MESA, Ariz. — You can take the boy out of hockey, but can you ever take hockey out of the boy?
Withdrawal can be rough, as Angel pitcher Kirk McCaskill will attest.
McCaskill, a former All-American hockey player at the University of Vermont, gets the urge to put on the blades every now and then, but so far he's succeeded in not risking life and the limb that won 12 games for the Angels in 1985.
There was, however, a close call last winter when McCaskill attended Vermont's annual alumni hockey game.
"I was so tempted to lace the skates up again," McCaskill said. "My old teammates were egging me on. But I just decided to watch. Some of the younger players, I couldn't believe how fast they were."
Having been away from the sport since 1981, McCaskill was determined to play it safe. "I would have liked to have had a shoot-around," he said. "You know, like they do in basketball."
But when time for face-off rolled around and bodies began getting slammed into the boards, McCaskill remembered why, years ago, he chose the comparative tranquility of the pitcher's mound.
"Body-checking," McCaskill said. "I don't miss that at all."
Manager Gene Mauch gave half his pitching staff the day off Wednesday and will rest the other half today before resuming full pitching drills Friday.
"They've been throwing a lot of batting practice and doing a lot of defensive work," Mauch said. "Those arms will only take so much. I haven't heard of any sore arms so far and I want to keep it that way."
Ken Forsch progress report: The veteran pitcher threw for the fifth straight day Wednesday and reported no pain or discomfort.
"Actually, it feels better than it did before," said Forsch, alluding to the days before he suffered arm problems that kept him out of action in 1984 and 1985.
"I'm able to finish my deliveries now--throw to a point and push through. It feels like I can whip the arm now.
"I've always had dead-arm spots in the spring, but the arm feels really good right now. It feels like it's alive."
When the Angels break camp in Mesa and get back to Southern California for 10 days of exhibition games in Palm Springs, they will be greeted by a refurbished Angels Stadium.
Two-thousand mobile bleacher seats will be positioned beyond the outfield fences, boosting the park's capacity to 5,700. The Angels are also installing a new electronic scoreboard, two concession stands and permanent backs to the seats in the reserved section of the stadium.
The improvements will benefit the club's new Class A team, the Palm Springs Angels, who will play their home games at the facility after the Angels conclude spring training March 31.