The St. Petersburg Times’ Dave Scheiber attempts to uncover why Tampa Bay’s new first base/outfield coach George Hendrick won’t speak with the media. Coming next week : someone else tries to determine why the media want to speak with the Devil Rays’ first base coach.
He talked openly in Oakland, where he played his first two seasons in 1971 and 1972. He talked when he arrived in Cleveland in 1973. But that year, his first of four with the Indians, something happened.
By some accounts, Hendrick got the feeling that the veterans on the team resented him talking too much about himself, so he stopped altogether.
But when asked what happened in 2003 by the Las Vegas Sun, while serving as a Triple-A hitting instructor in Vegas, he briefly mentioned a different story that has made the rounds.
The gist: He didn’t like the way comments he made about an Indians teammate were handled in a newspaper story. He said it made him appear critical of the player and didn’t convey what he meant, forcing him to defend himself the rest of the season.
So he decided not to talk to the media again.
Longtime national baseball writer Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered Hendrick during his tenure with the Cardinals from 1978-84. “George actually stopped talking publicly in Cleveland, so he basically was unquotable by the time he got to St. Louis through San Diego,” Hummel recalls.
But the writer developed a rapport with the ballplayer over time, and there were a few occasions when Hendrick did talk to Hummel for attribution, “when he felt there were situations the fans needed to know about. But most of the time, almost universally, it was “no.’ ”
As the Rays’ outfield coach, his style is meticulous and methodical. On a recent Sunday morning, he is busy hitting line drives to the rightfield corner to give Nick Green some pregame practice.
“Don’t rush it, get the ball first,” he calls to Green, who fields the balls and fires them to second.
The coach studies Green’s technique, offers some more tips, confers with third-base coach Tom Foley and heads back to the locker.
Inside, a reporter tries a different technique to draw him out, telling him that people on the team are saying awfully nice things about him.
“I got ‘em all fooled, no doubt about it,” he says, smiling, then heads into the coach’s office.
George still isn’t talking.