The St. Louis Cardinals continue to shuffle their major-league coaching staff, this time with moves that could help as much at the ticket office as on the field.
The club announced Monday that all-time fan favorite Willie McGee will be on the team’s bench in 2018. Jose Oquendo, whose two-year hiatus from the staff was widely blamed for the Cardinals’ recent defense and baserunning issues, also will return as third base coach.
Mike Shildt, who took Oquendo’s spot in the third base coach’s box last season after Chris Maloney coached third in 2016, has been named bench coach.
“We feel that by bringing the experience, past successes and baseball savvy that these three gentlemen possess to our Major League coaching staff will be a strong benefit to our ball club,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said in a statement released by the team. “Whether it’s coaching, teaching, game analysis, game planning, etc., etc. ... these three men bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team.”
Oquendo, 54, who never officially announced his resignation, left the team following the 2015 season to address chronic knee problems. He had spent the previous 16 seasons with the club as third base coach and bench coach, and was widely seen as the keeper of the “Cardinal Way” since the death of longtime minor-league instructor George Kissell.
In Oquendo’s absence in 2016, the Cardinals committed 107 errors, the fifth-most in the National League. Last season, their 94 errors ranked seventh-most in the league.
Oquendo spent nine of his 17 major-league seasons as an infielder in St. Louis. Known as the “Secret Weapon” for his versatility, he is one of just five players in big-league history to play all nine positions on the field in one game.
A native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Oquendo served as manager for Puerto Rico in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics and for the World Team in the 2009 Futures Game at Busch Stadium.
McGee, 58, joins the major-league coaching staff for the first time, having spent the 2013-17 seasons as a special assistant to the general manager. It’s not clear from a team release what role he will fill.
McGee been a regular guest instructor at Cardinals spring training in Jupiter, Florida, but told the Belleville News-Democrat in May of last year he had no immediate designs on being a big-league coach. He said he preferred working with up-and-coming players in the minor leagues.
McGee was a rookie on the Cardinals 1982 World Series championship team, capturing national attention by hitting two home runs and taking another away from Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger Gorman Thomas.
McGee went on to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award in leading St. Louis to the pennant in 1985. Over his 18-year career, he was a two-time batting champion, four-time All Star and three-time Gold Glove winner in the outfield.
He also played for the Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, finishing with 2,254 career hits, 352 stolen bases and a .295 career batting mark.
A fan favorite in St. Louis since he playing days, McGee was in the first class of former players inducted to the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame.
Shildt, 48, has been a member of the Cardinals organization since 2004, serving for years as a manager in its minor-league system.
In addition, the Cardinals are still working to fill coaching vacancies on their major-league staff for both pitching coach and bullpen coach. The pitching coach position could go to Carlyle native Bryan Eversgerd.