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BendtheBar 10-26-2009 09:49 PM

Big Mac heart attack?
Anyone see this? I thought Big Mac was a quiet guy. I can just see the steroid circus rolling into St. Louis as I type this out. Hasn't the sports media been waiting for years to attack McGwire? Now they'll get their chance...

McGwire joins Cardinals as hitting coach


Mark McGwire is back in baseball, reunited with Tony La Russa as the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitting coach.

La Russa agreed to return for a 15th year as manager Monday with a one-year contract, the first time he hasn’t had a multiyear deal with the team. All of his coaches will return except for Hal McRae, who will be replaced by the former star.

“Mark is passionate about the game, passionate about the Cardinals,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “Tony thinks he’ll be a great coach, and I think he’s got a lot to offer.”

McGwire was not at the news conference at Busch Stadium, but La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak said there will be no effort to shield McGwire from questions about steroids. The team anticipated a telephone news conference with McGwire.

“By no means is he trying to hide, and by no means are we trying to hide him,” Mozeliak said.

McGwire hit a then-record 70 home runs in 1998 and retired with 583 homers and a .263 career average in 2001. He famously refused to answer questions about steroids use during a March 2005 congressional hearing, saying he wasn’t there to talk about the past.

Former congressman Tom Davis, who led the committe that held the hearings, told the Daily News of New York that he welcomed the news.

“I think he’s entitled to another chance,” Davis told the newspaper.

McGwire has received just under 25 percent support from voters in his three appearances on the Hall of Fame ballot, well under the 75 percent needed. La Russa hopes the 46-year-old can use this position to repair a tarnished image.

“I’m a big fan of his,” the manager said. “He’s back in uniform and, hopefully, people will see his greatness. But the No. 1 reason he’s here is to coach our hitters.”

La Russa said he first contacted McGwire about the coaching job a week earlier, when he was still supposedly mulling his future. He said McGwire showed immediate interest, but the manager said the steroids topic was not broached.

“It’s up to Mark how he wants to handle it,” La Russa said. “What we want him to do is coach our hitters, and if he does that well, we’re going to be happy.”

La Russa had been attempting to persuade McGwire to return to the team as a spring training instructor for several seasons. La Russa managed McGwire for all but one of his 16 seasons, both in Oakland and St. Louis.

McGwire has worked with Cardinals hitters and other major leaguers in recent offseasons at his California home. The group includes Matt Holliday(notes), which could make McGwire an asset in the team’s negotiations with the free agent outfielder.

Cardinals hitters such as leadoff man Skip Schumaker(notes) have long been complimentary of McGwire’s tutoring, and La Russa said he has witnessed McGwire’s ability to pass on hitting knowledge.

La Russa said McGwire always refused the Cardinals’ previous offers because his family was younger.

“I watched some sessions and I said, `Wow, he really has a good approach,”’ La Russa said. “He’s got the whole thing—mechanics, the power of the mind. So I asked him.”

La Russa, who turned 65 on Oct. 4, had been assessing his interest in returning since the NL Central champion Cardinals were swept in the division series by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 10. His $8.5 million, two-year contract was to expire at the end of the month, and he said he finalized his decision last weekend.

“I would be here if Mark wasn’t the coach,” La Russa said. “The fact that he’s here adds some more fire to the gut.”

La Russa has produced eight playoff teams and the Cardinals have drawn 3 million-plus fans at home in 11 of his 14 seasons. He and DeWitt both said the one-year contract is better because La Russa reassesses his interest every year, and not because the manager is looking at 2010 as a farewell.

“I know there’s an end in sight somewhere,” La Russa said. “This is a great place to be. Past stars show up all the time. You’ve got to be a mummy not to be affected by that.”

McRae was hitting coach for five seasons, but the team struggled offensively toward the end of the season and in the playoffs. The Cardinals hit .133 (4 for 30) with runners in scoring position in the postseason.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan also will return. He became upset with the organization, fans and reporters when his son, outfielder Chris Duncan(notes), was traded to Boston in July. The Red Sox released Chris Duncan soon after the trade.

“Where he coaches, that’s where I want to manage,” La Russa said. “He’s that good.”

Associated Press writer Jim Salter contributed to this report.

BendtheBar 10-27-2009 07:10 AM

Reaction from Donald Hooton, father of steroid user

Reaction from Donald Hooton, father of steroid user -

Within a few months of the Congressional hearings that have come to define baseball's steroid era, Don Hooton, who testified at the hearings and is the father of a steroid-user who had committed suicide, received a nondescript envelope in the mail.

It contained a check to the Taylor Hooton Foundation, paying off a promise.

It was from Mark McGwire's foundation.

Since meeting McGwire as both prepared to testify before Congress about baseball's steroid culture, Hooton has spoken often about players like McGwire having the loudest voice when it comes to educating children and student athletes about the dangers of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have said from the beginning that I believe Mark McGwire's persona, his popularity, especially with the kids and even now, puts him in as good a position as anyone to spread the message," Hooton said. "Now that he's back in the spotlight, I hope he uses this opportunity to talk about the subject. I'd like to think this signals that he's ready to speak out."

The Taylor Hooton Foundation was named for Don Hooton's son, who committed suicide in 2003. The foundation provides and pushes for increased education and awareness about steroid and performance-enhancing drug use in school-age athletes. Major League Baseball has partnered with the foundation for many projects since the hearing and last month the foundation received its first donation from the NFL.

At the hearing, McGwire said he would be a spokesman against the use of steroids by children and that he would charge his foundation with that message. McGwire has kept a mostly private existence since, but his foundation has made multiple donations to Hooton's over the past three years. McGwire's representative requested that Hooton keep the amount of the donations private, but Hooton classified them as "substantial."

"We'd like to see Mark use his own voice … to speak out on this topic," Hooton said. "He, more than anybody, should be able to speak to kids about what price he paid for getting involved."

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