Cards coach McGee heads home for season

August 15th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- Willie McGee has elected not to coach with the Cardinals for the remainder of the season due to health and safety concerns.

McGee, 61, is in his third season as a Cardinals coach and was one of the franchise’s most beloved stars when he played for the Redbirds from 1982-90 and '96-99. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report the news Friday.

“It was a hard decision for Willie, but we thought it would be the best move for Willie,” manager Mike Shildt said Friday night. “He agreed. Had a tough decision and was able to go home.”

McGee did not test positive for COVID-19 during the team’s daily testing the past two weeks, but he began to have concerns when a coronavirus outbreak spread through the organization and affected 18 people -- 10 players and eight staff members. While quarantining this past week, those concerns led him to ask the Cardinals if he could go home to his family in Martinez, Calif., for the rest of the season. The team understood.

McGee still might help coach the outfielders virtually from home when he gets there. The club also expects to welcome McGee back to the coaching staff next season.

The Cardinals Hall of Famer played on three World Series teams, won the 1985 National League MVP Award and two batting titles, and he joined the Cardinals' staff in 2018 to help coach the outfielders.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters on a Zoom call Thursday night that longtime third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who has been running the alternate training site camp in Springfield, Mo., and rookie-level Johnson City manager Roberto Espinoza, who has been helping Oquendo in Springfield, will join the Major League coaching staff when the team resumes play in Chicago on Saturday against the White Sox.

Oquendo will coach third base and help coach the outfield. Espinoza will do a lot of everything -- helping in the bullpen with catching and prepping hitters during the game. Russ Steinhorn, who joined the team when it returned from Milwaukee to assist Jeff Albert, will now move into the lead hitting coach role, Shildt said.

Shildt said that no other coaches have approached him about electing not to coach this season. There have been eight staff members within the Cardinals organization who have tested positive for COVID-19.