Boise hitting coach Bill Buckner is 62, but he can still relate to the young Hawks players excitement as they look ahead to the Northwest League playoffs.
My first year, playing in Ogden it was the Pioneer League, but to us it was like winning the World Series, said Buckner, who won a league title in Ogden in 1968 before going on to play 22 years in the major leagues. Thats what professional baseball is all about. Its about winning.
The Hawks hope to win their way to a league title this summer. Theyve clinched a spot in the postseason and will begin the East Division series against Yakima at 6:45 p.m. Monday at Memorial Stadium.
Boise (23-13) has been the best team in the league in the second half of the season, and the Hawks bats are a major reason for that. As a team, the Hawks are hitting a league-best .277.
Manager Mark Johnson said hes enjoyed watching Buckner work with the teams young hitters.
A lot of these guys are starting to become aware of how good they are and how good they can be, and how much Buck has helped them, Johnson said.
Buckner has coached players of all abilities, but he said coaching younger players especially is rewarding.
I think it's the most enjoyable level to coach at, as far as being an instructor, Buckner said. When you have talented kids, its just a matter of teaching them what they need to do to be successful.
Buckner served as manager of the Brockton Rox, a Class A independent league team last season. He took a position with the Hawks this season in large part because the team plays in his hometown.
Its been good. Being at home has really helped, he said.
Johnson said many Hawks players werent aware of Buckners contributions to the game when the summer started.
Most kids in this day and age dont know who Bill is, or Cal Ripken or anybody, Johnson said. But now they do. The stuff he shared with them throughout the year is something that should stick with them the rest of their careers. Its a blessing that they had him this early in their careers.
As the season draws to a close, Buckner said hes not ready to commit to another year of coaching, another year of travel.
I dont know, he said. Im just trying to get through this year and enjoy today. Ill worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
BOISE LOSES: Pinch-hitter Rock Shoulders hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it wasnt enough as the Everett AquaSox defeated the Hawks 4-3 on Thursday.
Hawks second baseman Stephen Bruno went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored as he extended his hitting streak to 20 games.