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McCormack Says Role�s Just Ducky

Haines City, Fla.-Don McCormack realizes it will be a

while before he can make a name for himself. For now, he is just The Guy Who

Followed Bud Harrelson as Manager of the Long Island Ducks. That's fine with

McCormack, who has long been the answer to an even better trivia question.

Who was the rookie catcher on deck when Mike Schmidt homered to clinch the

1980 National League East title for the Philadelphia Phillies?

It was McCormack, who was in the game because the other two catchers, Bob

Boone and Keith Moreland, had been removed for pinch hitters before the 11th

inning. McCormack subsequently got a hit in his first big-league at-bat

(against Stan Bahnsen of Montreal) and was on the field when the world

championship-bound team recorded the final out.

That definitely was a highlight in his baseball life. So was yesterday,

when he was throwing batting practice and hitting fungoes to the Ducks during

training camp at the Baseball City complex. So was just about every other day

since he left the tiny town of Omak, Wash., at 18 for a pro career.

He made it to the bigs for five at-bats (two hits). He has been a

successful minor-league manager, who worked with major-leaguers such as Mike

Lieberthal, Scott Rolen, Bobby Estalella and Ricky Bottalico when they were in

Class A and Double-A. He is glad to be running the Ducks, even though the

public will think of him - at least temporarily - as whatshisname.

"There's something about professional baseball that gets under your skin

and gets in your blood," the 45-year-old said yesterday. "Gosh, you really

can't put an actual figure or fact to the question, 'Well, why do you?' It's

because there's just something about it. It just grabs a hold of you and it's

hard to get away, it's hard to stay away. A lot of guys say, 'OK, I've had

enough of that stuff' and go try another life. Boy, it's hard to do."

He has managed at Batavia, N.Y.; Reading, Pa., and Clearwater, Fla., in the

Phillies chain. He took a few years off to work with his son's nationally

ranked high school team in Dunedin, Fla. Then he accepted an offer - from Ducks

principal owner Frank Boulton, Harrelson and their partner Tony Rosenthal, a

friend of McCormack's - to succeed fired Ducks pitching coach Mike Cuellar last

June.

"It worked out pretty well. Of course, I'd never been a pitching coach

before, but I knew how to run pitching staffs," McCormack said. It worked out

so well that when Harrelson announced he was stepping down as manager,

McCormack was the only choice.

He's known for getting the most out of players. Todd Pratt of the Mets, who

played for McCormack at Double-A Reading, recently spoke about how the manager

restored his confidence. "I had just got done having a great year in Triple-A

with the Red Sox, then I went to the Phillies and they sent me down to Double-A

to back up Mike Lieberthal," Pratt said. "But [McCormack] was very good with

me. He's someone you can talk to. He's a player's manager, a great guy."

Managing in the independent Atlantic League is different. You're not

grooming players for a parent club. Then again, you're not dealing with

blue-chip prospects either. Still, it's the same game. He has the same

approach.

He won't be the franchise's marquee figure, as Harrelson was. "Buddy was

very influential in everything that went on because everybody recognizes Buddy.

And I think that's great," McCormack said. "But Buddy doesn't want to do it

anymore. Hopefully, we can put another exciting product on the field. People

just want to see good baseball."

New York Sports