Vince Horsman has a tough job. He has to watch big leaguers smash his pitches into oblivion every day, and still hope they respect him in the morning.
"That was the hardest part when I took this job," said Horsman, the Baltimore Orioles' batting practice pitcher, "to earn their respect, that when I talk, it's not falling on deaf ears."
Horsman, 37, spent parts of five seasons with Toronto, Oakland and Minnesota sandwiched between 10 seasons in the minors. The day after the Orioles released him from their Class AAA affiliate Rochester in May 1998, Horsman got a job offer from then-Orioles general manager Pat Gillick.
Horsman took the job, but only for the remainder of the season, because he planned to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. A hurricane wiped out that season, which Horsman called "divine intervention," and he stayed with the Orioles.
"When I was a player, I saw a coach go out there and guys whack at it. I didn't think it was a job," he said. "If I was over here and I was made to feel like a second-class citizen, I told myself I'm quitting. But the guys made me feel welcome as a coach. . . . They realize I'm not some idiot out there."
While it's his job to throw pitches just where the hitters want them, Horsman is not a machine. Pitches get away, and God forbid, one could have hit Cal Ripken, Jr., during his streak of 2,632 consecutive games, which ended late in Horsman's first season on the job.
"Some people get intimidated, like, 'Ooh, you've got to throw to Cal [Ripken].' It's no big deal," he said. "I did hit Brady [Anderson] once, but it didn't bother him."
Horsman has parlayed the job into a quasi-assistant pitching coach, helping Mark Wiley with the relievers. He wants to become a major league pitching coach and knows he will have to go to the minors to prove himself.
"There's no direct path to this job, though," he said.
-- Alan Goldenbach