MIAMI -- As the Angels alighted in South Florida, bench coach Rob Picciolo was eager to spend a few moments with Jack McKeon, named the Marlins' interim manager after the resignation on Sunday of Edwin Rodriguez in the midst of a deep slump by his team.
Picciolo and McKeon go way back to 1977, when Picciolo made his Major League debut as an infielder for the Oakland A's under McKeon's stewardship. Thirteen years later, it was McKeon again, in San Diego, who gave Picciolo his first big league coaching job. When Greg Riddoch was elevated to the Padres' managerial post by McKeon, who became the general manager, Picciolo was promoted from his roving infield instructor role to San Diego's first-base coach.
"He's never been a worrier," Picciolo said when asked about McKeon's ability to handle the responsibilities at age 80. "Each day is a new day with Jack. He hasn't changed much. He comes in with energy every day and expects you to play hard. He doesn't have a lot of rules, but he's in charge. If you don't play his way, you hear about it. He's also an encouraging type guy."
In the throes of a monumental slump, the Marlins might benefit from McKeon's touch, Picciolo said.
"He brings energy," Picciolo said, "and also a sense of, `Relax and have fun.' He knows it's a privilege to be in the Major Leagues. He's pretty simple -- not real complicated. He'll tell it like it is. I'm really looking forward to seeing him again. I've been real good friends with his son-in-law, Greg Booker, since late in the '90s. I'll always be grateful to Jack for giving me my first opportunity both as a player and a coach in the big leagues."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia also had high praise for McKeon, adding that he can't see himself working at 80.
"No, I can't," Scioscia said. "But I tell you one thing: The job that he did in '03 was incredible. He's got a great passion for this game. I'm sure he still has the energy. He's just oozing with common sense. He knows the game."