McGwire thrilled to be back in Bay Area -

McGwire thrilled to be back in Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Mark McGwire believes he's still beloved in the Bay Area for his glory days with the Oakland Athletics. He hopes fans here have forgiven him for using steroids along the way.
Big Mac is back where he started and played most of his career, and the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach expected to receive a warm reception when his team opened a three-game weekend series with the Giants on Friday night.
The former home run king reiterated yet again how sorry he is that he ever used steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his game -- including his record-setting 70 home-run season in 1998.
"It was stupid. I regret it every day," he said.
McGwire is more than ready to move forward and stop talking about this, though he understands he still must face the scrutiny and questions as he travels from ballpark to ballpark this year.
"It's all about life. This world is full of mistakes," McGwire said, in good spirits while standing in a clubhouse hallway before St. Louis took the field for stretching and batting practice. "I've moved on. ... Everybody's just tired of it, tired of talking about it."
He had been in the ballpark for several hours already, these days on the coaching schedule that requires early arrival to work with hitters, watch film or study opposing pitchers. The 46-year-old McGwire is thrilled to have come out of retirement to get back in baseball.
"I'm really enjoying it," he said, smiling.
McGwire has fond memories of his 11 seasons with the A's, most notably winning the World Series in 1989. It was that year when he first tried steroids for a two-week "experimental thing" as he puts it.
"That was the last time I even thought about it," until years later, he said.
He has said it wasn't until after his injury-shortened 1993 season that he began regularly using steroids. McGwire's brother, Jay, said in his recently released book "Mark and Me: Mark McGwire and the Truth Behind Baseball's Worst-Kept Secret" that he was McGwire's regular supplier from '94-96.
McGwire said he's not sure whether his steroid use prompted his injury problems that limited him to 74 total games for Oakland during the 1993 and '94 campaigns -- or whether he used more steroids to deal with them, which has been his previous claim.
"That's a good question. I don't know," he said. "I can't live in the past."
In January, 2 1/2 months after Tony La Russa named him the Cardinals' new hitting coach, McGwire ended more than a decade of denials and evasion and finally acknowledged he'd used performance-enhancers -- including when he broke the single-season record in '98. Barry Bonds later topped that mark with 73 homers in 2001, and his 762 career clouts place him No. 1 on the all-time list ahead of Hank Aaron.
McGwire acknowledged he has already "supported" anti-steroid efforts, though he prefers to keep any charitable work private.
He has heard nasty comments here and there as he travels -- but knows that's part of it.
"You're going to hear people say stuff. I didn't know what to expect," he said. "I'm a grown man. I can take what's thrown at me."
Both Bonds and ex-A's teammate and Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson, have spoken publicly in support of McGwire in recent weeks. They said they are proud of him for coming clean and for returning to the game.
"It's awesome," McGwire said. "It's a great feeling when people come out and say good things about you. These guys were way better ballplayers than I was. For them to say that means a lot."
McGwire hit the game-winning home run in Game 3 of the 1988 World Series, which the A's lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played alongside greats like Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, Dave Henderson and Dave Stewart.
"I had a great 11 years here, especially the great teams we played on," McGwire said. "Those 11 years have never left my mind. ... I was so lucky to play with all those great veteran players. There's too many great memories here."
McGwire isn't about to guess whether he'll ever make it to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame, something that's out of his control.
"That's not up to me," he said. "The Hall of Fame is icing on the cake at the end of anybody's playing career. If it happens, it's a sweet ending."
   (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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