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His new pupils were more than ready for that, especially after McGwire's first stint in the batting cage became something of a spectacle. Three television cameras, a half-dozen photographers and more than a dozen reporters watched the mundane proceedings from inside interlocking barricades that served as a holding pen of sorts.
"There are never cameras when I hit," said leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker, who has worked with McGwire during the offseason since 2005. "Maybe when Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday hits, but not me."
David Freese, the leading candidate for the Cardinals' vacant third base job, didn't mind the hubbub. He's happy to be working with McGwire, whose 583 homers are tied for eighth on the career list with Alex Rodriguez.
"It was awesome," Freese said. "Everybody's kind of giddy to get him down here and start working with us."
The real work starts early next week when the full squad reports, though several position players are already in camp. McGwire, never before a coach, pledged to put in long hours and described himself as a quick study of hitters.
"I've told some of the guys, 'If you want me here at 5 a.m., I'll be here at 5 a.m., if you want me here at 7 o'clock at night hitting, I'll be here at 7 o'clock,'" said McGwire, clad in Cardinals' red and cleared to wear his old No. 25 again. "I'm here for them, I'm not here for me."
Since retiring after the 2001 season, McGwire has made few public appearances. Still, he refused to second-guess his decision to return to the game.
"It's a new chapter in my life," he said. "I'm excited about it. I can't wait to get going."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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