"I always felt a little unsatisfied working with the younger guys, so it's been great to work with potential Major League pitchers," Rusch said recently. "Being around them, you get to learn so much."
Rusch, who will be the first-year pitching coach for the Padres' Class A affiliate in Lake Elsinore, hopes to do plenty of teaching as well, not just on the mechanics of pitching, but elements he picked up on during his 17-year professional career.
"You go through so many things as a player and as a young guy, it might seem like it's the other side of the mountain to get to the big leagues," Rusch said. 'But it's not that far away sometimes. I hope I can share all the ups and downs, the experiences I've had."
Rusch, 40, received a call last fall from Padres special assistant Mark Loretta, a former teammate with the Brewers. Loretta wanted to gauge Rusch's interest in coaching. About a month later, another old teammate, former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, called Rusch to schedule an interview.
Prior is in his first season as the organization's Minor League pitching coordinator. Those two, and now Moises Alou -- in his first season as a special assistant in player development -- have certainly given the Minor League side a distinctive Cubs look.
The three were teammates with the Cubs in 2004, when Rusch, a lefty, had a 3.47 ERA in 129 2/3 innings as a starter and reliever. For his career, Rusch was 67-99 with a 5.04 ERA with six teams.
"It was the perfect opportunity for me because of a lot of people here knew me, even though this was my shortest stop [12 games in 2008]," Rusch said. "It's been pretty cool."
Rusch's last season was in 2009 with the Rockies. In all, he pitched for the Royals, Mets, Brewers, Cubs, Padres and Rockies. Rusch picked up a victory in relief in the 2000 National League Championship Series against the Cardinals and later appeared in three games in the World Series against the Yankees.
"It ended up, in terms of longevity, more than I would have thought," Rusch said of his career. "You never know. But to stick around as long as I did, all and all, I'm very satisfied with it."
The same could be said for his decision to jump back into professional baseball in this capacity.
"I'm having an absolute blast," Rusch said. "I knew I'd like it. The kids are awesome. The staff is great. And working in this unique setting with this new regime, an open and progressive way of thinking, it's been a really cool format."