Friday, August 19, 2005

S6 possible speaker: Keith Osik

S6 is a concept calling for a sports lecture series. Former Pirate, now minor-leaguer, college coach, father, Keith Osik, could give a good podium talk, I imagine.
PG's Anderson covers Osik's move to put coaching on hold He thought about his family. When asked for advice, 8-year-old Tyler suggested his dad should turn down the minor-league contract. So Osik did.

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Anderson: Osik puts coaching on hold

Thursday, August 18, 2005
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in.

"Yeah, I left a message on Jason Kendall's voice mail saying that," Keith Osik said the other day from Albuquerque, N.M.


It's a long story set in a short time frame for the likable former Pirates backup catcher and uber utility player.

By around Halloween, Osik will have had an eventful six months or so to review. His major-league career was over, then it wasn't. His coaching career got started, then got somewhat delayed.

Osik spent his first 13 pro seasons in the Pirates' organization, breaking into the majors in 1996. Seven of his nine big-league seasons were with the Pirates. He spent a season with Milwaukee and one with Baltimore before he found himself with Washington for spring training this year.

He decided to retire when the Nationals offered him a Class AAA contract. It was a smart idea at the time.

"At some point in your life, you have to think about what's after baseball," Osik said.

He thought about his family. When asked for advice, 8-year-old Tyler suggested his dad should turn down the minor-league contract. So Osik did.

On June 6, Tyler and Kayley, 6, got a new baby sister, Kamryn, reinforcing Osik's urge to stay closer to home on his native Long Island, N.Y.

A month later, Osik accepted the head-coaching job at nearby Division III Farmingdale State.

The page had been turned.

Or so he thought.

"I was in the pool with my kids and their cousins when I got the call," Osik said.

It was the Nationals, who are in the thick of the National League wild-card race and will need a third catcher for the stretch. They wondered if he would accept an assignment to Class AAA New Orleans with the intent of being a Sept. 1 call-up.

"It really came out of left field," said Osik, 37, who played that and six other positions -- all but shortstop and center field -- in the majors at one time or another.

"I was flattered. It's kind of a hard opportunity to pass up."

So, there Osik was on a road trip to Albuquerque earlier this week. Now he's back in New Orleans, where the Zephyrs are in the middle of a home series against Omaha.

Since joining New Orleans, Osik is 3 for 11 with one RBI in his first five games as he gets himself back in the groove for the majors.

But that's not all he's doing. Cell phones, the ultimate multi-tasking facilitators, allow Osik to get on the horn back to Farmingdale State or do some recruiting.

"There's really a lot of talent on Long Island and in New York" said Osik, who also would like to establish a pipeline to Pittsburgh.

The folks at his new school -- where the former coach, Ken Rocco, was relieved after 33 years -- seem more than willing to cooperate with Osik's new double life. That makes sense, considering the draw of a coach fresh from the majors.

The start of Farmingdale State's fall practice has been postponed until sometime in October so that Osik can hang in the majors for as long as Washington lasts this year.

Although Osik isn't ruling anything out, he talks like someone who figures he'll enjoy this last ride, then settle into a coaching career that could last longer than his playing days.

Although he was a star pitcher in high school and arrived at LSU as primarily a shortstop, Osik played all nine positions in college and continued to show that versatility in the majors.

In fact, he was filling in for Aramis Ramirez at third base a night in 1998 that Jose Guillen made "The Throw," a 360-foot rope from the base of the right-field wall at Coors Field that nabbed the Rockies' Neifi Perez.

"Whenever they show Jose on TV or something, I tell somebody about that," Osik said. "It was right at my chest. It was actually almost hard because it was so easy to catch."

Osik will rejoin Guillen with Washington.

Mostly, Osik played catcher in the majors, a thinking man at a thinking-man's position.

"I feel like I've been coaching my whole major-league career," he said. "I just felt like I was that kind of player."

He also learned from great baseball minds, most notably former Pirates manager Jim Leyland.

So when Osik takes over full time at Farmingdale State, he's probably not going to have the longevity of the guy before him.

"I think this is a stepping-stone for me," he said. "One of my short-term goals is to build a small school on Long Island into a powerhouse.

"But I could see myself managing in the big leagues someday. Maybe somebody you'll see me back in Pittsburgh."

You read it here first.

(Shelly Anderson can be reached at or 412-263-1721.)