McGwire has new perspective on Cards' hitters

LOS ANGELES -- Mark McGwire had an unfamiliar seat as he watched his former pupils knock around Dodgers pitching on Friday night. He came to an unexpected conclusion, too. As good as he believed the Cardinals' offense was during his three-year tenure as hitting coach in St. Louis, the lineup looks even tougher from an opposing point of view.

"It's a bit funny to watch them from the other side, but they're truly great hitters," McGwire said. "Their offense is just stacked. It's always been, but it's sort of different when you watch it from the other side. You look at it from the other side and you just say, 'Oh my gosh.' Plus, they have another year of experience, which is deadly for them because they're just smarter, better and stronger."

McGwire is in his first year as the Dodgers' hitting coach and is still trying to spark an offense that has underachieved so far. Los Angeles entered Saturday ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored.

But the learning curve that comes with working with a new group of hitters is one that McGwire welcomed, because in taking this position, he knew he would be able to spend more time with his family. His home is a 50-minute drive from Dodger Stadium, and McGwire has already reaped the benefits of proximity.

He gets to see his two sons, ages 9 and 10, play baseball, and he takes them to school. McGwire is home to play with his 2-year-old triplet girls, too, before he leaves for work.

"The girls really recognize who Dad is, because Dad's around. It means a lot to me," McGwire said. "To be with my family and work in the same place for the first time in my career, it's one of those things I couldn't pass up."

McGwire hasn't completely cut ties with the Cardinals. He unabashedly admits that he still pulls for the Cardinals to do well -- as long as it's not at the Dodgers' expense.

"I have a lot of time invested and great times with those guys over there," McGwire said. "They haven't missed a beat."

Several players and coaches have taken time these last two days to seek out McGwire for some small talk. McGwire will make his return to St. Louis in August, when the Cardinals host the Dodgers during a four-game series.

"I don't think he likes us scoring runs against his team, but I know he's proud of us," third baseman David Freese said. "It was good to catch up with him a little bit, instead of over the phone. He's rooting us on. Maybe not when we're playing the Dodgers, but I think he's happy when we're playing well."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.