NEW YORK -- As Phil Regan's 80th birthday approached, the longtime pitching instructor began telling friends around Florida that his goal was to throw batting practice for the St. Lucie Mets on his 80th birthday. It would be a statement of sorts, Regan thought, to show he could still do
NEW YORK -- As Phil Regan's 80th birthday approached, the longtime pitching instructor began telling friends around Florida that his goal was to throw batting practice for the St. Lucie Mets on his 80th birthday. It would be a statement of sorts, Regan thought, to show he could still do in his ninth decade what he spent so much time doing the previous eight.
When the Mets caught wind of Regan's plan, they called him the night before his birthday with an offer: Fly up to New York City instead and throw batting practice at Citi Field.
So it came to be that Regan strolled through the Mets' clubhouse on Friday, interacting with many of the star pitchers he helped develop. Though Regan's actual 80th birthday was Thursday, rain washed out batting practice and delayed him a day.
"It's good to be here," Regan said.
A former pitching coach at Class A St. Lucie, Regan entered a sort of semi-retirement two years ago, continuing work as the Mets' Minor League pitching coordinator. He is the epitome of a baseball lifer, pitching 13 years in the Majors, managing the Orioles in 1995 and serving as pitching coach for the Mariners, Cubs, Indians and Team USA. These days, he still makes a habit of throwing batting practice nearly every day.
"There was never a point where I had a sore arm," Regan said. "If you just keep doing it, the more you do it, keep doing it, keep doing it day after day -- I think Jim Kaat said you'll rust out before you wear out. That's probably true."
While batting practice was the highlight of Regan's day in New York, he also had an opportunity to catch up with so many of the pitchers that developed under his watch -- a group that includes Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.
"I used to tell a lot of people, it's kind of like an assembly line," Regan said. "When you're at Ford or General Motors, there are certain people who put on the hubcaps. Some put on the motors. Pretty soon, by the time they get to Triple-A, they come out and they're a Cadillac or a Mercedes.
"It's pretty rewarding to see them because there are so many things along the way that can stop you -- attitude, injuries, anything. But to see them all get here and perform like they're performing, it's pretty rewarding."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.