Pro baseball

Lloyd McClendon won't turn his back on the region

2013-11-07T17:30:00Z 2013-11-17T00:01:26Z Lloyd McClendon won't turn his back on the regionAl Hamnik, (219) 933-4154
November 07, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

Two time zones and 2,400 miles away from his Porter County home, Lloyd McClendon's region roots remain intact as the Seattle Mariners' new manager.

The Gary native was introduced to media Thursday afternoon at Safeco Field.

"A very, very sincere person with great experience and a very strong personality you will all gravitate to," said Mariners' General Manager Jack Zduriencik.

"I told Jack I wouldn't cry but I met a guy named Bob outside and he started to cry," McClendon said. "And I started to cry. So, there it is.

"It's a golden time for me, a golden time for the Seattle Mariners."

The only Northwest Indiana native to manage in the major leagues — he led the Pirates from 2001-05 in the middle of their 20-year run of losing seasons — McClendon told The Times he will live in Seattle during the season but keep the family residence here.

"This is home for me. This is where our roots are and this is where we'll stay," said McClendon, one of 13 children and the youngest of nine boys.

The former Valparaiso University standout and New York Mets draft pick has remained in the region throughout an eight-year playing career with the Reds, Cubs and Pirates, and while coaching for the Pirates and Tigers.

Retired Roosevelt High School Coach Benny Dorsey said his former player still has a strong following here.

"To his age group, to his peers and those who are older, he means quite a bit to our area coming from the Gary Little League All-Stars that played at Williamsport to the major league level," Dorsey said.

McClendon is known for his charitable work and still gives hitting lessons locally during the offseason.

While with the Pirates, his "MAC Foundation" sponsored trips to Cubs games for Gary's elementary schools. He held youth baseball camps at the All-Star break, staffed by Gary and Merrillville police officers, to improve the youngsters' image of law enforcement.

McClendon gave away turkeys to the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas on a regular basis.

"My parents always taught us to give back and help others," McClendon said. "I probably got more (joy) out of it than the people who received the turkeys.

"All of us have an obligation to be role models to kids in all the neighborhoods, not just the inner-city. We need uncles, cousins, fathers and men of color, in particular, to step up a little more and give a little bit more."

Dorsey knew McClendon, a 1979 grad, would have his own team one day.

"I thought he had managerial skills because his head was always in the game. He was always thinking about game situations," Dorsey said.

Wally Johnson, a '75 Roosevelt grad, played with the Montreal Expos before joining then-White Sox manager Jerry Manual as a coach.

"Lloyd's always been a grinder, a leader. I know the Seattle Mariners will play hard for him. I just know it," Johnson said.

McClendon inherits a young Mariners team that's had four straight losing seasons but features two of the American League's top pitchers in Felix Hernandez and Cy Young Award finalist Hisashi Iwakuma.

"The Mariners saw a certain charisma I have for getting the most out of my players on any given night," McClendon said. "You take care of your business and you respect the game.

"It's the right way, the only way, to play this game."

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