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Rays job intrigues Schmidt

"This is me," says the Hall of Famer, excited by the possibility of building with a young team.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was excited when he heard a recent radio interview with new Devil Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

Schmidt was so impressed with Sternberg's philosophies and plans for the Rays that he quickly became "interested, intrigued and excited" about getting involved. So Schmidt contacted a friend, Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy, who contacted Tampa Bay officials, and today Schmidt will interview for the Rays manager's job, the eighth candidate to do so.

"It's an interesting opportunity for me. My heart's beating pretty strong the closer I get to talking to those guys," Schmidt said Thursday night from his residence in Jupiter. "It's probably a long shot for me. ... But I think what I might bring, with all due respect to the other guys being interviewed, is kind of an interesting mix. I'm a guy who will be able to catch the ear of anybody just based on my career. And I bring a philosophy of how to go about bettering yourself as a ballplayer and a philosophy of winning baseball games that might be a little unique.

"I'm bringing with me a very mature, old-school approach to the game with a very young and exciting outlook to be around young kids who have great talent."

Schmidt, 56, was one of the greatest third basemen in history, hitting 548 homers in 18 seasons for the Phillies, winning three NL MVP awards and 10 Gold Gloves. He has not worked much in baseball since retiring in 1989, though he did spend the 2004 season as manager of the Phillies' Class A Clearwater team (going 55-81 before stepping down for personal and family reasons), and has made guest-instructor appearances during major-league spring training.

He said baseball officials have encouraged him to get more involved, and he considers the opportunity to join the Rays an exciting one.

"A young organization building a new tradition - this is me," Schmidt said. "This is what I'm looking for. I'd rather be in that kind of role as a manager than be handed the Yankees' job."

The Rays may soon have more candidates. Bobby Valentine, whose Chiba Lotte team on Wednesday won the Japan Series, told the Times Thursday, "I think we will talk soon." And with the World Series over, Astros bench coach Cecil Cooper may be considered.

Candidates already interviewed are Rays coaches Tom Foley, Billy Hatcher and John McLaren; Triple-A manager Bill Evers; former Tigers manager Alan Trammell; and Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton.

Also Thursday, first baseman/DH Eduardo Perez was among 62 players filing for free agency on the first day of eligibility, but said he is open to re-signing with the Rays "if they have interest in me."

Alex Gonzalez and Travis Lee are the other Rays eligible for free agency.

[Last modified October 28, 2005, 01:36:14]

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