By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Mar 07, 2006 at 5:38 AM

PHOENIX -- Robin Yount very likely was the most popular sports figure to have ever played in Milwaukee. Now, the Hall of Famer returns to Milwaukee as bench coach for Brewers' manager Ned Yost.

OMC columnist Gregg Hoffmann, who covered Yount for his entire playing career, caught up with "The Kid" at the Brewers' Maryvale Spring Training camp and spent some time talking about life, the club, and the Brewers' teams he played for.

OMC: What does it feel like to be back in a Brewers' uniform in your new role?

Yount: It feels great. When Ned asked me to come in, he said, 'You'll love working with our young players.' He told me he wanted to be around the young guys and see what I could do. 'You're going to love these guys,' he told me. In all honesty, I thought, 'Nice sales job, Ned' at the time. But, after just a couple weeks, I realize he was right. I'm excited about working with them.

OMC: What's impressed you about the young players?

RY: First, they are very talented players, but I can tell they are going to be a close-knit group. It's refreshing to see because the system in baseball -- with free agency and players moving all around -- doesn't encourage that. It's difficult to build chemistry. But, these guys enjoy each other. Everybody pulls for each other. A lot of them have come up through the system together and are friends. What I see already is a nice chemistry. That really helps. It's hard to be successful in this game by yourself. It helps to have help to be successful as a team.

That doesn't mean these kids won't make mistakes. I made mistakes. I told them, 'I made more errors than all of you combined in my first three years.' I've been through what they are going through. They're not 18 like I was. I probably came up a couple years too early, really. They're not 18, but they are still young and will make mistakes. If they learn from them and improve they'll become good major league players.

OMC: You had that chemistry on the good Brewers' teams you played for, didn't you?

RY: Sure. We were a bunch of free spirits who were different individuals, but we got along well. I think it starts at the top. Certain managers are right for certain teams, and set the tone. We had that with Harvey (Kuenn) on the '82 team. Ned has set that with this team.

OMC: Did you see Ned as a manager when you played with him?

RY: Honestly, no. With the exception of Sal Bando and Ted Simmons, and maybe Paulie (Molitor), I didn't see any of us as managers. Like I said, we were pretty much free spirits, but people grow up. Ned grew up. I think he learned a lot from Bobby Cox (in Atlanta). I think he would tell you that, himself.

OMC: What is your role as bench coach?

RY: When Ned asked me to take the job, I told him not to count on a lot of planning from me. I know some bench coaches do that, but it's not really my strength. I'm not great at seeing into the future. I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants and react to the situation. I look at myself more as an instructor out there.

OMC: You and Dale Sveum have known each other for a long time. Does it help to be working with him on the coaching staff?

RY: It does because I know we are basically on the same page. It doesn't mean we will agree on everything that should be done in a game, but we share common approaches and beliefs. Dale actually has coached a lot more than I have. I had the couple years here in Arizona, but he's been at it for years. So, I can learn things from him. I think we complement each other real well.

OMC: Going back briefly to the good Brewers' teams you played on, what do you think led to your success?

RY: We all came together at the right time. We picked each other up. I think this team might have some of that, too. You look at the team statistics last year, and you wonder how they played 81-81. The statistics weren't that great, but they picked each other up. We had that on those teams.

OMC: That '82 team connected with the fans so well. Do you think that's still possible?

RY: We did have a good connection with the fans. The system makes that a little tougher now. I suppose the big money has something to do with it, but more than anything the way players move around it's harder for fans to become attached to players and teams. I think it can still happen at certain times though.

OMC: Speaking of players moving around today, you, Jim Gantner and Paul Molitor played together longer than any other trio in baseball history. Do you still talk with those guys?

RY: I don't see as much of Paulie, but we still talk to each other a couple times a year. I talk to and see quite a bit of Gumby. He comes down here for a couple weeks every year. I called him the other night, but missed him.

OMC: How was the Brewers' organization when you were there versus how it is now?

RY: When I was with the Brewers, they treated people very fairly. Bud (Selig), my brother, Larry, and me would sit down and negotiate contracts directly. I think I was the last player that Bud still did that with at the end. The general manager wasn't even involved in the negotiations.

I heard some things during some of the years I was gone that made me think 'That's not the organization I played for,' but to be fair it was all hearsay. What I see now, I like. I think things are being done the right things around here. I'm really excited to be back with the organization. I think I always knew I would get back with the Brewers in some capacity when things were right.

OMC: How about Milwaukee as a baseball town?

RY: It was a great place for me to play. In fact, I don't know if I could have had the success I had if I had played in New York or some other bigger market. I always had a great relationship with the fans. They supported me and the team. I think they are again. I've stayed in touch with the town. I've been in and out of there a couple times a year almost every year since I retired. I'm looking forward to being there again.

OMC: You said you wanted to wait until your children were raised before getting back into baseball. Was that part of things being right for your return?

RY: My last daughter will graduate from high school this spring, so I jumped the gun by a few months. But, that is part of it. My wife Michelle did a great job of raising the kids while I was playing baseball. She understood I loved the game. You want to do what you can to pay them back for that understanding, so I did want to be around more for family.

My one daughter was able to compete internationally in figure skating. I went to China with her for one competition. I was involved with other things with them. So, I'm glad I took that time.

I've always been about more than baseball. I still own part of a (car) race team, although I'm not as involved as I once was. I still own some Harleys.

You know, I've lived my whole life trying to live one day at a time. I still live that way. It seems like only yesterday, and we had babies. Now they're grown up. It sometimes seems like yesterday when I was just starting to play baseball, but now the career has passed and here I am coaching young players. Time passes quickly.

But, while my body has aged, I don't know if I've ever grown up between the ears. I'm still trying to live life one day at a time.

OMC: This game ties you up for seven months, with a lot of time on the road. Are you ready for that, and all that goes with it?

RY: I can't say I really missed it. What's important to me is out there (on the field)? I love the competition, my teammates and the game. I still don't feel comfortable in front of TV cameras. I don't mind this, sitting down with you guys like this, but I feel most comfortable out there.

OMC: Most of us knew you hid from reporters as a young player after games.

RY: I thought, 'If I wait long enough those guys will go away.' I guess I did grow up in that way a little.

OMC: I actually have been somewhat surprised at how vocal you are when working with the players during workouts. Is that a change for you?

RY: I think you have to communicate with these young players. They want to learn. You can see it in their eyes when you are talking with them and showing them something.

OMC: It probably helps that they know they are getting their coaching from a Hall of Famer. Don't you think?

RY: They'll see through that in no time. Seriously, I don't know. Maybe. All I know is I'm going to give them the best I have.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.