JUPITER, Fla. -- Ozzie Smith wasn’t just one of the greatest shortstops of all time. He also was a player whose radiant smile and outgoing personality tended to draw people in. Leadership seemed to come naturally to him.
But Smith, 61, has resisted the draw that the game often has on retired players. Aside from spending a week with the St. Louis Cardinals every spring, he said he has no desire to coach or manage in the game he spent more than 20 years in as a player.
“It becomes too consuming,” said Smith, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2002. “You say, ‘I’m going to do it for a day, I’m going to do it for a week.’ Then, all of a sudden, it’s two weeks and all of the sudden it’s two months.
“And as baseball people, we’re all very superstitious, so say the club goes on a two- or three-week winning streak and it’s like, ‘Why don’t you come with us,’ and, before long, you’re sucked back in.”
Among other things, Smith serves as the president of the Gateway chapter of the PGA. He’s involved with trying to raise funds for a nine-hole golf course in a largely African-American neighborhood in North St. Louis, across the street from where old Sportsman’s Park used to be on North Grand.
He said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of one day coaching or even managing.
“I enjoy my golf. I enjoy the life I live now,” Smith said. “Right now, I’m not sure is the right time. That may happen at some point in time.”
Smith is among a handful of players from the team’s Hall of Fame who are in town working with current players. Jim Edmonds, Red Schoendienst and Willie McGee also are here. Lou Brock, who normally visits every spring, is not expected to make it this year. In November he had to have his left leg amputated below the knee because of an infection related to diabetes.
Smith has paid special attention to the progress of Kolten Wong, who was the fifth-best second baseman in the National League last season according to FanGraphs.
“He used to pat his glove a lot. Now, he gets the ball and gets rid of it,” Smith said. “That’s the only thing I thought that slowed him down. His progress has been good and, hopefully, he continues to improve.”