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Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The “Where Are They Now” feature is in a different format this week. Steve Liddle, who played for the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team, was an NAIA All-American as a junior and senior. In 1979 he was part of the NAIA National Championship team. The former McGavock High standout graduated from Lipscomb in 1981 with a degree in physical education. He is in his 11th season as coach on the Major League level with the Minnesota Twins. He served as bench coach from 2002-10 and was named third base coach in 2011. Lipscombsports.com caught up with him earlier this month as the Twins made a stop at Boston’s historic Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.
BOSTON _ Steve Liddle knows what a privilege it is to be able to walk on the field at Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in Major League baseball, celebrating its 100th year this season.
“Fenway Park is the most beloved baseball park in the United States,” Liddle said as he prepared to throw batting practice. “Just to go out and walk on the same field as Ted Williams and other guys like that who have played here is a great honor.”
Liddle, 53, isn’t certain how much longer he will be involved in professional baseball. His family is based in Smyrna, Tenn., a long way from Minneapolis. He has enjoyed all of the perks of being part of a Major League team and admits that when he does leave the game it will be with a touch of regret.
“We travel first class,” Liddle said. “All of our planes are charters. We stay in first-class hotels. After the games, all of the food is catered. We have a chef that takes care of everything.
“But the game is still the game. I enjoy the game regardless of what level. One of the perks of being on this level is the amenities.”
Trying to spend time with his wife, Anne, and children, Benjamin, Jake and Sarah; is difficult for Liddle.
“It is a very long year,” Liddle said. “I really cherish my time off. When I do have time off I try to catch up with my kids, but it is hard to do. You miss a lot of things with this job.
“Retirement is coming soon. I can feel it.”
For nine years he served as bench coach, sitting in close proximity to manager Ron Gardenhire.
“Our staff is unbelievable here,” Liddle said. “Ronnie and Rick Anderson, Scott Ullger, Jerry White, Joe Vavra and Rick Stelmaszek, we all came through the system. We have been life-long friends. We are like family. Sure, we have disagreements, but the next day it is forgotten.
“It is not every day that you get to work with your friends. We don’t have any hidden agendas. Everybody is on the same page. We have good communication back and forth. To be honest with you, that is probably what I am going to miss the most.”
As third base coach, Liddle’s performance is more visible and he knows he can’t always earn the approval of the thousands of fans that watch his every move when runners are in scoring position.
“As a third base coach I don’t feel as involved in the game as I did as the bench coach because I don’t have as much input as far as things like our plan of attack,” Liddle said. “When you are out coaching third you are basically just relaying signs for the manager. You don’t have as much input as far as in-game strategy.
“You obviously have to send players or hold players up and help them run the bases. Sometimes you have to make split –second decisions. It is a high pressure job. You have to stay out of the way of line drives, but it is fun place to watch a ball game.”
Liddle has held the respect of players in the Twins organization throughout his career. He admits there are no secrets to his success in that area.
“If you want respect, you have to give respect,” Liddle said. “It is a two-way street. I give respect to the players and they respect me, not because of my position, but because of how I try to treat them.”
Liddle is a daily reader of Lipscombsports.com and tries to stay informed about all of Lipscomb’s athletic teams. He remembers the lessons he learned from coach Ken Dugan at Lipscomb and coach Mel Brown, his coach at the time at McGavock.
“Coach Dugan and Coach Brown were both such fundamental baseball people,” Liddle said. “And that is what wins ball games. The team that can execute a plan is the one that comes out ahead.
“The only way you can really win day-in and day-out is to be fundamentally sound. Those were the things that Coach Dugan really stressed at Lipscomb. I think that is what allowed those of us who went on to play pro ball to go to the next level and be solid.”
From the time Liddle was 12 years old he first started thinking about the possibilities of playing pro baseball. He chose Lipscomb because he thought that the school’s baseball program would give him the best opportunity to reach that goal. And if he failed as a player, he knew Lipscomb would give him a solid education.
“As a student-athlete those are the criteria you should look for in a school,” Liddle said. “Can it get me to the next level regardless of whether you are talking about life or sports? The school covered that for me.”
Liddle signed as a free agent with the then California Angels in 1981. He played in the minors, reaching as high as Class AAA, before accepting the role as manager of Kenosha, in Class A, in 1989. He managed on various levels in the minors and also served as the Twins Minor League Field Coordinator before moving to the Major League level.
He never expected to be on the Major League level in any capacity.
“It is just amazing how the Lord opens doors for us,” Liddle said. “It is up to us to choose the right ones. I have been fortunate that God has blessed me with this. If you think you do things on your own then you are not thinking the right way. God gives us opportunities every day. It is up to us to make the most of them.
“If your roots are strong and firm you don’t forget where you came from. They used to tell us you meet the same people on the way down as you do on the way up. I haven’t forgotten that.”
Steve can be reached via email at Steveliddle@twinsbaseball.com
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.