CHICAGO — When Wayland Union’s Phil Regan began chasing his baseball dream, he admits he didn't have a backup plan.
“I played with a lot of guys who said ‘you know, I’ve going to give myself three years and if I don’t make it, I’m going to go home,’” said Regan. “That never entered my mind because I said ‘what am I going to go back to?’”
Regan didn’t grow up with much. Now, however, he has made a living in a baseball career that spans over six decades. After he stopped playing in 1972, the 13-year veteran Major League pitcher found himself back in West Michigan, taking a job as the head coach of the Grand Valley State University baseball team. It was there where he learned valuable lessons in coaching, ideas and principles he still uses to this day.
“You got to be prepared. (You learn) how to handle people, how to handle young kids,” he explains. “It really was a great experience for me.”
Regan’s coaching career has literally taken him around the world. In 1995, he managed the Baltimore Orioles for a single season. After he was let go, he bounced around the majors taking over as a pitching coach with both the Cubs and Indians. Then in 2002, Regan came home again, this time taking over as the manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
“It really was one of the first times, other than Baltimore, that I managed in the United States,” he said.
Now at 82, when most have long since eased into retirement, Regan is still going strong. Back in June, the New York Mets called him up from his job in the minors and named him their interim pitching coach. It was a move that caught Regan by surprise.
“In my wildest dreams, I never figured I’d be asked to come here to New York and help out,” said Regan. “When they asked me to do it, there’s only one answer, and that was yes.”
Since Regan received his promotion with the Mets, the team’s pitching and record have improved. Veteran pitcher Steven Matz is not surprised.
“He helps in many ways,” said Matz. “He sees little mechanical things that you sometimes as a pitcher fall into bad habits. Phil has a great eye for that.”
Still holding onto the interim tag, Regan doesn’t know where he’ll be in the Mets organization next year. One thing he is quite sure of though is that he has no plans of stepping away from baseball.
“You know, as long as it’s fun, coming out to the ballpark and putting your uniform on, and working with players, and winning, then I’m happy,” said Regan.
Yes, plenty has changed in baseball since Regan began his career. However, his love for the sport remains just as strong as ever.
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