Padres' staff highlighted by McGwire
Renowned slugger named Green's bench coach; Balsley, Hoffman return
SAN DIEGO -- Mark McGwire has never been a big league bench coach before, so in terms of experience with that particular job, he's no expert.
But McGwire, named to Padres manager Andy Green's coaching staff Wednesday, feels he has something on his resume that rates as monumentally irreplaceable.
"A lifetime of experience," McGwire said during a conference call with reporters.
"As a player, I went through everything a player can go through as far as success. But you learn to be a man busting through failure. This game is built on failure. I know how to bust through that."
McGwire, 52, comes to the Padres after three seasons as the hitting coach for the Dodgers. Before that, he served in the same capacity for the Cardinals, helping to tutor the hitters who won a World Series championship in 2011.
McGwire comes to San Diego with three other first-year coaches -- hitting coach Alan Zinter, first-base coach Tarrik Brock, bullpen coach Doug Bochtler and two incumbents, pitching coach Darren Balsley and third-base coach Glenn Hoffman. Eddie Rodriguez will also be a part of the staff, serving in a variety of roles.
With apologies to the other coaches on Green's staff, such as the highly respected Balsley, who has been the team's pitching coach since 2003, McGwire rated as the obvious headliner of Green's first big league staff.
Hitting 583 home runs and achieving a career dripping with accolades -- and two World Series rings to boot -- will do that for a guy.
"Mark is a big addition for us," Green said. "A former world-champion player and world-champion coach. His experience speaks for itself ... that type of experience was valuable.
"Every single person that I spoke to in the game has high praise for Mark."
Green would know. In the time that has passed since his hire on Oct. 27, he has spent a great deal of time assembling his staff. Some hires were no-brainers -- Balsley and Hoffman, who has distinguished himself for his work with infielders.
But the bench-coach job, for a first-time manager, certainly wasn't one Green or the Padres arrived at easily. They kicked around the idea of surrounding Green, who has never managed in the big leagues, with someone with experience and even spoke to a finalist for Green's job, Ron Gardenhire, about the job.
Before their conversations last month, Green's relationship with McGwire could rate as nonexistent, other than both had someone in common, someone who helped each of them at various points of their playing and coaching careers.
That would be current D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, whom Green worked under in Arizona and McGwire played for in St. Louis and Oakland.
"We descent from the same tree," Green said. "Tony had a great influence on us."
The problem was, McGwire was under consideration for the D-backs' then-vacant hitting-coach job last month. He was never offered the gig, opening the door for Green and the Padres to engage McGwire.
"I got to know him in the interview process and see how his mind worked. I began to think as time passed, this guy had everything I was looking for in a bench role," Green said. "He demonstrated that in every conversation I had."
The feeling was mutual, McGwire said.
"I see a lot of Tony in Andy," he said. "I can't wait to learn from him."
For McGwire, this was part of his natural progression as a coach. He put in his six years with the Dodgers and Cardinals but had aspirations for more.
"The one thing I liked to do as a player was challenge myself," McGwire said. "I challenged myself to leave St. Louis when I could have stayed there. I challenged myself in Los Angeles. You have to challenge yourself in life and sport.
"And when Andy and [general manager] A.J. [Preller] offered me this job, it was like 'Wow, this is a time to challenge myself.'"
The challenge he inherits, replacing Dave Roberts, who is now the Dodgers manager, is certainly a steep one: Helping get the Padres' moribund offense off the ground following a season where the team won 74 games, falling far short of expectations.
The Padres ranked last in the National League in team batting average (.243), on-base percentage (.300) and 13th out of 15 teams in OPS (.292).
But for McGwire, this job doesn't boil down to numbers. It's about people. And it is about relationships. That, more than anything, struck Green.
"I just wanted someone who really understood the game and people and had a way to connect, and I believe he had that," Green said.
"People who worked under Mark and coached alongside him, every report came back positive," Green said. "The No. 1 distinguisher for me was his ability to connect with players. We want to be able to connect with guys on every front."
McGwire sounded like he can't wait to get started. He's been at Petco Park this week for organizational meetings. Like Green, he can't wait to meet and get to work with the players.
"I love the game of baseball," McGwire said. "And this is a new role ... a learning experience. My eyes and ears are open.
"It's about communication. It's about understanding your teammates and what makes them tick. I'm ecstatic about this new role. It's a new challenge for me, [I'm] moving up in the game. I'm so flattered. It's a very exciting time here."