Saturday, June 20th 2009, 4:46 PM
The throwing problem that wrecked his playing career is gone now, so Mackey Sasser can joke about it. The ex-Met catcher doesn’t mind if his players at Wallace Community College tweak him about his inability to throw the ball back to the pitcher, either, even though a recurrence once prevented him from throwing batting practice.
“I got rid of it and I don’t even think about it,” says Sasser. “I throw two, three hours at a time now.”
In fact, he’s an advocate of sorts for players who have similar problems. He said someone like the Red Sox’s slumping David Ortiz should speak to a professional, if he hasn’t already. “What’s wrong with talking to somebody?” Sasser says.
Sasser even called the Mets to offer counsel when Mike Pelfrey came down with the yips – Pelfrey tied a team record with three balks in a loss to the Giants on May 17. Sasser says he didn’t get a call back (Pelfrey did seek help elsewhere), but Sasser knows first-hand that expert advice is vital.
After Sasser’s yips returned while he pitched batting practice, turning a simple duty all college coaches must perform into a chore, a friend suggested Sasser talk to Dr. David Grand. Grand, a Long Islander, finally helped Sasser “let it all go,” Sasser says, the first step in curing the problem that inexplicably began in July 1990 after a collision with Atlanta’s Jim Presley.
“I wish I would’ve known David Grand while I was playing,” adds Sasser, who played for the Pirates, Giants, Mets and Mariners from 1987-95. “It’s hard to explain all these years later, that your career is shorter because you couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher. Someone asked me why I still tried to end the problem and I said I wanted to know why it happened. Dr. Grand explained it to me. He made me relax.
“He works with a lot of trauma cases and it’s a lot of suppressed things that happened to you over your lifetime. You haven’t been able to throw it away or get rid of it. He dug up some things from my childhood that were traumatic, with my father or me [Sasser lived with his father after his parents divorced when he was 10 years old] and he made me see. It is a relief. I think a lot of players could benefit from what he does.”
Sasser, now 46, has coached at Wallace for 14 years, compiling a record of 326-192 “right here at home,” he says, in Dothan, Ala. He has five children from ages 27 to six and even one grandchild. His son, Christopher, played for him the last two seasons.
Sasser himself landed at Wallace because he, too, played there for two years before transferring to Troy. A few years after his pro career ended in 1995, Wallace officials called and “asked me if I wanted to coach,” Sasser says. “I said, ‘I’ll try it’ and I’ve been here ever since.”
Recently, Sasser has begun thinking about getting back into pro ball. He dreams of perhaps one day being the Mets’ roving catching instructor. “I think I could help kids get to the majors,” he says. If he never gets back to pro ball, that’s OK, too.
“I’m satisfied with what I’ve got,” Sasser says.