Mt. Vernon Register-News

Sports

July 26, 2010

Baseball is life's work for Bernard

MT. VERNON — Editor’s note: This story is part one of a two-part series on Mt. Vernon native and former MLB pitcher Dwight Bernard. The second part will run in Wednesday’s sports section.

For the past 37 years and counting, Mt. Vernon native Dwight Bernard has been involved in professional baseball.

The 1969 graduate of Mt. Vernon Township High School and 1973 graduate of Belmont College was a standout hurler in college and high school, and was inducted into the MVTHS sports hall of fame in 2007.

A four-year major league stint with the Milwaukee Brewers included an appearance in the 1982 World Series, in which Bernard pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bernard finished his major league career with the New York Mets before becoming a pitching coach for Milwaukee, the Minnesota Twins and ultimately the Seattle Mariners.

After spending the last few years coaching for the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, Bernard is the 2010 pitching coach of the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings in the Class A Midwest League.

Bernard said that coaches changing levels in professional baseball is commonplace.

"A lot of organizations like to move guys," Bernard said. "(The Mariners) had some young pitching coaches that they wanted to move up. And I didn't have a problem getting closer to home."

The level of the minor leagues didn't make any difference to Bernard. Location did.

"There were some places that I didn't want to go,” Bernard said. There were some places that I wouldn't go. But, they still wanted to keep me in the organization. So, Clinton, Iowa was the closest place (to Mt. Vernon) that I would agree to go."

At Clinton, Bernard is in charge of the progress of a dozen pitchers ages 19 to 24. Due to the rapid succession with which major league teams move players up through the system, players are limited to the amount of time that they can play at different levels.

“You get a kid, maybe just out of college, who had been injured. There are some rules that they have to go by," Bernard said. “If you have so much service time without being injured, then you can't play in the league. They have limitations as to what you can do. But there's some guys in the league that have been there three years, with injuries being an issue there.”

Bernard said that he sees pitchers who may have some stuff, but many are still raw.

“The biggest key to being a pitcher is delivery. Consistent delivery,” Bernard said. “And you get these kids coming out of high school and college without much coaching. That's because they are there doing what they're doing and it's good enough to get by. And win. But, there isn't much coaching."

A pitcher's height has become very important in the big leagues. Baseball scouts are on the lookout for next tall, dominating hurler.

"Most of the time you won't see many under six feet,” Bernard said. “Maybe some lefthanders. You may see some from time to time, but they would have to be something special."

At the Class A level, a pitching coach may not see the same hurlers two years in a row.

“It’s year-to-year,” Bernard said. “Some years there are more high school kids because (the Mariners) feel like they have more potential than some of the college guys. A lot of the college pitchers that get signed are maybe guys that didn't pitch all that much. Had a good arm. But couldn't throw strikes.”

Bernard knows that his charges are aware of his professional experience, both on the mound, as well as in the dugout and the bullpen.

“They look up to you,” he said. “They know. They do the background. They know whether you've played, where you've coached, where you've been. That's easy to do now. Everybody has a computer. They can get online and find out. If you tell them something, they can find out about it.”

In the second part of this story, Bernard will talk about his World Series experience and reminisce about his relationship with Ted Simmons, the former Cardinal fan favorite who was the Brewers' catcher in 1982.

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