Big Mac returns to SoCal as Dodgers hitting coach


Big Mac returns to SoCal as Dodgers hitting coach

LOS ANGELES (AP) Mark McGwire is coming home as hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, lured by the chance to spend more time with his wife and five young children.

He was hired Wednesday to replace Dave Hansen and improve an offense that struggled last season when All-Star slugger Matt Kemp was hobbled by injuries. The Dodgers were 13th in the National League in runs scored and RBIs and 15th in home runs.

``It's the first time in my baseball career I have an opportunity to live at home and work at home,'' McGwire said on a teleconference. ``To do what I love, still be in the game of baseball and to be at home, it just fit perfectly.''

McGwire spent the past three seasons in the same job with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he starred during parts of his 16-year major league career. During McGwire's tenure, the Cardinals led the National League in batting average (.269) and on-base percentage (.337), ranked second in runs (2,263) and fourth in slugging percentage (.416).

He worked with All-Star sluggers Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, while helping develop 2011World Series MVP David Freese.

But as much as he enjoyed the job and the team's success, McGwire said last season ``was probably one of the hardest on me family-wise.''

His two sons, ages 9 and 10, have started playing Little League, and he and his wife, Stephanie, have 2-year-old triplet daughters. McGwire also has a 25-year-old son from a previous marriage. The couple lives in Orange County.

``Being away from the girls, it took a little bit for them to realize Daddy was back a couple weeks ago,'' he said, adding that he wasn't certain he would have returned to St. Louis if the Dodgers hadn't pursued him.

Once they did, he turned down the Cardinals' contract extension and started phoning the team's players and staff to say goodbye.

``It was very, very hard to call everybody,'' he said.

McGwire is from the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona. He played college baseball at Southern California and was a member of Oakland's 1989 World Series champion team.

``I grew up a Dodger fan,'' he said.

McGwire is a 12-time All-Star who in winter 2010 ended years of denials and a self-imposed exile from the sport by admitting he took performance-enhancing drugs during his career, including when he broke Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs with 70 long balls in 1998. He retired in 2001 with 583 career homers, ranking 10th on the all-time list.

``It's a mistake that I've made, I've owned up to it, I've moved on,'' he said. ``That's something I have to live with the rest of my life.''

There was little public outcry when McGwire returned to the Cardinals as hitting coach, and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he can live with McGwire's past.

``He's owned up to making a mistake, but there's so many other great qualities about him that you forgive the mistake,'' he said. ``That he apologized is very important.''

McGwire will be working with an accomplished group of hitters on the Dodgers, including All-Stars Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez.

``I absolutely love the job of being a hitting coach,'' he said. ``I love teaching and being around the game of baseball.''

Colletti said he sought McGwire partly after seeing how well-prepared the Cardinals' hitters were, including their ability to make in-game adjustments.

``We kept thinking about guys that had had success both with veteran players and also young players. We kept coming back to Mark,'' he said. ``We benefited from Mark's love of his young family and where he resides. We're very privileged and thrilled to have a person of this quality be our hitting coach.''

Colletti said the Dodgers would hire an assistant hitting coach later this week.

McGwire said he has no immediate managerial aspirations.

``But I would never rule it out,'' he said. ``Right now I'm having way too much fun working with the hitters.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short.