ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Don Zimmer walks carefully through the clubhouse tunnel about 30 minutes before batting practice and takes a seat by himself in the dugout.

He isn’t alone for long. Almost immediately, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ senior adviser is surrounded by players and coaches. They listen close and laugh out loud as Zimmer starts telling stories – 58 years worth of unforgettable experiences in this crazy game.

The baseball sage is holding court.

After winning championships as a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, managing the 1989 Chicago Cubs to the NL playoffs and being Joe Torre’s bench coach for four World Series titles in New York, Zimmer has put together quite a resume.

And at 75 years old, he’s still going strong.

“Big Zim,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “I enjoy him. Obviously when I was younger, he was there as a coach. He’s a great guy. He’s seen pretty much everything in baseball. Sort of being a sponge for knowledge, talking to him.”

Zimmer admits he’s “not as active” at the ballpark as he once was. Instead of taking time to hit pregame grounders, he closely monitors all the on-field drills and is ready to offer his assistance.

“I hung with him during spring training, talking about all kinds of stuff,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “During the course of the season I stand with him by the batting cage and I might have a question from the day before and he’ll tell me what he thinks. He’s unique in the sense he’s still into the strategy of the game also, whereas a lot of guys have stopped thinking that way. He doesn’t. He’s on top of game strategy.”

Devil Rays second baseman Jorge Cantu was recently working on some Spanish phrases with Zimmer, who got one wrong and joked that he was “too old” to learn it.

`Cantu responded by telling Zimmer he wasn’t old at 58.

“I wish I was 58,” Zimmer said with a smile. “If I was 58, I’d be out there fielding grounders.”

Zimmer plans to return next year for his 59th season in baseball. Tampa Bay principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said the man known as “Popeye” will have job with the Devil Rays as long as he owns the team.

“He taught me a lot,” Torre said. “With all the things done with the stop watch and computer, everything was in his head. I learned a lot from that as far as ability, watching guys and what they are capable of. He gave me a little more courage, I guess, to try things.”

Zimmer and his wife have lived for the past 50 years about seven miles from Tropicana Field in Treasure Island, Fla. He expects his current role with the Devil Rays to be his last in the game.

“It’s great that he’s doing what he’s doing,” Torre said. “He gets the chance to put the uniform on, which has been his whole life. He’s home with (his wife) Soot in their home right now.

“In my estimation, she keeps an eye on him, which is always good,” Torre added with a smile. “It wasn’t always easy for me to do. The fact he is still involved with young players is something that really makes it for him. He loves young players.”

Zimmer said whether his final year in the game is “this year, next year, or the year after that, baseball owes me nothing.”

“Baseball is my life,” Zimmer said. “Most of the things I have in my life is because of baseball.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.