Baseball lifer Mark McGwire is making the most of his second act as a coach

Wil Myers was an impressionable 7-year-old Authentic Harrison Barnes #40 Youth jersey in the summer of 1998, when the nation was riveted by a home run competition between a red-headed Adonis from California and a charismatic slugger from the Dominican Republic. As Little League beckoned, Myers was captivated by the highlights and daily updates. He decorated his room in High Point, North Carolina, with the must-have wall adornment for elementary school children from coast to coast. Myers fell asleep each night beneath posters of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and woke up each morning inspired by their pursuit of Roger Maris' record 61 home runs. One of those muscle-bound posters sprang to life in 2016, when Myers was entering his second year with the San Diego Padres and McGwire joined the team as manager Andy Green's bench coach. It would have been easy for a childhood admirer to be starstruck, except that McGwire was so approachable and free of superstar airs. "I don't even consider him Mark Authentic Xander Bogaerts #2 Youth jersey McGwire anymore,'' Myers says. "I just call him Mac. He's just a normal dude who was a great baseball player and hit really, really far home runs. He's as humble as anyone I've seen.'' This is a common sentiment in San Diego as McGwire completes his second season with the franchise in a publicity vacuum. The Padres have the second-youngest roster in the majors (a tick behind the Philadelphia Phillies), with an average age of 27.7 years old, and McGwire is in his element as a teacher and nurturing influence. He built a legacy marked by tape-measure home runs, but he is also remembered for a tearful televised confession, wall-to-wall news conferences and a controversial Congressional hearing. Now, McGwire is content to stay in the background and help mold young ballplayers. The first act of McGwire's career was wrought with contradictions and ended in the hardest of falls: He elicited gasps in increments of 450-500 feet, became a reluctant household name and ultimately emerged as a pariah for his record-setting exploits during Major League Baseball's PED era. The second act is less glamorous but in some ways more gratifying. McGwire reports to the park each day six hours or so before the first pitch, compiles scouting reports and takes advantage of the video and other technology available to the modern-day coach. Once players begin to arrive, he engages them in ball talk in the lunchroom, dugout and batting cages. It's not much of a stretch to say he's baseball-obsessed. "The common denominator between all of us who stayed in the game is that we love it so much," McGwire said. "It's in our blood. Once they throw the first pitch every night, the juices get flowing. I put myself in that box and at first base playing defense. I love that Harmon Killebrew #3 Womens jersey feeling." As McGwire completes his eighth season as a big league coach, his tenure is noteworthy for the absence of a personal or professional agenda. He dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2016, so he has no reason to curry favor with baseball writers or lobby for support. Managing doesn't appear to be high on his priority list, either. When asked if he views coaching as a gateway to a managing gig, McGwire gives the impression that he's too engrossed in his current role to have time for career advancement. "I've never ruled out [managing]," McGwire said. "Let's just say I really enjoy what I'm doing. Wherever this takes me, I don't know." McGwire's persistence in a subordinate role is also noteworthy because of the list of big-name players who have dabbled in coaching in recent years, only to find the demands of the job too stressful and/or onerous to continue. Jeff Bagwell spent three months as the Houston Astros' hitting coach in 2010 before declining a two-year offer to return. Dante Bichette held the same role with the Colorado Rockies in 2013 before observing that "the tug of the family was too much.''It was big news when Barry Bonds joined Don Mattingly's staff in Miami in December 2015, but he lasted one season as hitting coach before the Marlins fired him. Bonds resurfaced in San Francisco this spring as a special advisor to Giants CEO Larry Baer, and he will have ample opportunity to ride his bike in the Bay Area between promotional appearances and working with young players in the system.

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