BOSTON (CBS) – For awhile, his name could not be said without making Red Sox fans cringe, cry, or burst into anger.
Boston fans will once again cheer for Bill Buckner though, much like when he threw out the first pitch to start off the 2008 season and received a four-minute standing ovation.
Or so he hopes.
Buckner was officially introduced as the 2011 manager for the Brockton Rox on Friday, an independent professional team in the Can-Am League.
“I’m excited to be here. It’s been awhile since I’ve had the uniform on” the 61-year-old said. “I’m looking forward to having, number one, a successful summer where the team plays well and have some fun. Baseball’s a great game. It’s what I’ve done pretty much my whole life. I’ve taken a little break the last few years because of family and kids and wanting to be home. All the kids are gone, so time to go back and play ball.”
Bill Buckner Talks About His Return To Baseball
Buckner likes that his return to baseball will not be as much a grind as the Major League’s 162-game season. The Rox play a 94-game regular season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“Jumping back in and not being a full season where I’d be heading to spring training in a couple weeks and be gone though September, that was nice,” Buckner said. “And I like the philosophy of the independent league. Certainly they’re trying to develop some players and get players who are trying to get back into organized baseball.”
This will be Buckner’s first shot at managing a team. He was a hitting coach in the minor leagues for the Toronto Blues Jays in the 90’s, teaching the likes of Carlos Delgado and Alex Gonzalez.
Managing in the independent league will allow him to focus on one thing: winning. In the minors, he feels much of the focus is on developing young talent. With the Rox, Buckner won’t have to worry about pitch counts and playing time.
His resume with a bat is impressive for the era he played in. Buckner amassed 2,715 hits, 498 doubles, and 1,208 RBIs from 1969 to 1990. He won the National League batting title in 1980, and never struck out more than 39 times in a season.
“I’ve been a hitting guy throughout my coaching career. I’m good at it. I’m going to be able to help the hitters,” he said confidently.
But Buckner knows it is not all about hitting.
“To me it’s probably 80-percent managing the pitching staff and getting them to do their job. I’ll be leaning on some coaches to help me out a little bit in that area. Pitching is something you learn about. I do know it’s tough to hit.”
Fans around this area want results, and Buckner knows that. The Rox went 54-39 in 2010, and reached the playoffs for the fifth straight season. With a big name coach now, the attention on the team will only increase.
“It’s mindboggling, it’s crazy. That’s just the way it is,” Buckner said of the attention sports receive in New England. “I think it’s great that we have all the interest here. We obviously want to translate that into a great summer in the ballpark. We’re getting a lot of publicity, and I think it’s all good. It’s good for Brockton, it’s good for the team, it’s good for baseball.”