Heath Bell: Long-tossing with greatness
Padres reliever enjoys the company of veteran pitchers
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to pitch on the same staff with two future Hall of Famers -- Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman -- this season. I've gotten the opportunity to pitch with guys like Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner in the past, but I've learned a lot from Greg and Trevor this season.
Greg, who has now moved on to the Dodgers, just knows how to pitch. He sometimes, like all of us, goes out there without his best stuff on a given day, but he knows the hitters so well and he knows their tendencies so well that it hardly matters.
I've had many conversations with Greg, and it's always neat when he points things out. It really makes me think. He's great at knowing a hitter's swing. He knows when they're going to pull the ball, when they're going to the opposite field. A pitcher can learn about that swing, and that's something he really helped me with while he was with the Padres.
Off the field, Greg's a great guy, too. Everybody knows how much he loves to golf, but he also likes to have a lot of fun when he's around his teammates. When you factor in his stature -- what he's done and for how long he has done it -- that's a great boost to any club. You might think that a veteran with his credentials might not get too involved with the young guys, but that's not the case. He will play golf with you, and he will rag you, so you better be able to take it. He's totally different than what you would normally expect of a veteran superstar.
Trevor, of course, has more than 500 saves. When he reached the 500-save plateau last year, I felt fortunate to have pitched the seventh inning of that game. That was a great honor for me. To think of a number like 500 saves really blows my mind because I didn't think anyone would reach that. People thought Lee Smith might hold that mark forever, but here came Trevor. Now, 600 is the next step, and he's within reach next year if he decides to keep going.
Off the field, Trevor is very laid-back. He enjoys the game of baseball and he enjoys competing. But he's the ultimate San Diegan who loves to hang out at the beach. I've been to his beach house, and we've played some volleyball, which he loves to do. He's also a great presence for the younger guys because he'll not only talk baseball with you, but he'll talk about life with you.
I remember one night this season we talked out in the bullpen for three straight innings, and we didn't mention baseball once. We talked about our families, mostly.
My time and work here with Trevor and Greg in San Diego this season aren't going to get me into the Hall of Fame, but I definitely think that it's made me a better pitcher. They're both very approachable, they will both have fun with you, and they will also teach you a lot. It's great that older guys look after the younger guys in baseball.
I hope to play as long as they have. That's my plan. I would love to pitch into my 40s and help some young players along the way.
Heath Bell, a native of nearby Oceanside, Calif., has pitched for the local Padres the last two years after spending his first three seasons with the Mets. He's enjoyed a solid 2008 season so far, posting a 6-5 record with a 3.09 ERA in 60 games. Last year he appeared in a career-high 81 contests and posted a 2.02 ERA, leading big league relievers in innings (93.2) and strikeouts (102).
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.