SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Between his time spent as a Major League pitcher and as a Minor League coach, Winfield native Steve Kline has worn many hats during his illustrious baseball career.
But right now, no lid fits better than the one Kline’s wearing at the moment.
Since the beginning of June, Kline has been the bullpen coach for the San Francisco Giants, with whom he served as a relief pitcher in 2006 and 2007.
It’s a nice step up for Kline, whose role the past couple of seasons is that of a pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats, the Giants’ Class AAA affiliate.
And although Kline, 46, is enjoying his time back with his old club, the moment will be fleeting.
Kline’s duties as Giants’ bullpen coach will end once the team’s pitching coach — Curt Young — returns in the next week or so from a right knee infection that has kept him off the bench the past four weeks.
“Yeah, it’s been fun. I mean, Curt got sick so they asked me to come up here and help out, and that’s what I’ve been doing,”said Kline, who took time out of his busy schedule to talk earlier this week. “I’ve just kind of been enjoying the moments. I’ve been learning from the players that are up here, and learning from the catchers and the other coaches.”
Kline, who appeared in 140 games during his two-year stint in San Francisco, compiled a 5-5 record with a 4.15 ERA. He also appeared in his 700th career game while with the Giants in 2006, a season in which Kline pitched in a total of 72 games — the sixth-highest total of his career.
Kline, who has played for Cleveland, Montreal, St. Louis and Baltimore during his time in the major leagues, finished with 796 appearances — the 11th most all-time among left-handed pitchers — along with a 34-39 career win-loss record, 493 strikeouts and a 3.51 ERA.
Nevertheless, Kline says it was an honor that the Giants chose him to replace Young.
“Well, yes, that’s the best part. I feel honored that they thought of me as one of the guys who could replace (Curt),”said Kline, a three-sport standout at Lewisburg Area High School. “It made me realize how much fun this game is, and the biggest thing about being in the big leagues is that it’s all about winning up here.
“It’s just an honor to be here,”added Kline.
Another fortunate aspect of being back with the Giants for the past month is that Kline has been able to catch up with members of the organization who he hasn’t seen in the past 11 years or so.
“I haven’t been up here since 2008, so it’s been great just to see the clubhouse guys, the grounds crew and some of the ushers that I dealt with when I was here, so it’s like catching up with old times with people. It’s always fun,”said Kline. “I also like just watching the caliber of players that are up here. Sometimes when you’re in the minor leagues you don’t see the same caliber as in the big leagues. It’s always good to engage yourself with the higher levels.”
As a pitching coach for players aspiring to reach the next level, the past month has been invaluable for Kline.
“If you don’t know what the next level is, it’s hard to coach the kids and tell them, ‘this is what you’re going to see at the next level,”said Kline. “When I go back down (to the River Cats) I can have a starting point with these kids and work on some things I think they need to know a little bit better.”
However, a more permanent stay as a coach for the Giants is something that Kline hopes to achieve some day. If not that, then he’d maybe like to become an assistant baseball coach under Scott Heather at Bucknell.
“The only team I’ve ever coached for is the Giants, so hopefully I can stay a Giant until the day I die. That’s all I want to try to do, but if something else comes up and the Giants don’t think I’m what they want anymore, you got to move on and hopefully find someplace else to coach,”said Kline. “Like, I’ve always kind of wanted to be an assistant coach at Bucknell for Scotty Heather — that’s one of the goals I have set for myself, so hopefully I can do that someday.”
A permanent return home is also in the cards for Kline down the road, and he follows the goings-on in the sports world around the Valley pretty keenly despite the fact he lives on the opposite side of the country.
Kline just gushed about Selinsgrove High School’s baseball team winning the state title a couple of weeks ago. Kline’s brother, Kevin, is an assistant coach for the Seals, and Steve Kline got to talk to pitcher Blaise Zeiders an hour before the final.
Maybe that’s how Zeiders managed to throw six strong innings to lead Selinsgrove to its first state championship in baseball.
“I’m so happy for Selinsgrove. I want to tell them all congratulations. It’s an honor to see those guys win it,”said Kline. “I’ve gotten to know some of those kids down there. They hit the ultimate goal. It was awesome to talk to (Zeiders), and give him a little bit of wisdom and tell him to go have fun and enjoy playing.
“Those are the times they’re going to remember (forever).”