RIVER GROVE, Ill. -- It didn't take long for the old stories to begin, whether it was Milt Papas talking about the stress of pitching to Yogi Berra or Steve Sax sharing a laugh about ribbing clubhouse workers in certain ballparks.The group of former Major League players who conducted a
RIVER GROVE, Ill. -- It didn't take long for the old stories to begin, whether it was Milt Papas talking about the stress of pitching to Yogi Berra or Steve Sax sharing a laugh about ribbing clubhouse workers in certain ballparks.
The group of former Major League players who conducted a free youth clinic on Saturday morning at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., covered several generations, a number of teams they played for and enough stories to put smiles on their faces.
"We were in the car coming over here and just cracking up telling stories," said former left-handed pitcher Mike Remlinger, who spent three seasons with the Chicago Cubs among his 12 seasons in the bigs.
"I think that's what we miss more than anything, is the camaraderie and all of the goofy, funny things we've done over the careers that we all had."
Remlinger, who retired in 2006, made his first appearance as an instructor at the annual free "Legends for Youth" baseball clinic put on by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and sponsored by Hanover Insurance Group, which will sponsor similar clinics in Milwaukee and Springfield, Ill., later this summer.
"I've always been a big fan of the game," said Remlinger, who now lives in Phoenix and works as a life coach with Pathways Group, Inc., which helps professional athletes transition back to everyday life after retirement. "I love talking to the older guys. To be around these guys now and get them talking about some of the things they did -- we were talking to Milt Papas, and he started talking about facing Yogi Berra in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning and how tough he was. Stuff like that is priceless to me."
Bill Campbell, one of Remlinger's co-instructors at a throwing mechanics station, had some stories of his own to share. After playing for seven teams over 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, Campbell also felt the void of camaraderie after retiring following the 1987 season.
Like a lot of former players, he instructs pitching mechanics on his own. Getting to do it on a bright, sun-splashed day with a handful of peers, however, was even more enjoyable.
"We were sitting around in the clubhouse over there, getting ready to go and then the old stories started," said Campbell, who was drafted by Minnesota and made his Major League debut in 1974.
"I think every ballplayer misses that. You realize you can't strike everybody out anymore, but you can always have the memories of the old stories playing the game or just riding the bus. Those are the goofy things about baseball that you miss."
Or, as Papas -- a Cubs fan favorite -- put it: "The stories get longer and the home runs get longer and all that."
Indeed, they did. The fastballs got a little faster, as well. It's just what happens whenever former ballplayers get talking about the old days. The added bonus here was that it wasn't at some obscure watering hole.
The backdrop was a beautiful college baseball field on an even more picturesque day for baseball.
"It's fun to kind of get you back and remember all those good things you had in baseball, and you put yourself in the kids' place," said Sax, who ran a hitting station in center field. "I wish I'd had something like this as a kid. It's just amazing what they've done here for these kids."
What it did for the big "kids" was also pretty remarkable.
"We had some unbelievable hilarity in the car coming over here," said Sax, who now lives in Northern California and works as a motivational speaker after playing 18 seasons in the Major Leagues. "Having all the generations here is kind of a cool thing, too, when you hear things from different generations [of ballplayers]. Some things never change."
What does change is their age. And each year that passes makes the playing days seem even deeper in the past.
"It really does go quick," said Remlinger, who retired in 2006. "Those are definitely great memories, though. I loved going out and doing it, and coming out to do stuff like this just prolongs it."
Campbell agreed and put the day into perspective with a simple self-correction. After calling the day-to-day grind of professional baseball a "reality," he quickly changed his wording.
"Actually, it was more of a fantasy," Campbell said. "And when you leave the game, you realize just how much of a fantasy it was."