Former MLB Pitcher Rusty Meacham Still Loves Baseball
The hurler has fond memories of an eight-year big-league career and is still going strong in the game as a coach and teacher
The love of baseball can be a magical thing. It helps focus those who adore it to work harder, practice longer and try to reach ever higher heights. That’s the kind of passion that propelled former pitcher Rusty Meacham to have an eight-year big-league career and remain close to the diamond years after he threw his final professional pitch.
The right-hander was a talented player; good enough to play collegiately, but not an elite prospect. He attended Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Florida and produced enough to get the attention of scouts. Upon being selected in the 33rd round of the 1987 draft by the Detroit Tigers, he signed his first pro contract and began his career while he was still just 20.
While he gave up his share of hits and wasn’t a big strikeout pitcher, he kept the ball in the park and let his teammates make plays behind him. It allowed him to make quick work of the minors, steadily progressing and winning 15 games in both 1989 and 1990.
Meacham made the majors with the Tigers in 1991, appearing in 10 games as both a starter and reliever. He was hit fairly hard but it was still a surprise when the promising hurler was waived in the offseason. Picked up by the Kansas City Royals, he became a fixture in their bullpen.
One of Meacham’s best-remembered roles in Kansas City was that of “the sprayer.” Former closer Dan Quisenberry started a popular practice of spraying fans in the right-field stands with a garden hose from the bullpen. After he moved on to a different team, Meacham took over the important work and endeared himself to fans in the process.
His best season came in 1992 when he was 10–4 with a 2.74 ERA in 64 relief appearances. He pitched an impressive 101.2 innings, allowing just 88 hits.
Following four strong years with the Royals, he had stints with the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He also pitched for years in the minors and independent leagues, last appearing in a game in 2010.
In his eight seasons as a major leaguer, Meacham was a combined 23–17 with a 4.43 ERA in 218 games, chalking up nine saves along the way. He has remained in baseball since his playing days ended, coaching in the minors and being heavily involved in youth development. A true baseball lifer, he recently shared some memories of his more than 30 years in the game.
Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Dale Murphy! He was a great player and a good, solid person that I looked up to.
Can you please describe what your draft experience was like, being taken in the 33rd round by the Detroit Tigers in 1987?: The greatest thrill in the world because it was what I had worked hard for my whole life to achieve.
What was the most difficult part of adapting to life in the minor leagues?: Being on away from home and the travel.
What do you remember most about your major league debut?: It was against Cleveland at Tiger Stadium. It was the biggest thrill in the world because now I had reached the biggest stage that I worked hard for my whole life. (Meacham went seven innings, beating Charles Nagy 9–4)
Which one hitter intimidated you more than any other, and why?: Nobody intimidated me. I was out there to do my job and I believed in my abilities.
What was Sparky Anderson like as a manager?: Very quiet. He was fun to play for. He let you be you.
Hall of Famer Dave Winfield was 0-for-12 against you with 6 strikeouts; what do you remember doing when pitching against him?: I would get ahead of him and use my drop-down slider.
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Nothing. I can look myself in the mirror and know that I gave my all every time I stepped across the white lines.
What are you up to these days?: Teaching in my hometown of Stuart, Florida.