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Archive for Sunday, May 11, 2008

Former O’s pitching coach Leo Mazzone sick of relaxing

May 11, 2008

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— He's got plenty of free time and still is being paid handsomely by the Baltimore Orioles, so there's really no limit to what Leo Mazzone can do this spring.

Yet, Mazzone can't remember ever feeling so useless, exasperated and miserable.

The esteemed pitching coach is out of a job, and he can't stand it. The 59-year-old Mazzone usually spends this time of the year rocking back and forth in the dugout, watching one of his pupils try to work out of a jam. What he's doing now is more suitable for the rocking chair on his porch.

"What I'm doing is sitting here dying to get back into baseball again," Mazzone said. "When spring training hit, it was the first time in 40 years I wasn't on the baseball field."

After the Orioles fired him last October with one season left on a $1.5 million, three-year deal, Mazzone was guaranteed a salary in 2008 without having to leave his house. He has since learned that playing golf and gardening isn't as challenging as grooming pitchers in the big leagues. Heck, it's not even close.

"Everybody says, 'Just relax and enjoy your time, your contract runs through Oct. 31,"' he said. "But that's not the point. The point is that I enjoy myself when I'm down in that bullpen working with pitchers, and I miss the whole love affair with the major leagues I've had since I was 9 years old."

After a highly successful run with the Atlanta Braves, Mazzone left for Baltimore after the 2005 season. He received a hefty raise and got to work with his best friend, Sam Perlozzo. But if he had it to do over, Mazzone would accept whatever Atlanta offered and assume his customary place in the dugout next to Braves manager Bobby Cox.

"At the time it was a great move, but now I regret it. You see the difference in organizations and how things are run and, believe me, the Atlanta Braves are about as good as it gets," Mazzone said.

"I got a chance to go back to my home state. My dad's 86 and my mother's 81, and they got to see me more in two years than they had in the last 16. Then I have three boys that live up in western Maryland. So we were able to get a lot closer. That part of it was good. But now, as I sit here on my back porch, I second-guess it."

He's out of the game and desperate to get back in. He has no expectations of matching his salary with the Orioles, and won't subject a would-be employer to dealing with an agent. If you want Leo Mazzone to be your pitching coach, just dial him up and make an offer.

"I've let it be known to general managers in the big leagues that money is not an issue. I don't want them thinking it is," he said. "I'm ready to bounce whenever somebody calls. I'll have my bags packed in 10 minutes."

Mazzone occasionally serves as an analyst for FOX.

"The broadcasting thing has been enjoyable. That can be a second career down the road," Mazzone said. "In the meantime, I need to get back on the baseball field."

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