December 06, 2016
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – John McLaren, entering his second season on Pete Mackanin’s coaching staff, will have a new role in 2017. After a year as the Phillies catching coach, he'll work as the team's the bullpen coach this coming season.
But before that, McLaren will be a manager during spring training. The 65-year-old McLaren will coach Team China for the second straight World Baseball Classic.
McLaren, a baseball lifer type who has been involved in the game nearly every year since his minor league playing career began in 1970, has been involved with Team China since 2011.
“One of the effects baseball has is to bring people together,” McLaren said on Monday at the Winter Meetings. "I like spreading the word. … I’ve always been an international fanatic. I was in Venezuela five or six years. I did Colombia two years. I’ve always liked international baseball.”
The Chinese roster obviously won’t be filled with the same collection of stars as the United States, Dominican Republic, Japan, and Venezuela, among others. Former Phillies pitcher Vance Worley, whose mother is of Chinese heritage, could play for McLaren.
China’s WBC manager has modest goals for the upcoming spring tournament.
“When you’re the Dominican, United States, Japan, and Korea, you’re thinking about the big trophy at the end,” he said. “We’re not to that stage. I’m not conceding anything but I’m realistic to know to win a game is monumental to us, it means a lot to us. It means we’re still in place, we’re still building.
“What we’re trying to do is get more exposure to young kids in China. They’re starting to show baseball games in China for the first time from what I understand. This is huge for us, for a young kid to watch baseball on TV. You know how fans in Japan would be watching Ichiro (Suzuki) on TV at all hours when he first came over to the United States and it’s always on TV. In China they don’t have it on TV. Young kids are impressionable and if they see it, maybe they’ll have a greater interest in baseball. This is a positive for us.”
Ernie Whitt, who works as a catching instructor in the Phillies organization, will manage Team Canada in the WBC. Whitt led Canada to a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games.
Among players on the Phillies 40-man roster, Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Edubray Ramos, and Jeanmar Gomez are candidates to make Venezuela’s final roster, while catching prospect Jorge Alfaro could play for Colombia.
“We are in full support of the WBC – we think it’s a great event,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “We are mindful of the affect that we have a young roster and we're mindful that we have a lot of young players battling for a roster spot or at-bats and it may not be in their best interest to leave camp. I don’t know yet. Any player that wants to leave camp to compete in the tournament, they will have our full support and we hope their team will do well. We’ll just have to see how it works out.”
McLaren is grateful the Phillies are letting him take a mini-hiatus during spring training to continue to work with Team China.
“I know Larry Bowa is going miss me, but he’s going to have to get by,” McLaren joked. “It means a lot to me. They’re very supportive. The Phillies are a special organization and always have been. This means a lot to me and I appreciate it.”