Randy Hollis: Raptors ready to open season with former Cy Young Award winner as manager
CLIFF SCHIAPPA, ASSOCIATED PRESS
OGDEN — There's a new guy filling out the Ogden Raptors' lineup card this year.
And when he speaks, the Raptors' players — especially their pitchers — should certainly listen to what he's got to say.
Jack McDowell, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 1993 during a solid major league career that spanned a dozen seasons and earned him 127 victories, takes over as manager of Ogden's Pioneer League team this season.
"One thing I do know is that he's 48 years old now," Raptors team president Dave Baggott said of the fiercely competitive pitcher who was known as "Black Jack" in his heyday, "and he will still have the best curveball of anybody on this team."
McDowell replaces Damon Berryhill, another former major leaguer who spent five seasons as the Raptors' skipper. The Raptors reached the Pioneer League playoffs in four of Berryhill's five years at the helm, and he was the longest-tenured and most successful manager the Raptors' franchise has ever had.
This year, Berryhill has taken over as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, who play in the Pacific Coast League along with another Utah franchise, the Salt Lake Bees.
Baggott says having a guy like McDowell in the Raptors' dugout should be a huge benefit to young, up-and-coming ballplayers who have their own sights set on reaching the big leagues someday.
“It’s a tremendous help,” Baggott told former Standard-Examiner sportswriter Roy Burton, who's now with the Deseret News. “You’re dealing with the kids of Generation X these days; everybody feels destined, but then when they see a former major leaguer that actually experienced what their goal is, I think it opens their eyes a little bit more on what it takes to get there. That major league-experienced coach has the experience to tell them how to get there.
"It's all about work ethic. Sometimes things off the field are equally important as well — being on time, taking care of yourself, not burning the candle from both ends — 97.5 percent of the kids get it.
"If you're a pitcher and you want to learn, we've got an excellent pitching coach," Baggott told Burton. "But it doesn't hurt to have a skipper who's got a Cy Young Award on his shelf. I imagine that his skills as a manager and a teacher — we have to remember that, at this level, they are teachers — that what they have to offer will be taken accordingly by the players."
McDowell, who was a two-time 20-game winner and three-time American League All-Star, won the 1993 AL Cy Young honor with a 22-10 record and 3.37 ERA with the Chicago White Sox, for whom he pitched seven seasons.
He also spent time with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Anaheim Angels before retiring following the 1999 season. He compiled a career record of 127-87 with an ERA of 3.85, and his ERA was under 4.00 in each of his first eight years in the majors.
For McDowell, this is his first chance to coach professionally, having coached his own children from T-ball all the way up through high school, and he says he's "fired up" about the opportunity.
"I've been through the entire ranks of amateur baseball," he said, "and they pulled me out of amateur baseball and put me here. I was married and had three kids, took my oldest kid all the way through high school, got divorced, got remarried and had three more kids, and I was looking into getting back into working in the game somewhere.
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