He was one of, if not the greatest pitcher that Cape Ann has ever seen.
Today, Rusty Tucker has finally come home.
The Gloucester High School legend spent the better part of the 2000s honing his craft in Minor League ballparks across the country, seeking that shot at the Bigs. While he never quite became a regular hurler on a Major League roster, Tucker cherishes the experiences he had during those years. Those Bull Durham-like bus rides never truly got old for this particular lefty.
Tucker spent time in the Padres, White Sox, Red Sox and Brewers organizations and racked up over 100 career saves as a pro.
The 31-year-old finally decided to move back to Gloucester with his wife Beth (also a Gloucester native) and 4-month old baby and arrived on June 1 after spending eight years in Arizona. Soon he will be starting his new career as pitching coach for Legends Baseball, which showcases young talent.
What prompted you to get involved with Legends?
Well I was out of baseball, playing, coaching or otherwise for two years and I just missed it so much. It was tough after all the experiences I had with the game over the years. I thought it was the right thing to do at this point in my life. It's very exciting to be involved again. One of the big things with them is that they already have such a great team of coaches in place. It was a good fit.
Does it seem that long ago that you were pitching at Gloucester High?
It doesn't seem that long ago at all. It all went by so fast it's really a blur. Being back in town, driving by the fields, it's a good feeling to be back home.
Did you always think you would get into coaching?
It's been on my mind for a while. I used to do something similar to what I'm doing now in the offseasons to try and stay in shape and it was then that I thought it was really enjoyable for me to teach.
Through your Minor League years, who are some of the managers and coaches that influenced you?
There are two guys that really stand out. One was Mike Harkey, my AA coach in Alabama, who is the bullpen coach for the Yankees now. He was an amazing coach and pitched for a longtime in the Bigs. The other is Darren Balsley, who is the pitching coach now for the Padres. In 2003 he was coaching me in AA and got called up mid-season to the Bigs. But they both really helped me with philosophies and mechanics.
What organization did you enjoy playing for most and why?
It has to be San Diego. They drafted me and invested in me and I spent my first five years in the Padres organization. I got moved up, got to meet a lot of great prospects. Length of time obviously factors in there too. With the other ones it was only a 1-2 year thing. They were quick stints.
Best brushes with greatness over the years?
I got to play with a lot of guys you see today. Looking back, I got to spend time playing with Jacoby Ellsbury, who was an amazing prospect at the time. Another one is Mark Teixeira. Just a lot of great players over the years and it's fun to watch them today.
Favorite memory of pitching at Gloucester?
There's one game I'll never forget and people always remind me of this one. It was my senior season against Swampscott and I threw a no-hitter. But the big thing was I had 19 K's out of the 21 outs. Obviously I'll never forget that one.