Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Steve Kline Christmas

A conversation with Steve Kline is like a conversation with a flying cow. Even if you don't learn anything, it's going to be memorable.

Kline, who played eleven seasons in the big leagues, began his coaching career last year as the pitching coach of the Augusta GreenJackets, the Low A affiliate of the SF Giants. The guys loved him.

I was a little leery about Kline's coaching abilities. Let's face it, just because the guy could made left-handed batters look as foolish as a fattie in a Speedo doesn't mean he'll be able to teach the skill. And he always seemed so goofy. Soon, however, I was hearing stories from other guys claiming he was the best thing for pitching since Eddie Cicotte invented the knuckleball. Two months into the season, teammate (and great guy) Dan Runzler proclaimed him his savior. My doubts were allayed.

While I haven't ever had Kline as a pitching coach, I've talked to him a time or two. Yes he's goofy. And yes, he has a shaggy haircut. But he also knows a lot about pitching.

Recently I talked to him while working on a story. The story didn't pan out, but I asked Kline about some of his favorite Holiday memories. First I asked about his childhood memories, and he claimed he didn't have any good ones. He said he was the youngest of a bunch of brothers and simply got beat up all the time. Then I asked about some of his favorite holiday memories as a player.

"In St. Louis I always met up with Tim Forneris (the grounds crew member who caught Mark McGwire’s 62nd homerun ball and immediately returned it). We’d always do charity work all over the city," Kline said. "We would go to shelters and hospitals and hand out gifts. We’d get a list of kids and moms of needy families from a social worker, and I’d just go to Walmart. I’d buy anything from video games to clothes and jackets. And then we’d always go and buy Honeybacked Hams and pass them out to them. That’s something I really liked to do for the Holidays."

I loved his response, and so I wanted to share it. He said he still does charity work around his hometown in Pennsylvania throughout the Holidays, often working with a group called Women in Transition. He doesn't do it to get attention. He does it because he thinks its the right thing to do, and that's the best part of it. He's sincere in his intentions. You can tell it in his eyes.

Kline looks like such a simple person, but there's a lot more depth to him. While he'd probably take no joy in approaching a calculus problem or analyzing a work of art, he takes a lot of joy in helping others. There's a lot to be said for that.

On that note, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season, filled with good health, a warm home, tasty food to eat, and plenty of love. Perhaps I should do more to spread this love. Maybe next year I'll try to have a Steve Kline Christmas.




12 comments:

Sarah said...

I loved to watch Steve Kline pitch--and do interviews. :) Sorry the story didn't pan out, but thanks for sharing Steve's story! Wish the best of luck to him in Augusta.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Thanks for sharing your Steve Kline story and discussing his effect on his charges.

Some Giants fans didn't appreciate Kline, and that is probably because we got him during his decline, but if you look at his seasonal numbers, he kept his K/BB around 2.0, a sign of a pitcher who knew what he was doing, and kept his ERA very low as well, despite not the greatest walk rate. Sounds like he had a very positive effect on Runzler, helping his meteoric rise this season. Hopefully he can help more who are willing to listen to him.

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