MESA, Ariz. — The Angels' new hitting instructor and third base coach spent the last 28 years in the minor leagues. No regrets. No apologies.
Baseball was Lawrence George (Moose) Stubing's ticket out of the Bronx, his escape from a probable hard life with few rewards.
Now, after spending the last eight years as a manager in the Angel farm system, he has been promoted to his first full major league season as part of the new emphasis on internal development.
The club is also hopeful that such pivotal players as shortstop Dick Schofield, center fielder Gary Pettis and right fielder Mike Brown will duplicate the offensive success they enjoyed under Stubing in the minors.
"It's a thrill of a lifetime for me to be here, but I'm willing to put this job on the line," said Stubing, 47.
"If Gary Pettis and Dick Schofield don't produce, I haven't done what I was hired to do."
Pettis hit .227 as a rookie last season. Schofield hit .193. Stubing's goal is to help Pettis reach .285 and Schofield .250.
"At those levels, they're on their way to making $1 million a year because they can both make all the plays," Stubing said. "They're the two most exciting kids I've had. I'm saying you'll see that this year."
The 6-2, 255-pound Stubing, hitless in his only five major league at-bats, is no stranger to pressure and challenge.
He has been one of the nation's top college basketball referees since 1967, and has worked six NCAA playoffs and six NITs.
He began officiating El Paso high school games in 1960, doing 60 a winter--often three and four a day--to supplement his minor league income and stay in shape.
Stubing poked a finger at his growing girth, laughed and said, "I usually lose weight during the basketball season. This must be the big league meal money."
Working in the Southwest Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn., Stubing officiated 54 games this basketball season.
He commuted between Mesa and weekend officiating assignments on three occasions since his mid-February arrival in Arizona, the Angels having agreed to allow Stubbing to keep commitments made before his varsity appointment. His last game was 10 days ago in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament. He was invited to work the NCAA tournament again but declined because he will be coaching third base during the exhibition season.
"I've saved a lot of marriages," Stubing said of his officiating. "I've sent a lot of people home angrier at me than at their wife or husband.
"The game has literally become a war because of the pressure on the coaches and the fact that the human body has become too big for the court.
"Hell, I've had death threats and needed police escorts to my car. I've had bottles and cups thrown at me and had to fight my way off the court.
"It's just that emotional for some people, but when a good referee loses sight of the fact that the game still belongs to the kids, it's time to get out. It's been a great outlet for me and made me a better person. I don't lose my patience with players and umpires because I know what pressure they're under.
"The last two years (managing Edmonton of the triple-A Pacific Coast League) I wasn't ejected once. I'll go to bat for my players but I never say 'I' or 'you' to an umpire. All I say to them is that somebody missed that play."
There are intriguing possibilities, of course. One would have Stubing using a whistle to stop runners at third base, citing those who don't for traveling. Stubing, who coached third base as a minor league manager, laughed.
"I've always been able to separate the two," he said. "As a third base coach you're making decisions to help yourself and the team. As an official you're making decisions aimed at seeing that the game is played the way it should be.
"I enjoy putting that zebra shirt on but I enjoy putting on a baseball jersey more."
The uniform he is now wearing became available because:
--Preston Gomez, former third base coach, decided that after more than 40 years on the field, he wanted a less demanding position. Gomez, 61, now does special assignments for General Manager Mike Port.
--Manager Gene Mauch decided that Ron Fairly's attempt at being both batting coach and broadcaster was not going to work.
Fairly said that he and Mauch discussed the problem last year, when Mauch was the club's personnel director. Then, when the decision became official, Fairly said he responded by saying, "Thank you."
"A hitting instructor should be with the team at all times," Fairly said. "It's not fair to the players to give them advice before a game, then not be in the dugout to give them reinforcement during the game. I mean, I can't be two places at once.
"It just makes good sense to me to bring Moose up and let him work with the kids he's helped before," Fairly said. "If he feels he needs my help, I'll do anything I can."