Outfielder Scott Hairston remembered working with new hitting coach Rick Schu when he was battling back and forth between Triple-A Tucson and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004 and 2005.
Hairston remembered a hitting coach that communicated well with the players and knew his craft.
“It was good with Rick,” Hairston said. “I think he is good at communication. From what I remember, he really didn’t say much right away until he saw you hit in the cage or in a game.
“It wasn’t always information overload with him. I think from what I remember, and it was years ago, he had a really, really good relationship with the players. The players liked him.”
Hairston also felt sadness and empathy for fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who was in his fifth year with the organization.
“It is sad to see Rick Eckstein leave,” Hairston said. “Rick was good and a great person. He came from a great family. It is sad it is part of the game. I wish him well.”
Hairston said being the hitting coach means understanding the approach of dozens of ball players, and what they want to do at the plate. Hairston believes Schu has the ability to work with all of them and get them to succeed. He said his “hands off” approach early was comfortable to work with.
“It is different depending on the player,” Hairston said. “I don’t remember him being a mechanical guy, he was more of a approach (guy). Everybody on the team, we are different types of hitters. He has an understanding of that.
“He is very knowledgeable. I think he tries to learn what that certain player can do. He just goes off of that, which is good. He was very encouraging from what I remember. He had confidence in our abilities. He always reminded us to have confidence in our abilities.”
First baseman Chad Tracy also had experience working with Schu in Arizona and good things to say about the veteran hitting instructor.
“He’s a great guy, another great guy,” Tracy said. “He’s fun to be around, keeps the mood light, but at the same time, he’s another hard worker. He’s going to be there for us to do whatever we need to do to get prepared.”
Several minor league pitchers have told me in the past that when dealing with a pitching coach, they appreciate the coach that observes and offers small notes of advice instead big mechanical overhauls to what you have been doing for years. That is what Hairston admires in Schu as a hitting coach.
“That made a big impression on me,” Hairston said. “I like that about Rick Schu. It was the right type of balance between information, encouragement and work. It flowed really good. It was years ago, but hopefully we will have that same experience with him this time around.
Tracy hopes that maybe a change like this will also break the tense feeling in the clubhouse with the team struggling to score runs.
“I agree with you that things happen sometimes just to change the mood around the clubhouse,” Tracy said. “I don’t think anybody can blame Rick Eckstein for any of the woes that we’ve had on the offensive side.
“And Rick Schu, he’s been around a lot of us, so he knows our swings. I’m sure he’s probably looking at a lot of them on video as we speak to try to get familiar before he gets here. It may change the atmosphere around here. And it may not. We don’t know. But we’ll move on and flip the page and keep playing baseball.”