Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Texas Rangers [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Basketball a passion for RHP Seth McClung

By Richard Durrett

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In many ways a basketball court helped prepare Seth McClung for the challenge of making the Rangers' staff despite not playing baseball in 2010.

The 30-year-old veteran is in camp on a minor league contract, competing with a host of other hurlers for a spot on the staff.

"All I want to do is make the team," McClung said. "It's that simple. That's my goal."

McClung's mission this spring might actually be easier than the job he had coaching the varsity and junior varsity girls basketball team at Pinellas Park High School in Florida.

McClung went to spring training with the Marlins in 2010, but didn't make the squad and decided to spend the year with his family, saying he was tired of the "business" of the game. So with some free time, McClung, who signed with South Alabama to play basketball and baseball before going pro, wanted to coach high school basketball.

"I applied for an open job with a girls basketball team in Florida," McClung said. "It was a program that hadn't had a winning season since 1996. The year before I got there they had 10 girls in junior varsity and varsity. I knew I had my work cut out for me."

When McClung arrived, he warned the team that they would be working hard and getting into shape, changing the culture, as he put it. None of the girls from the previous season stayed.

"But I had 20 new girls and many of them had never played basketball," McClung said. "We went from the ground up. It was hard. The girls worked hard, but we had to teach them everything from throwing the ball in, where to stand for free throws, not going over and back on the center line. One freshman asked me why she had to dribble. It was a challenge."

McClung's varsity team went 0-25. They lost a game by 76 points early in the season. But they improved as the season went along and lost one game by one point and were competitive in several others. The JV team won six games, giving McClung hope that his squad will be improved next year.

"We got much better by the end of the season and I got a lot of good comments from other coaches about how the girls were doing," McClung said. "I'm doing it again next year. I've put too much time into it not to. I hope I'm late to start the season, though."

McClung's focus this spring is only baseball, though he'll catch a few games once March Madness begins. He's in Texas because it reunites him with pitching coach Mike Maddux, who got the best out of McClung while both were in Milwaukee. McClung had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and dealt with some right elbow issues in 2009. But he said he's completely healthy.

"Pitching coaches want to put their mark on you and I had a lot of them," McClung said. "I was no longer me. I was a combination of all these pitching coahces. It was refreshing that one of the first things that happened in Milwaukee with Mike was that he told me to do what I used to do.

He wanted me to be me. I went bac to a lot of things that I used to do as opposed to all these other ideas. It made me very comforable. I wanted to come back here where he knows me."

McClung said he doesn't feel too rusty and hopes he can show the Rangers he still has the stuff that made him a fifth-round pick in 1999 and a big league pitcher for parts of six seasons. His contract includes a clause that allows him to be released if he's not on the roster by a certain date. McClung could elect to pitch in Triple-A and be ready should the Rangers need another arm.

"I'm not thinking about that now," McClung said. "I can do a little bit of everything. I can start, I can give you four innings if a starter goes down, I can set up in the bullpen. I'm a little bit older and more understanding of what I can or can't do. I'm just coming here and working hard every day. I want to make this team."

And after that, he'll go back to coaching the girls basketball team and searching for that first win.