JUPITER, Fla. - Mark McGwire's first day on the job began with a wrong turn into the media room instead of the spring training clubhouse. It ended with another apology for steroid use.
The St. Louis Cardinals' new batting coach spent time in the batting cage with hitters, sat in on a lengthy staff meeting and then answered questions from reporters for more than 15 minutes Wednesday. He left more than six hours later, but not before signing several autographs.
The 46-year-old McGwire seemed at ease in his first extended media availability since admitting a month ago that he used steroids and human growth hormone during his remarkable home run power surge in the 1990s. Echoing remarks he made in January, several times he asked for forgiveness as he seeks to rehabilitate a tarnished image.
"It's something I regret," McGwire said. "I can't say I'm sorry enough to everybody in baseball and across America, and whoever watches this great game.
"I think people understand how truly sorry I was for what I did."
McGwire refused to back off his much-criticized assertion that steroids allowed him to recover from injuries and stay on the field, but didn't help him break Roger Maris' home run record in 1998. McGwire said it was the evolution of his swing and not a body enhanced by drugs that enabled him to hit 70 homers that year.
"Like I've said, people are going to have their opinions," McGwire said. "Listen, it got me the opportunity to get out there and get more at-bats, and I got the chance to play."
Still, he said, he felt he owed it to the Maris family to call them before his steroids admission became public, saying it was the "right thing to do." He said Pat Maris, Roger Maris' widow, was "upset and disappointed."
McGwire said his team was a source of instant understanding after his confession, especially manager Tony La Russa.
"He's the best,'' McGwire said. "He's like a second father to me.''