Hargrove to coach Kansas semi-pro team he played for

Updated: September 14, 2007, 9:23 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than two months after abruptly stepping down as manager of the Seattle Mariners, Mike Hargrove has decided to take over the semi-pro summer team in southwest Kansas he played for more than 30 years ago.

Hargrove, 57, will manage the Liberal BeeJays, one of the nation's most successful summer teams for college-age players in Liberal, Kan., about 50 miles from where he grew up in Perryton, Texas.

"When I resigned from the team, I said I hadn't lost my passion for the game but maybe lost my passion for the job a little bit," Hargrove told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. "Working with the BeeJays sounds interesting and exciting and fun. ... And if I can help them then it's the best of both worlds."

Hargrove resigned July 1 from the Mariners, saying he couldn't muster the daily dedication he has demanded from players for his 15 seasons as a big-league manager. He left when Seattle was soaring at 12 games over .500.

"My take is, he is retired, he can do whatever the heck he wants to do," Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez said. "Some people jump on a sailboat. Maybe that's his way of having a good time and enjoying the game and being able to give back and maybe he'll make an impact or just have fun."

But Hargrove now plans to spend June through August in Liberal, where he played first base for the BeeJays in the summer of 1972 while on the roster for Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

"He told me he wants to help the people who helped him get his start," said Bob Carlile, the BeeJays' general manager.

Carlile, a longtime friend, hosted Hargrove's son Andy in 2001 when he played for the team. He now plans to share his own house with both Hargrove and his wife, Sharon, for the summer season.

"He has a big house there all to himself," Hargrove said. "I just told him that I snore so I should be far away from him."

The team held a Mike Hargrove Night at their ballpark in late July, and Carlile and others asked the retired manager if he would consider the job. Carlile said Hargrove later agreed and has told him he doesn't expect to be compensated. He should only have to work during the season, only occasionally making recruiting calls or visits, Carlile said.

"Recruiting should be just a breeze this year, and I think this will bring national recognition to Liberal and help sell out games wherever we play," team president Cheryl Collins said.

The BeeJays went 22-24 in the Jayhawk League this season and have struggled since winning the National Baseball Congress World Series in 2000.

Several major league players, including Troy Percival, Andy Phillips and Daniel Ortmeier, have spent summers with the BeeJays.

Hargrove played for the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians and later managed the Indians, the Baltimore Orioles and Mariners.

He finished his career with 1,188 wins and 1,173 losses and led Cleveland to five consecutive American League Central Division titles and two World Series appearances.

"That's very refreshing," said current Mariners manager John McLaren. "I think he's going back to where it all started. I know he's still got a love for the game. Not far from his hometown. I really think it's kind of neat. I plan on calling him and congratulating him and talking to him about it. I think it's pretty cool."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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