LOS ANGELES -- Chuck Crim's Christmas this year came on Nov. 13, when he was named bullpen coach of the Dodgers.
"It's pretty awesome to make it to the big leagues twice," said Crim, who pitched relief for eight years in the Major Leagues and was The Sporting News top setup man in 1989.
Crim's career path has not taken a traditional route, nor did his recent promotion from pitching coach at Double-A Chattanooga. He got the call to L.A. because Ken Howell, who held the bullpen job for the past six seasons, has been battling diabetes, and the Dodgers created for him the position of assistant pitching coach.
Crim, 51, replaces Howell in the bullpen, essentially becoming pitching coach to the relievers.
"I compare it to the same feeling I had when I was called up," said Crim, who pitched for the Brewers, Angels and Cubs. "You see how hard coaches work to get through the Minor League system. I feel blessed. I love what I do. It's a dream come true to accomplish this."
Crim has been involved in the development of nearly every young pitcher to come through the Dodgers' farm system since 2009, when he moved from scouting to coaching. That would include current pitchers Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall and Paco Rodriguez.
It also includes the pitching prospects the Dodgers dealt away to restore the roster with stars -- Rubby De La Rosa, Nathan Eovaldi, Josh Lindblom, Allen Webster, Ethan Martin, Logan Bawcom and Scott McGough. Crim said it was hard to see them go.
"They become your sons every day," Crim said. "Rubby, Webster, Lindblom, Martin, Eovaldi. I totally understand the business and [general manager] Ned [Colletti] has done a great job doing what he has to do. I'm all for it. Ned wouldn't have been able to make those trades if the kids hadn't matured the way they did."
As a player, Crim retired after the strike of 1994, disheartened by the rancor and seizing the chance to pursue another one of his passions -- fishing. He joined the B.A.S.S. Bassmaster fishing tour. He also signed on as an instructor at the SHO-Me baseball camp in Branson, Mo., unintentionally launching yet another career.
After six years of fishing and teaching, he moved back to California to provide his son with better exposure for his budding baseball career. Crim coached at Canyon High School for three years before looking for work back in organized ball.
"I found out that once you leave the game, it's tough to get back in," Crim said. "I did a lot of communications with guys I knew. It was quite frustrating. I thought I had enough credentials. A friend told me it might be easier to get back in as a scout than a coach. [Dodgers scouting director] Logan [White] hired me after I went to the Area Code Games looking for a job. But all the time I scouted I wanted to coach. I just wanted to be back on the field. It was good for me, scouting, because I learned a different aspect of the industry. I really respect what scouts do. It really helped me."
Crim's return to the field came in 2009, splitting duties between scouting and coaching at Rookie level Ogden with manager Damon Berryhill -- "the perfect guy for me the first year," Crim said. When asked by farm director De Jon Watson if he wanted to coach full-time, Crim said it took him "half a second" to say yes.
"I definitely see it as my calling," Crim said of coaching. "I give a lot of credit to organization pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves for teaching me to be a pro coach. Every day something comes up and I realize what I've learned. I have enough experience being a grinder as a player, nothing was handed to me. I worked for everything as a six-foot right-hander. I told myself if I ever got back in, I would enjoy every day and let the game take me where it takes me."
Crim hopes it takes him to a Major League pitching coach job.
"Without a doubt, it's what I want to be," he said. "It's what I am. I like to be in the dugout, on the front step watching the guys. I coach pitch to pitch. That's one thing I will miss being in the bullpen. And I hope [a promotion] happens. But I'm not after anybody's job. I'll be the best bullpen coach I can be."