Imagine being 14 years old and having a major league manager tell you that you’re going on the next road trip.
Or having a big leaguer trade you gloves because he liked yours better than his.
Those are a couple of Creighton pitcher Shane Liska’s memories of growing up around a major league clubhouse.
Liska’s dad, Tony, spent 17 years as the bullpen catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That allowed his son to get his early baseball education by hanging out with major leaguers.
“I have some great memories,’’ Liska said. “I definitely had a blessed childhood.’’
Tony Liska played two seasons of minor league baseball with the New York Mets and San Francisco organizations. One of his teammates at the Class A level with the Mets was Dwight Gooden.
After being released, Tony Liska returned home to Pittsburgh. He was working refueling airplanes when he met Mac Prine, the former owner of the Pirates.
“We were talking one day, and he told me they were looking for a bullpen catcher and that I should check it out,’’ the elder Liska said. “I went to the stadium, caught a couple of pitchers and they told me I had the job.
“At the time, it paid $25 a game. But it was never a job. It kept me in the game. It’s a hard game to give up.’’
Liska, who now works as a letter carrier for the postal system, spent the next 17 seasons warming up pitchers in the bullpen. He got the chance to attend three championship series.
“I got to run the bullpen when the All-Star game was in Pittsburgh,’’ he said.
His position also allowed his son to hang out at the stadium. When Shane was old enough, he got a job as a bat boy for the Pirates.
He remembers one 11-game home stand in which Pittsburgh went 8-3.
“Lloyd McClendon was the manager, and he called me into his office and told me I was coming to Montreal with them,’’ Shane said. “I said, ‘I think you’re going to have to ask my dad about that.’
“My dad said no, that I had to go to school.’’
Another time, one of the Pirates players traded gloves with him. Warren Morris, the hero of the 1996 College World Series, had given Liska one of his gloves. Another player decided he wanted Morris’ old glove.
“He was clanking balls with his,’’ Liska said. “I guess he figured he needed to change it up.’’
Liska said being around major leaguers as a youngster helped shape his approach to baseball.
“You see how guys go about their business on the pro level,’’ he said. “Baseball is their job, and I’ve tried to approach the game the same way. To me, this is my job.
“It was fun being around those guys. I got a chance to build plenty of relationships. You’d think players wouldn’t want to open up and talk to a kid but they loved talking the game with me.’’
Tony Liska said the major league players helped reinforce some of the baseball lessons he tried to teach his son.
“I’ve always told Shane that baseball was a game of failure,’’ he said. “You’re never going to beat the game, and once you understand that, it becomes easier to handle. You’re never going to bat 1.000, you’re not going to strike everyone out.
“I think it really helped Shane to be around guys like Jason Kendall and Kris Benson and some of the other guys. He got a chance to see how they handled themselves on and off the field.’’