From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with David Bell

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(Photo courtesy Louisville Bats)

If anybody has a major league pedigree, it’s new Cubs third-base coach David Bell, a third-generation major leaguer. David, the son of Buddy Bell and grandson of Gus Bell, played for 12 years before transitioning into coaching. Before coming to the Cubs, he was the manager of the Triple-A Louisville Bats in the Reds system. For the February issue of Vine Line, we talked to the former player and current coach about stepping away from the game (and then back into it), hitting for the cycle (it’s a family thing) and making the major leagues (for the second time).

CAREER CHANGE  When you’re playing, you just think you’re going to play forever. You’re so locked into what you’re doing. And really you have to be to be able to play the game at this level. You have to be focused on the present and what you’re doing, and I was. You get locked into that, and all of a sudden, the end of your career sneaks up on you. It’s difficult to be prepared for it really. [Coaching] crossed my mind a few times, but it wasn’t something I spent a lot of time thinking about.

THE CYCLE  It was definitely a day I felt locked in. And I was so locked in I didn’t realize I had hit for the cycle until I ended up on third. The triple was the last hit I got, and John Vukovich, the third base coach, told me I hit for the cycle. I said I was surprised, and I don’t know if he believed me or not. If I hit a triple earlier in the game, it probably would have crossed my mind because they’re so rare. I think I was just happy I got four hits because I needed them pretty bad at the time. After the game, someone reminded me my grandfather had done it too. Then all of a sudden, it became really meaningful.

THREE’S A CHARM  [Baseball] was never something that was forced on us, so we were allowed to choose the game as our career. The approach my dad and grandfather taught us, both on and off the field, made it a big advantage once I started playing. And getting to do what I’ve done the last three or four years—coaching in the minor leagues—it’s been a huge advantage. My dad and my brother are both in player development, so it was nice to have some kind of understanding of what it’s all about before I jumped in too.

PERFECT PITCH  [Dale Sveum and I] spent quite a bit of time on the phone. Just hearing his voice and the excitement he has, the passion he has—both for the game of baseball but also for the situation he’s in right now and the situation the Cubs are in—working with him made it an obvious decision for me. To be a part of something that’s building and something you can contribute to and make a difference in is really what it’s all about.

ALWAYS BE PREPARED  [Coaching third base] is the one part of coaching you can compare a little bit to playing in that the more prepared you are, the better you’re going to be at it. The preparation part of it is in your control, and I think that’s what‘s fun about it. Once the game starts, you’ve done that preparation, and now it becomes reaction, instincts. Now it becomes the same things that made you play well as a player. You’re only going to be able to get to that point where you can react and let your instincts take over if you’re prepared.

To read the complete interview with David Bell, pick up the February issue of Vine Line, featuring he Minor League Prospectus, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

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