Toward the end of a 15-year major-league career, Ron Villone began to assume a role of teacher, in addition to being a key relief pitcher.
Villone, who played for 12 different major-league teams, began to work closely with the up-and-coming prospects as his career neared an end. He began to serve as a mentor for his teammates.
"I feel like I can help so many guys in so many ways because of the knowledge that has been given to me before by the guys who have helped me out," Villone said.
In late March, Peoria pitching coach Tom Pratt left his role to battle brain cancer, diagnosed shortly before the season. Just two years removed from his last major-league pitch, Villone was called upon to become a coach.
The transition from player to coach can often be filled with difficult adjustments, but Villone boasts impressive credentials after his playing career. Villone hopes to offer up what he learned as a player.
"I think it's a natural progression in a sense where the game gave me so much, now it's time for me to give back," said Villone. "I love being around it, i think I have a lot to offer. I'm learning on the job, too."
When Villone first broke into professional baseball with the Seattle Mariners, he was in need of guidance. Little did he know, a 30-year-old veteran Mariner would offer up support, serving as a mentor for the 23-year-old.
That Mariner was Chris Bosio, now the Chicago Cubs' pitching coach.
"Small world," Villone said with a smile. "(Bosio) took my aside, taught me a few things during my first year in the big leagues. He told me to slow things down, don't speed up. I'm teaching that now to these players."
Villone had considered possibilities to stay around the game of baseball, but it wasn't till the final years of his playing career where the thought of coaching came into fruition.
"It's upon us now," Villone said. "I'm grabbing the bull by the horn and loving it -- every day of it."
Working at the Low-A level, Villone's pitching staff is built with young talent. Each pitcher is eager to learn from the longtime major-leaguer.
"Being able to take information from him, he has a lot to teach us and we have a lot to pick from his brain," said Chiefs 20-year-old reliever Austin Reed.
Villone oversees a talented, young pitching staff that's loaded with potential. He enjoys helping each pitcher improve.
"I see guys who want to learn, want to get better and practice their craft with perfect practice," Villone said of the Chiefs' pitching staff. "Sometimes, (athletes) get lost in why we practice. These guys want to practice hard and learn something. I think they're teaching me something, too."
Villone is grateful and eager for his chance to teach the game he loves, starting a new chapter in his career.
"I'm hungry," said Villone. "Hungry to learn, hungry to teach. You get (pitchers) going, they lift my spirits every day when I walk in the door."