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Hagerstown native Cline prepares for training camp as roving pitching coach

February 11, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Tri-State area sports fans may remember that North Carolina State's David Thompson was the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year in 1974.

Few, however, recall that former North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown Community College and Clemson University pitcher Steve Cline won similar honors as the ACC Baseball Player of the Year.

While Thompson long ago left the game of basketball, the 55-year-old Cline remains in baseball.

In fact, he is about to embark on his 35th season in professional baseball, and his 13th year with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

Cline -- who was inducted into the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 -- resides in Chandler, Ariz., with his wife, Julie, and son, Ryan. Other members of the Cline family include sons Marc and Kevin and daughter Lindsay.

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Cline, the son of Lloyd and Betty Cline of Smithsburg, began working with the Milwaukee organization in 1996 after spending 1974 through 1995 with the San Francisco Giants minor league clubs.

In most years, he served as the roving pitching coach, visiting all of the minor league ball clubs.

"I'm pleased with the Milwaukee organization," Cline said. "They made great strides this past season in the (National League) Central Division and eight of the nine starters were home-grown products. Many were first-round draft selections. That speaks well for the farm system."

Although he still has aspirations of becoming a pitching coach for a major league team, Cline is content with his present teaching position.

"As a pitching coach, my main responsibility is to assist the minor league coordinator in developing young talent," Cline said. "It all starts with spring training in the middle of February when the major league club is in Maryvale (Ariz.). After the big club heads out, we start an extended spring training and I'm involved with that. There's roughly 25 to 35 players there."

The session runs until the second week of June.

"After the major league draft in early June, the club will sign the prospects and bring them to Maryvale, where we conduct another instructional camp," Cline said. "The players are then assigned to either Helena, Mont. -- our rookie league club -- or are kept in Maryvale.

"The rookie club plays a 76-game schedule from June to September. The Maryvale club is comprised primarily of high school players who were drafted, as well as Latin America players. I stay in Maryvale, but I'll make a short trip to Helena during their season to evaluate the other players."

Following that campaign, Cline gets a 10-day break and then helps with an instructional league which opens in mid-October.

"It's pretty much baseball the year around," Cline said. "We're one of the few major league organizations who run a winter conditioning-type program. Then, we start up again in earnest in the middle of February when the major league camp opens."

Despite a hectic schedule, Cline enjoys the fact he remains close to his Arizona residence.

The Washington County native has had his share of road trips over the years.

"I had spent 20 years travelling from city to city evaluating talent and that was enough," Cline said. "In my 15 years with the Giants, I followed all levels -- rookie leagues through Triple A. Now, I'm staying at home, and I like it."

Cline says he answers to pitching coordinator Jim Rooney, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and who once pitched for the Hagerstown Suns.

Before joining the San Francisco organization in 1974, Cline was a standout on the local scene.

He played at American Little League, Hagerstown PONY League and Hagerstown Colt League.

He attended North Hagerstown High School and played for the Funkstown American Legion and Hagerstown Community College baseball teams before earning a scholarship to Clemson in 1972.

"In the summer of '72, I played for Leone's out of Baltimore and I really learned a lot," Cline said. "We went to the World Series in Johnstown, Pa., that year and won the championship."

Cline was drafted by three different major league baseball teams: Montreal, Baltimore and San Francisco. He was taken in the sixth round by the Giants.

He started his minor league career in Great Falls, Mont., and made stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Fresno, Calif.; Waterbury, Conn., and Phoenix before being released in the spring of 1980. He then pitched a year in the Mexican League.

"That was quite an experience, seeing the country by bus," Cline said.

Tom Haller was the farm director for the San Francisco Giants in 1981 and offered Cline a coaching position.

"There were no roving pitching coaches at the time, so I quickly accepted Tom's offer," Cline said. "At age 28, you were considered 'old' as far as a major league pitching prospect and I wanted to stay involved with baseball."

Cline evaluated talent in the California League and Texas League and then became a full-time pitching coach with Clinton in the Midwest League in 1990 and 1991. He later worked in the Texas League from 1992 to 1994 and for the Giants' Triple A club in Phoenix in 1995.

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