04/04/2002 6:51 pm ET
Yount, lifetime Brewer, returns in Diamondback duds
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- There's a statue of Robin Yount at Miller Park, honoring the legendary Brewer for his 20 years of heroism in baseball here, and that's the only way most Brew Crew fans can rub elbows with the Hall of Famer -- vicariously.
Talk about the strong, silent type.
But Friday, the 46-year-old Yount returns in the flesh to Milwaukee as first base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks. And although the Brewers will apparently not hold special ceremonies honoring him, you can bet your last bottle of beer there will be a few standing ovations when he's introduced during home Opener.
"I'm looking forward to going back there," said Yount of the three-game weekend series. "My family isn't going, but I'm sure I'll have a bunch of friends who will come out. I made many friendships during my time there."
Yount belongs to baseball: a lifetime .285 hitter, a three-time All-Star who batted .414 with a homer and six RBI in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis; and a guy who strolled into Cooperstown in 1999.
But Yount will have a dilemma of sorts during the All-Star Game in Milwaukee July 9, when he'll serve as the American League's honorary captain despite being a National Leaguer now.
"We told Robin whatever he wanted to do, we want you to do," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly of the midseason contest. "I'm not sure how that's going to work. But he had such a tremendous career there and he still has a fondness for Milwaukee. We're all excited to see him go back there -- for this upcoming series and the All-Star Game."
Oddly, the mustachioed Yount is a rookie now, still learning the intricacies of coaching at first base. It's not as easy or routine as some might think in that half-rectangle off the base, eyes and ears open, a guardian of base runners.
What makes a great first sack coach?
"I'm not sure," laughed Yount. "I'm still trying to figure that out. To be perfectly honest with you, good base runners seldom need coaches. Most of the guys have a pretty good idea if they can advance on their own. You're more of a reminder out there. There's not a lot to do other than bringing your pom-poms and encouraging them.
"Every now and then I have to slap myself and make sure I'm not sleeping, too," Yount added. "But I'm enjoying it. It's a great opportunity to get back in the game with a great organization and great group of guys. I'm very happy to be here and I am really looking forward to this season."
Brenly recalled that first day this spring when Yount -- in uniform but strangely without a bat, without a glove -- went out to the coaching box. It was uncharted territory and Robin obviously needed a road map or a seeing-eye pooch.
"He's doing very well now, but the first game that Robin went down there he said he didn't realize how many things went on in the baseball game. That's a big adjustment from being a player and being a coach. Complete attention is required at different times. Once he got into the rhythm and what we did as a staff he's been outstanding."
Arizona first baseman Mark Grace has seen hundreds of coaches in his 13 years, and knows it's not an easy task coaching first, especially for a naturally gifted athlete such as Yount. There are signs to learn, players' tendencies to memorize and fungoes to hit: creating a teaching plan for youngsters.
"Believe me, it's tougher coaching than playing," explained Grace. "He has to relay his instincts to the players and teach them, and it could be frustrating if they don't grasp things as easily as he did. You'd be surprised how many players forget how many outs there are. They get tunnel vision. But Robin's doing a great job."
When Yount goes back to Milwaukee, it will bring a flood of memories rushing his way, a kaleidoscope of color and awards and action and highlights. So many recollections. Yet it's easy for the superstar to tap into his hard drive and relive his finest moments.
Best of all? Beating Baltimore on the last day of the season to head into the playoffs is certainly up there. Then trailing Anaheim 0-2 in the AL championship series before winning three straight to earn a memorable World Series trip tops the list.
"Going to the seventh game of the Series against St. Louis ... even though we came out on the short end of that game, that period of time was the highlight of my career," said Yount. "Going to the World Series is what every kid, every player, dreams about."
Rich Draper covers the Diamondbacks for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.