Back with Rangers, Coolbaugh comes full circle
Drafted by Texas in '87, new hitting coach eager to get to work
MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers new hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh met with his players behind closed doors for the first time before Thursday's game with the Twins at Target Field.At one point, the roar of laughter could be heard through the closed doors, reverberating through the rest of the clubhouse. There had been little of that this season during Rangers hitters' scouting meetings. "I just want to let these guys know I want to have open communication so they can feel good about our relationship and trust me," said Coolbaugh, who was a Minor League coach with the Rangers for five seasons before being promoted to the big leagues on Thursday. Former hitting coach Thad Bosley did not have a good relationship with his hitters. He did not have good communication and he did not have a bond of trust. That is what it came down to and why he was dismissed as hitting coach before Wednesday's game with the Tigers. There was no one incident or one "smoking gun" against Bosley. The Rangers were actually performing reasonably well, ranking second in hitting, third in slugging and fourth in runs scored when he was dismissed. They also had the fewest strikeouts. "There was nothing lacking," manager Ron Washington said. "Offense wasn't our problem." But Washington came to realize, as did others, that Bosley did not have a strong relationship with any of his players. Instead, it was the reverse almost across the board and it was becoming a big problem for the Rangers' hitters. "I learned something ... I learned sometimes the fire is bigger than you think," Washington said. "You put out fires every day but sometimes it's bigger than you think." Coolbaugh got the call Wednesday afternoon in Round Rock and immediately headed to Arlington. He arrived at the Ballpark after two innings in Wednesday's game against the Tigers. In the third inning, the Rangers scored four runs. "Talk about making your presence felt," outfielder David Murphy said. Coolbaugh, as a Minor League hitting coach, has worked and learned under both Rudy Jaramillo and Clint Hurdle. They were the two previous hitting coaches before Jaramillo was hired by the Cubs after the 2009 season and Hurdle became the Pirates manager last winter. Coolbaugh wants to reinforce what made the Rangers successful in the past. "Nothing has changed from a team standpoint," Coolbaugh said. "Work the pitchers, move runners over, get guys in from third base, all the little things. On the individual side, get them comfortable with their mechanics and get them comfortable with the plan going into the game. "Everybody knows we have a great lineup. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, I just want guys to feel comfortable around me so they can go out and perform. I'm not saying I can make them better but I can help them get to the point where they can trust me, relax and go out and perform." Coolbaugh said it all comes back to communication. "The first thing to being a good communicator is being a good listener," Coolbaugh said. "These guys are good at letting you know how they feel and you can learn what makes them tick. After that, you can feed off that. The main thing is to listen, be open to ideas and different things. That makes guys feel open to coming around and asking questions: 'What do you see that I'm doing wrong or how do I approach this pitcher.' "You open up like that and now we can talk about how to win a ballgame." For Washington, hitting always comes down to executing the basic fundamentals that he has been preaching since he took over as manager. "That's my thing," Washington said. "The rest is up to him." Coolbaugh gets his chance with the team that took him in the third round out of the University of Texas in 1987. He played in 92 games with the Rangers in 1989-90 before being traded to the Padres in 1991. In all he spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues with those two teams and the Cardinals, and batted .215 in 167 total games. His brother Mike played in parts of 2001 and 2002 with the Brewers and the Cardinals. He was a Minor League coach with the Tulsa Drillers in 2007 when he was hit and killed by a line drive while coaching first base. As a result, all base coaches now have to wear batting helmets while on the field. Both brothers dreamed of being Major League coaches. Scott Coolbaugh discovered his love as a hitting coach and now gets his chance with the Rangers. "It's a tremendous feeling," Coolbaugh said. "I never thought it would happen this quick. To be with the organization that I started with, I feel like I have come full circle. This means a lot, not only for myself but for the Coolbaugh name."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.