Maury Wills’ love for baseball is as strong as ever at 83. His passion for the game will take him off the golf course next month to spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team he played for throughout most of his career.
Wills is hoping to help his friend, new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, improve the team’s baserunning and also work with individual players. One of the players he is most looking forward to spending time with is mercurial outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is badly in need of a turn-around season in 2016.
Puig looked like a budding star when he debuted in 2013, hitting .319 with 19 home runs in 104 games. But he is coming off a 2015 season in which he struggled to stay healthy, hit just .255 with 11 home runs and reportedly frustrated his teammates and management with his attitude and work ethic.
Puig has had an interesting offseason. Shortly after the season ended, former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke, the father of Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, did a radio interview in which he suggested pitcher Clayton Kershaw approached Dodgers management about trading Puig.
Later in November, Puig was involved in a skirmish at a Miami club. He was not arrested and no charges were filed, but it was a another black mark for a player struggling to regain respect among teammates and with the Los Angeles fans.
Puig also returned to his native Cuba this winter as part of a MLB goodwill tour.
Wills told the Los Angeles Times he believes he can help Puig get back on track. Wills said he is optimistic about Puig and hopes the team doesn’t trade him. The primary reason Wills is excited about working with Puig is the fact that Puig asked for his help.
“Whenever a player asks you, you know that you are more than halfway there,” Wills told the Times. “You got him. It's when you have to go and pull him out of the clubhouse that it's difficult. Puig has a lot of talent. I just hope and pray that we don't trade him. I feel I can turn him around, because of what I have been through.”
Late last season and at other points during his tenure, former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly acknowledged his team was awful at baserunning. Wills, who led the National League in steals six times during his 14 years in the major leagues, hopes to be able to fix some of the mistakes the team has been making on the base paths.
“Baserunning is just getting the most of what you have to work with, going from first to third on base hits you should go from first to third on, scoring on base hits you should score on, because you know what to do and how to do it,” Wills told the Times.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
- - - - - - -
Kyle Ringo is a contributing writer to Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo