Dent talks about playing hard

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- At face value, Bucky Dent draws few looks from the young ballplayers. He's 57, and it's been 25 years since he was in the majors.

That shiny World Series ring on his finger sure might make Little Leaguers take notice, though.

Dent stopped by another world series on Tuesday, meeting with teams from Warner Robins, Ga., and Staten Island, N.Y., that are getting ready for the Little League U.S. semifinals later this week.

The New Yorkers will play San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday after Texas beat Chula Vista, Calif., 6-3 on Tuesday night. California gets Warner Robins, Ga., in the other U.S. semifinal Thursday.

Dent runs a baseball school in Delray Beach, Fla., and said he stresses that kids play hard and respectfully on the field. Many of the youngsters he meets may know his name, and that Dent played for the New York Yankees, but certainly never saw him play.

That ring always is a topic of discussion.

"Absolutely," the MVP of the 1978 Series said. "That's one thing, I always wear my ring because it's a good conversation piece to lead into a [talk] about what you're supposed to do, and if you want to get there, this is what you have to do."

Famous for his home run that beat Boston in a playoff for the 1978 AL East title, Dent later threw out the first pitch before Tuesday's first game, with Dhahran, Saudi Arabia beating Maracaibo, Venezuela 5-3. He didn't deliver on his pregame promise to throw a strike, hitting catcher Braden Barnett high and outside.

Otherwise, Tuesday served as an anticlimactic end to the pool-play round. All the teams playing had either already been eliminated, or had already advanced and were elbowing for seeding.

Besides the Texas-California game, the only other game of consequence was Reynosa, Mexico's 3-2 win over Taoyuan, Taiwan. Mexico won its bracket and will play Japan in an international semifinal game Wednesday, with Taiwan and Curacao meeting in the other semifinal on Thursday.

Dent was asked during a news conference about comments made by baseball Hall of Famer Jim Rice earlier in the series critical of today's major leaguers. Rice had said today's players, specifically naming Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, didn't compare to players of his generation.

Dent and Rice both played in the '70s and '80s. Rice was in that playoff game where Dent hit a three-run homer off Mike Torrez to lead the Yankees over the Red Sox 5-4 at Fenway Park.

"What he was referring to is how we played the game. You went on the field, and you just played the game. You played hard, you slid hard, and you did the things the right way as far as when were you on the field," Dent said.

As for Jeter, Dent singled out the Yankees' current shortstop as someone who "plays the game right. He's the guy I tell kids to watch."