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At Cooperstown, McKay honors La Russa

Daimondbacks' first base coach Dave McKay went to Cooperstown to honor Tony La Russa.
Daimondbacks' first base coach Dave McKay went to Cooperstown to honor Tony La Russa.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

On Sunday morning, Diamondbacks’ first base coach Dave McKay headed out the door for his daily journey to the ball park.

Just like any other day.

On this day, the Diamondbacks were in Philadelphia and players and staff headed for one more trip to Citizens Bank Park before leaving for Cincinnati.

Hitting the street, McKay side-steps the bus which will take the team through the streets of one of America’s most historic cities and to the venue for the rubber game of this weekend set.

Yes, there is one deviation from the normal routine on this day.

This time, McKay will not jump on the team bus but instead hop into a rental car and drive about three and one-half hours north to the usually sleepy but now boisterous village of Cooperstown, N. Y. The occasion is the 2014 induction into the baseball Hall of Fame and McKay has a very important appointment to keep.

It’s not McKay is making a yearly pilgrimage to join about 48,000 others on the great expanse in front of the Clark Sports Center to anoint the baseball gods in this yearly ritual.

McKay is making the trip to respect an honored friend, not to mention his boss for a nearly three decades.

When Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer Tony La Russa received his plaque Sunday, along with fellow managers Joe Torre and Bobby Cox and players Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, McKay had to be on site. No matter if the Diamondbacks were still playing in Australia, McKay’s venture to Cooperstown was a necessity.

McKay joined La Russa as a coach in 1984 and stayed, at this side, for 27 years. Through decades in Oakland and St. Louis, McKay was positioned as a trusted advisor and life-long friend.

When La Russa took the front office job in the Diamondbacks’ organization earlier this spring, he said that McKay, special pitching advisor Dave Duncan and D-backs’ special assistant to the president Roland Hemond were not influential in his decision to join the Arizona organization.

After all, Hemond first hired La Russa as a manager in the Chicago White Sox organization and Duncan served as La Russa’s trusted pitching coach from 1986 to 2011 in Oakland and St. Louis.

That’s hard to believe because La Russa, as a baseball man and a man, is regarded as loyal to a fault. That’s why he had Duncan as his pitching coach for nearly three decades and McKay for that duration, as well.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said McKay. “Plus, this is the first time at Cooperstown for me.”

Logistics aside, McKay was with La Russa from 1984 through the Cardinals’ World Series championship season of 2011. In that period of time, McKay served as La Russa’s first base coach in Oakland and St. Louis for 16 years.

“One thing about Tony is that he gives it everything he has all the time,” McKay said. “Plus, he builds on what he learned. He’s always learning, always asking and learning some more.”

McKay cited the successful managers from the 1980s and 1990s as influential on La Russa. Managers like Sparky Anderson, Chuck Tanner, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, and especially Billy Martin were particularly important in La Russa’s formal and informal baseball education.

“Tony and Billy are opposites,” McKay pointed out. “Billy was out of control and usually all over the place. Vocal, loud. Tony is pretty quiet and more in control.”

Yet, the divergent personalities bombarded one another to form La Russa’s overall baseball education.

“(Tony) remembers and has a great mind,” McKay continued. “He always seeks out others and is relentless in his pursuit of knowledge.”

If McKay stayed with La Russa for nearly three decades, the reason is easy to ascertain.

“The trust in relationships is very important,” La Russa said just before leaving for Cooperstown last week. “Respect, trust and caring is the foundation and this is a great way to build a competitive team.”

ON TO THE QUEEN CITY

After dropping two of three in Philadelphia, the Diamondbacks continue their road trip in Cincinnati.

On Monday night, it’s Chase Anderson (6-4, 3.58 ERA) for the D-backs and right-hander Homer Bailey (8-5, 4.22) for the Reds. For Tuesday night, Trevor Cahill (1-7, 5.72) gets his third start since being recalled from Triple-A Reno and takes on former Arizona State University stand-out Mike Leake (7-9, 3.73). On get-away day Wednesday afternoon (9:30 a.m. Arizona time), Wade Miley (6-7, 4.34) opposes right-hander Alfredo Simon (12-5, 2.86).

Some numbers.

While Anderson has no numbers against the Reds, Martin Prado is the only Diamondback player with any kind of at-bats against Bailey. He is 3-for-8 (.375) lifetime.

On Tuesday when the D-backs face Leake, Gerardo Parra has the best lifetime numbers. Parra is 5-for-13 (.385) against Leake while Paul Goldschmidt is 2-for-12 (.167), Aaron Hill is 4-for-12, .333 with one home run and Prado is 4-for-16, .250 and one home run.

On Wednesday, Zack Cozart is 2-for-11, .182 against Miley while Todd Frazier is 3-for-10, .300).

Against Simon, David Peralta is 2-for-3, .667 and Mark Trumbo is 2-for-3, .667 and both are doubles. Goldschmidt is 1-for-5 lifetime against Simon while Hill is 0-for-7 and Parra is 0-for7.

Then, it’s back to the desert for a 10-game home stand beginning this Thursday night starting with Pittsburgh. That includes four with the Pirates and three each against the Royals and Rockies.