying himself a little after spending more than two decades winning 355 games, throwing over 5,000 innings and striking out 3,371 men.
“The game gave me more than I could ever want or ever hope for,” Maddux said. “It’s just nice to be back in it and try and give back and help the players and team. That’s what it’s all about. You help the players, hopefully the team wins more games.”
He was huffing and puffing a little bit out there. “Yeah, throwing BP let’s you know how out of shape you are,” he laughed. “It’s OK for the first 10 minutes, then toward the end you’re sucking wind.”
After the session was over I spied Clevenger packing up his bat and helmet. It was then he gave a quick glance out to the mound. While Maddux was picking up balls–just like any other guy–Clevenger shook his head and smiled a big ol’ grin as if to say, “Man, that was pretty cool. I hit BP off of Greg Maddux.”
“Well, hopefully these young guys realize they are good enough to be in the big leagues,” Maddux said. “I hope they understand to work hard to be successful. Because what this game can do for you and your family is incredible, so they should take advantage of that.”
NOTES FROM THE DAY 2:
– Carlos Silva pitched for the first time. He looked decent. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild encouraged him to drive more off his back leg.
– Geovany Soto returned to action, looking fit and solid.
– During double play drills and infield practice, it was amazing to see how smooth Andres Blanco is at shortstop.
– Rookie Starlin Castro looked good during live BP, raking several John Grabow offerings into left field. Line drives, not flyballs, mind you.
– Xavier Nady sat out outfield cutoff drills because of his arm, on which he had Tommy John surgery last year. He stood next to manager Lou Piniella, talking about angles of pursuit.
– It was the “Carlos Show” with Silva and both Zambrano and Marmol throwing live BP. Both looked good, throwing hard and crisp.
Vine Line subscribers will read more of this Greg Maddux interview in the coming months in Vine Line and its new landing page on cubs.com, soon to debut this month.The page will include stories from the current month’s issue, a photo gallery from Steve Green and video from spring training and Wrigley Field, during the season.
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