NOTES AND QUOTES for a Friday in the Napa Valley:* The sun was bright and shiny, the temperature was on the mild side, and there was little wind to speak of. It was the middle of February and Warren Brusstar, who spent nine years as a big league pitcher, was thinking about baseball and spring training in particular."Anytime the weather starts getting decent and you get sunny days like we have today, you get ready to get back and get on the field again," Brusstar said earlier in the week. "I'm getting the itch to get back to Florida."Brusstar, a Napa resident who won a world championship ring with the 1980 Phillies, will leave for Clearwater, Fla., later this month to begin his third year as a pitching coach in the Philadelphia organization. He has been assigned to Philadelphia's Class A rookie team, which plays a 60-game schedule in the Gulf Coast League, and will help tutor, mentor and oversee pitchers during an extended spring training that covers 10 weeks.Brusstar, a 1970 Napa High graduate who was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame during its inaugural ceremonies four years ago, will have some pretty busy days once he arrives in camp. He'll report to the complex each day around 5:45 a.m. and won't leave until after 5 p.m."What makes my day every day is throwing batting practice," he said. "I give them a little bit of a challenge because I can still get it up there pretty good. I can go in and out and move the ball around. I still have pretty good control. I can help the kids work on their hitting."For me, I enjoy that every day."Brusstar, a right-hander who pitched primarily in middle relief for the Phillies, White Sox and Cubs, will work not only with Phillies minor leaguers, but also major leaguers who are coming back from injuries and those that Philadelphia will sign after the June draft."It's a real challenge, especially in our organization because our organization's struggling so much on a big league level," he said. "But we have some talent in the minor leagues that, as far as pitching is concerned, are a couple of years away."It's still fun because it's a challenge. I want to see the Philadelphia Phillies get back to where they were in the mid-'70s and '80s, and become a contender and at least get back to .500, at least be respectable. The thing about that organization is that they've either been really bad or really good. They're either a contender and fighting for the division or they stink and they're in last place. It's one or the other. We're not that far away. It's just a matter of getting some pitching."In 340 major league games, Brusstar compiled a 28-16 record with 14 saves and a 3.51 ERA. Before joining the Phillies as a coach, he was a pitching coach at Napa Valley College, for San Bernardino of the California League and for Atlantic City, N.J., of the Atlantic Coast League. His last year as player was in 1985.During spring training, Brusstar meets with his pitchers early in the morning to go over schedules and assignments, and after stretching exercises and warmups, he works with them in different drills, watches their work in the bullpen, and observes and assesses their work in games."I try to give them something to work on so they start to get a little more sound fundamentally as far as their mechanics and delivering the baseball and making it a little easier for them," he explained. "I try to make them better. As they get sound fundamentally, it makes it a lot easier for them to learn how to pitch."Last year Brusstar was pitching coach for the Phillies team in the Class A Florida State League."I really don't care where I coach. To me, I want to coach where I can do the most good. I can get a hold of probably 30 to 40 bodies if I go back to the Gulf Coast League because we have extended spring training. The draft will come in June and they'll start bringing kids in and I'll see those guys either right out of high school or college. It gives me a chance to work with more kids."Last year Brusstar directed the Phillies' Class A team in the Florida State League to the sixth-best ERA out of 14 teams during a 135-game season.* Napa High will play Elk Grove, a perennial CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I power, for the final time in a non-league game to open the 2001 football season in September. The Indians and Thundering Herd — who have met for the last several years in the preseason — will play at Napa Memorial Stadium.* Former Vintage High star Anthony Lackey is enjoying one of his best seasons of college basketball. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior forward is averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists for Portland State University (7-15 overall, 4-7 Big Sky Conference), which will play at Cal State Sacramento on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.* * * * *Napa Valley Register Sports Editor Marty James can be reached by calling 256-2223, by fax at 224-3963, by writing to P.O. Box 150, Napa, CA 94559, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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There's lots of ways to earn this infamous label: Hauling in a huge salary while underperforming; cashing checks without playing games; or just flat-out poor performance.
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