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Maury Wills says this is his last spring training as a Los Angeles Dodgers instructor

Maury Wills says this is his last spring training as a Los Angeles Dodgers instructor
Maury Wills, right, speaks with a fellow Dodgers coach during a spring training baseball workout on Feb. 22. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Dodgers legend Maury Wills expects this to be his final spring as an instructor with the club, he told The Times on Thursday.

Wills, 83, has yet to inform the Dodgers of his decision but said he was at peace with it.

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"I'm a very spiritual person and I feel like I've received the message that it's about that time," Wills said.

Wills has spent nearly two decades — from Vero Beach, Fla., to Camelback Ranch in Arizona — teaching Dodgers players the finer points of bunting and base running.

The field he teaches on is aptly named Maury's Pit.

"I can't run like I used to, my body is not as alive as it used to be, but it is such a thrill teaching," he said. "Success is not to just keep for ourselves but to eventually pass it onto someone else and, in fact, giving it away is how you keep it."

Wills said he chose to play baseball after he saw the impact that Jackie Robinson made on the community Wills grew up in Washington, D.C.

The Dodgers signed him in 1951 and he spent nearly nine years in the minor leagues.

In 1960, he started his first full season as the Dodgers' shortstop and led the National League with 50 stolen bases.

Two years later, Wills was named the league's most valuable player after stealing 104 bases, breaking Ty Cobb's 47-year-old record.

He was a key player on Dodgers teams that won the World Series in 1963 and 1965, stealing 94 bases in 1965.

Dodgers instructor Maury Wills explains his teaching methods at spring training.

Wills retired as a Dodger after 14 seasons in the major leagues, including brief stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Expos. He won three World Series, two Gold Glove awards and was a five-time All-Star.

"My love for the game enabled me to put all of that together," he said.

Wills managed the Seattle Mariners during parts of the 1980 and 1981 seasons before he was fired. He struggled with substance abuse in the mid-80s but has been sober since 1989.

The Dodgers welcomed him back in 2000.

Two years later, he was tutoring Dave Roberts, a then-29-year-old outfielder who had been acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians.

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Roberts asked to wear Wills' No. 30. "He wanted to wear my No. 30," Wills told The Times in 2002. "Isn't that something?"

Roberts is preparing for his first season as the Dodgers manager while Wills is going through his final spring training.

"What am I going to do for the rest of my life?" Wills said, repeating a reporter's question. "And I have a lot of life to live yet. Well, maybe I can be for some young ball players what Jackie Robinson was for me and carry the message of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team."

Twitter: @lindseythiry

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