Bengie Molina returns to AT&T Park with Cardinals
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
Bengie Molina hustled out to the first base line to warm cheers, took his spot next to his St. Louis teammates and raised his arm to acknowledge the San Francisco fans.
Nearly 2 1/2 years later, Molina got his standing ovation Friday for his role in the Giants' run to the 2010 World Series title - despite playing for the Texas Rangers in the matchup. The former catcher returned to AT&T Park as the first-year assistant hitting coach of the Cardinals, who lost to the Giants 1-0 on Friday.
The 38-year-old Molina spent the 2007-09 seasons with the Giants. The Gold Glover was traded to Texas midway through the 2010 season to make way for Buster Posey and retired after that season, so he never came through San Francisco's waterfront ballpark to collect his World Series ring.
While Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe left the Giants and later received their rings when they came to town with new teams, the Giants mailed Molina his prize. Molina hadn't been back at all until this series.
On Friday morning, Molina had already pondered how he might be received by the sellout crowd during pregame festivities for the Giants' home opener as the city celebrates another World Series championship from 2012. The Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit against St. Louis last year in the NL championship series.
''I'm extremely proud of these kids,'' Molina said. ''I know they beat the Cardinals last year, and they beat me in 2010. I know that, but I'm extremely proud of everybody over there. I got tears in my eyes when they won, especially when they won the second one, too, knowing that I probably helped them a little bit and to their success, and that makes me so proud. It's unbelievable.''
Clearly, he is still appreciated, too. Molina planned to say his hellos during this weekend's series, but not in the clubhouse.
When his current position came open, younger brother and Cardinals catcher, Yadier, talked Molina into giving coaching a chance - ''Yadi got me out of retirement,'' he said. Molina had gone about a year without even following baseball on television.
''I've always been good at teaching,'' Molina said. ''Because I always wanted to pass on what I have, even if it's a little bit, I don't care, or one guy. I just want to help others be better. So, it's a good fit. ... The situation, a great organization and a way of me coming back into the game and experience coaching if I ever want to do that.''
Molina was a career .274 hitter with 144 home runs and 711 RBIs in 1,362 games with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants and Rangers.
''Bengie's been a great addition, just a very good perspective. Obviously has a little more insight when we play against teams like the Giants and teams that he's been playing with,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ''We were excited to bring him onboard. One, with his baseball knowledge, but two, he's one of those guys you could see being around this game for a long time. Us having the opportunity to help him progress in his career, but more importantly to help do the grunt work that's necessary to help our hitters as assistant hitting coach, and he's been a great addition so far.''
While he's still so new to this side of his sport, Molina wouldn't rule out one day managing at some level if the opportunity came his way.
''I understand the game. I played it. I'm willing to teach,'' Molina said. ''I have the heart to do it. I'm not a bad guy where I don't care who learns, even if it's the other team. I want to teach as many people and as many kids as I can.''