© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
PITTSBURGH -- Ferguson Jenkins' role as the manager of the World Team in Sunday's XM Satellite All-Star Futures Game at PNC Park interestingly enough had more than a casual White Sox connection for one of the greatest pitchers in Cubs history.
Razor Shines, the manager of the White Sox Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte, and Juan Nieves, the Knights pitching coach, served as two of the six coaches on Jenkins' staff. But it was the daughter of White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn who really was the individual to get Jenkins involved in the eighth year of this competition.
That particular involvement really happened by accident.
"About three months ago, I got an e-mail or a letter from [Major League Baseball special events manager] Jenny Einhorn, asking me what kind of participation I wanted to have for the All-Star Game," said Jenkins. "I said I would do a couple of FanFest appearances and I'll sign autographs for the kids.
"She said, 'You know there is also a Legends Game and a Futures Game.' I said, 'Oh, yeah. Put my name down for the World Team manager.' One week later, she called me and said, 'You got the job.' "
Jenkins, 62, clearly was thrilled to be back involved in the teaching aspect of baseball, having dabbled previously as pitching coach for the Cubs in 1995-96 and then working as a volunteer pitching instructor with the North Siders over the past few years. And there's clearly quite a bit of knowledge to be picked up from this Hall of Fame right-hander.
During his 19-year career, Jenkins finished with 284 victories, 3,192 strikeouts and only 997 walks over 4,500 innings. He also exhibited a durability rarely seen today, even from the most reliable hurlers of the modern age. In 1971 with the Cubs, Jenkins finished 24-13 with an unbelievable 30 complete games in 39 starts.
In 1974 with Texas, Jenkins posted a 25-12 record with 29 complete games in 41 starts, not to mention 225 strikeouts over a career-high 328 1/3 innings. Some quality starters working during the 2006 season might need two years to reach 328 innings.
Some Cubs starters, who Jenkins has watched up close and personal, are having trouble putting together four or five starts without an injury, let alone 35 starts in a season.
"You can't win without pitching, and it's really too bad because [Cubs manager] Dusty [Baker] is in a no-win situation," Jenkins said. "You'll sign a young man out of high school, but you don't know his makeup a lot of times or what is his pain threshold.
"I hear in the clubhouse all the time about a pitcher having a twinge, and they go on the disabled list. I would have never won any ballgames if I would have missed a start with a twinge.
"Pitchers are definitely protected," added Jenkins. "I used to warm up and throw 100 pitches in the bullpen and then throw 150 pitches in the game. I would throw nine innings, which they usually won't let these young men do right now."
Mental toughness was equally as important as physical toughness or having a 95-100 mph fastball to Jenkins as a pitcher. Working at a good tempo and having the ability to execute pitches, while thinking at a quick pace, could make up for a slight talent imbalance.
It's this kind of basic wisdom Jenkins hoped to impart on his young charges this weekend, although many of them didn't speak the same language as the native of Chatham, Ontario, and the 1987 inductee into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Jenkins' goal of leading the World Team to a second straight victory came up a little short, dropping an 8-5 decision, by virtue of a five-run third from the U.S. Team.
The true meaning of the competition for Jenkins was for these players to take advantage of this rare national showcase. In Jenkins' mind, a strong afternoon showing quickly could put an unknown Minor Leaguer on the map.
"This is a very important part of your life right here," Jenkins said. "It can change your life. You could be going from the Minors to the big leagues. You could be going from X amount of money to a lot of dollars.
"When I was a kid, I used to watch Saturday afternoon ballgames and say, 'I know I can get [Roberto] Clemente out and [Willie] Mays and [Hank] Aaron. Within a year, that's where I was at."
Jenkins has put out his name a few times for Major League managerial openings and had some interviews, but nothing ever materialized. Jenkins seems interested in being involved again at some level of coaching, possibly using Sunday as his springboard.
It was a game that allowed him to renew old acquaintances, such as with Shines, who was a player for Indianapolis in 1988 when Jenkins was coaching in Oklahoma City. It was a chance for one of baseball's most intelligent pitchers to share his baseball information with future stars.
"The uniform still fits. I'm really lucky," said Jenkins with a smile. "It's a great experience, and I enjoy being on the field."
"I try to learn something about this game every day," added Shines of working with Jenkins. "That's why I'm happy to be here, being around Hall of Famers."