Mark McGwire Left MLB For High School Baseball… Now What?
No pro athlete likes to be asked, “What will you do next?” For Mark McGwire, it seemed like he had everything figured out. After the first baseman ended his professional career, he signed on as a hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals, then later the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
But in the fall of 2018, McGwire surprised baseball fans by announcing his departure from the Padres in order to attend more of his sons’ high school baseball games. This exit seemed so simple that it’s hard to believe. So, what is McGwire really up to?
Mark McGwire the home run king
A World Series champion, MLB home-run leader, and current record holder for at-bats per home run ratio, McGwire was the Babe Ruth of the ’80s and ’90s. In 1987, he was named AL Rookie of the Year with the Oakland A’s and had 49 home runs (the record for a rookie until 2017.) McGwire was the first player to hit over 30 home runs in each of his first four years.
The MLB icon played for the A’s until 1997, hitting a total of 363 home runs and surpassing the previous franchise record. In July 1997, McGwire was traded to the Cardinals. He led the league in home runs that year and was ninth in the National League while only playing two-thirds of the season with St. Louis.
In 1998, in what would be known as the year baseball made a comeback, McGwire was in a race against Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa to break Roger Maris’s single-season home run record. McGwire finished the with 70 home runs, while Sosa finished with 66. The competition reignited a love for baseball around the country. McGwire retired in 2001.
As a coach, McGwire excelled
In 2010, McGwire became a hitting coach for the Cardinals. As the home run hero there, he received a standing ovation when he walked out for his first game as a coach. The Cardinals led the league in hitting and on-base percentage during his three years with the team.
McGwire took up the same position as hitting coach for the Dodgers from 2013 to 2015, then joined the Padres as their new bench coach. After the 2018 season, he announced he would be leaving.
When McGwire became a coach in 2010, he spoke out about rumors of steroid use during his career. He admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, including his 1998 record-breaking year. While the drugs he used weren’t banned by the MLB at the time, it was understood that they improved performance. McGwire has stated that he regrets using them.
Leaving the MLB for high school baseball
After leaving the Cardinals coaching staff in favor of being closer to his home in Southern California, it was clear that McGwire valued his family. At the end of the 2018 season, it was announced that McGwire would not be returning to coach in 2019.
After discussing it “at length” with Padres Manager Andy Green, McGwire stated that he was sacrificing too much time with his family and didn’t want to keep missing his sons’ high school baseball games.
This year, McGwire was inducted into the A’s Hall of Fame. Saying that his accomplishments with the team are often overlooked in favor of his accomplishments in his later years with the Cardinals, McGwire feels that view is wrong. Oakland is where he spent 14 years, including his fantastic rookie year, and he says it’s an honor to be able to wear the colors of both teams.