Long before he became part of the first fan-voted class of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame this past summer, Willie McGee had reason to return for a third stint with the organization he first joined as a 22-year-old in 1982 and eventually retired from as an active player in 1999.
The California resident had a long-standing itch to be involved with the game. McGee learned he could best satisfy it by working with younger players, typically more open to instruction. Two years ago, he made the move back into the professional ranks semi-official, accepting a role as a special assistant to general manager John Mozeliak.
Since then, McGee has increasingly worked in trips to Cardinals minor league affiliates whenever his schedule allows. His primary role has been to help farmhands with their outfield play and baserunning. Other than than being given away by flecks of gray now appearing in his always shortly-cropped hair, the 55-year-old looks like he could still play today.
This past week, McGee was in Florida, tutoring a hand-picked group of Cardinals prospects at the organization’s instructional league camp. A regular guy despite his considerable fame and fortune, McGee blended in among the coaching staff and even raked the basepaths between innings of the games to assist his baserunning pupils.
“… I know that hard work, dedication, discipline and desire translates into success. That does not mean that all the kids are going to make it to the big leagues, but the one thing they can get out of it is to be the best they can be – the best person and the best ball player every day…” - Willie McGee
In the following 13-minute interview, exclusive to The Cardinal Nation, McGee discusses what brought him back to the game and the Cardinals, his coaching approach, how he puts his team Hall of Fame induction and all personal recognition into context, a view of the differences and similarities of the club under Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa, what the future may bring and much more!
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