, , , , ,

By Joe Capozzi

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

JUPITER — The Cincinnati Reds arrive in Miami on Monday for a four-game series against the Marlins. But Will McEnaney won’t be there.

McEnaney, who lives in Royal Palm Beach, has a special place in Reds history: He recorded the final outs of the Big Red Machine’s World Series clinchers in 1975 and ’76.

But the retired reliever will be working his night job — in the scoreboard booth at Roger Dean Stadium.

While the Class A Jupiter Hammerheads take on the Bradenton Marauders, the left-hander who once flipped curveballs past Carl Yastrzemski will flip switches on the electronic scoreboard, recording every ball, strike, hit and run.

“I’ve never paid this much attention to a baseball game in my life,” McEnaney, 58, said with a chuckle. “I mean when you’re in the bullpen, you don’t pay attention to the whole game, especially a short reliever.”

His scoreboard gig pays $50 a game, a decent supplement to his day job as a salesman at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Wellington.

It wasn’t his first choice. For the 12 years, he’d had a successful bathtub refinishing business that “went down the tubes” when the economy tanked.

His wife, Cindy, saw an ad for a job at Roger Dean Stadium to replace the previous scoreboard operator — retired sports broadcaster Buck Kinnaird, who died in August 2008.

“I said, ‘How difficult can that be? You don’t have to be an MIT grad to run a scoreboard,’ ” said McEnaney, who retired after the 1979 season.

But he found out that accurately following every single ball and strike for nine innings can be as tricky as it was throwing them.

“I’m the one hitting that button. I’ve got to watch every pitch. And keep in mind every umpire has their own style calling a strike,” he said.

“Sometimes they don’t put the straight-out ‘Strike one.’ They’ll break that elbow in and you got to really watch those guys to see if they’re calling a strike. A lot of time you can hear them. And by the look of the pitch I’m seeing, it looks like a strike to me but an umpire can fool you. They have their own strike zone.”

McEnaney also works the spring training games. He’s friends with Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and he once pitched to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa in the minor leagues.

These days, McEnaney prefers the relaxed atmosphere in the scoreboard booth than the high-pressure World Series games he pitched in for the Reds.

“Running the scoreboard is a piece of cake compared to that,” he said. “Keep in mind, in game 7 (of the 1975 World Series) I was 23 years old. I’d never been put in that position before. I was scared to death.”

McEnaney got Yastrzemski to fly out for the final out, then jumped into the arms of catcher Johnny Bench, an image that wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

For Christmas, John Frost — a PA announcer who works in the same booth as McEnaney — surprised him with a framed cover of that old SI cover. “Its hanging on my wall right now,” he said.

And that’s another thing McEnaney likes about his scoreboard gig: It offers up the same kind of camaraderie he enjoyed years ago with Bench, Tony Perez and Pete Rose, only now he’s hanging out with Frost and PA announcers Dick Sanford and Lou Palmer.

“Those guys really know their baseball. It’s almost like being down in the dugout during the game,” he said.

McEnaney periodically keeps in touch with his old Reds teammates, but he has no burning desire to go to Sun Life Stadium to watch the current Reds.

“I’ll be here,” he said, adding with a laugh: “I would rather go earn money than spend money.”