Aspiring coaches use Meetings to network
Former Cy Young Award winner among those hoping for big league return
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The lobby of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort is currently dominated by a 45-foot Christmas tree made from white poinsettias, decorated with giant, shiny, blue Christmas spheres and huge golden bows. Anyone who has watched MLB Network's TV coverage of the 2013 Winter Meetings has probably seen it, looming large and sparkly in the background.
But less noticeable is the veritable sea of sport coats and golf shirts that has flooded the hotel lobby, lounge, bar, restaurant and conference rooms from dawn until -- well, dawn -- since Sunday night. They belong to general managers, managers, team executives, PR employees, agents, reporters, broadcasters, current players, retired players, fans, autograph seekers and hangers-on.
Some want deals and scoops and are willing to stalk the lobby until the wee hours to get them. Some want to network to expand their bat or glove or website-building businesses. Some want to simply take pictures and catch up with friends. Others, though, are hoping to start the second act of their baseball careers.
Among the hundreds of people crammed into the lobby at the Dolphin are a host of former players hoping to get back to the big leagues, this time as coaches, scouts or members of the media. Some, you've heard of. Most, you haven't. Here is a look at a few of the hopefuls:
McDowell made his big league debut in 1987 and pitched a combined 12 seasons with the White Sox, the Yankees, the Indians and the Angels. He won the 1993 American League Cy Young Award while with the White Sox, and he retired in 1999.
For the last seven years, McDowell, 47, has been coaching high school baseball at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, Calif. He was at the Winter Meetings to find a new job, as either a big league first-base or pitching coach or as a broadcaster.
"When I played, people thought, 'Oh, he played music, he's kind of out there, he's kind of flaky,' but then I got into coaching and started getting into the game more with kids, and people would tell me how much they'd learn by talking with me," McDowell said. "As a pitcher, I had to know and understand the whole game, and I think I still have a lot to offer in baseball."
Halama pitched nine years in the big leagues with seven different teams. While with the Mariners from 1999 to 2002, Halama won 41 games, with a career-high 14 wins in 2000. After pitching the 2006 season with the Orioles, Halama spent six seasons in Triple-A and independent baseball before retiring in 2012. Last season, he was the pitching coach for the York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League, and he traveled to Orlando with the hope of catching on with an affiliated team.
"While I was playing, I wasn't sure I'd want to continue in baseball, but it's what I love to do," said Halama, 41. "I had a blast in York last year, learning the other side of things and learning how to take care of the 15 guys on our staff with their different stuff and their different routines. When you play, you're really only responsible for yourself, so I enjoyed learning what everyone else is doing."
A former catcher, Oliver is one of the comparatively few position players working the lobby at this year's Winter Meetings. Oliver played in 1,076 games over 13 big league seasons, winning a World Series with the Reds in 1990. He retired to Orlando in 2001, where he has been coaching high school baseball for 12 years.
"I started a program at Pine Castle Christian Academy and built it from nothing," Oliver said. "I wanted to run everything, because being a manager is my ultimate desire."
For now, though, the 48-year-old Oliver will do anything to get a coaching job in the professional game.
"I'll start at the lowest level if I have to," Oliver said. "I've made it very clear that's not going to offend me."
Redding pitched a combined eight seasons in the Major Leagues for the Astros, Padres, Nationals, Yankees and Mets Last season, the 35-year-old righty pitched for the Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League, but now, he is looking for any kind of job that will get him back into big league baseball.
|"I know I'm going to have to start over and move up just like I did as a player, and that's fine."|
|-- Tim Redding|
"Some guys get out of the game and want to get away for a while, but I want to stay in it," Redding said. "I'd like to stay on the field and be a pitching coach, but I'm certainly open to getting into an organization and getting my foot in the door with a scouting position or a front-office position. I know I'm going to have to start over and move up just like I did as a player, and that's fine."
Redding also has not ruled out playing another season overseas should he not find a coaching or scouting position prior to spring training.
Stevens, 30, was drafted by the Reds in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and played in 33 games with the Cubs between 2009 and 2011. He spent parts of nine Minor League seasons in the systems of the Reds, the Indians, the Cubs and the Mets, and he pitched the 2013 season with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the independent Atlantic League.
"The game tells you when it's time to stop playing, and I was ready to move on," Stevens said. "But I think I have an eye for talent, and I still want to help an organization win games. I might not be able to do it physically with pitching anymore, but I can still help out."
Stevens hopes to lay the groundwork for a coaching or scouting job while in Florida.
Lindsay Berra is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @lindsayberra. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.