Yankees Hitting Coach Alan Cockrell Facing New Challenges
Yankees hitting coach, Alan Cockrell would be considered typical of modern day instructors in that he had a total of eight at-bats in a major league uniform, and that was when he was 33. The challenges facing him this year will differ from those he faced during his first season with the Yankees in 2016. Here’s a profile of the man who is charged with meeting those challenges in 2017.
Yankees hitting instructors of the past have included names like Mickey Mantle (1970), Don Mattingly (2004-2006), and Joe Pepitone (1982). All of whom are names easily associated with the Yankees and recognizable to nearly all fans. But Alan Cockrell, where did he come from?
Cockrell was hired in November 2015 at the age of 52 when the Yankees elevated him from Assistant Hitting Coach and promoted Marcus Thames from hitting coach at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to be Cockrell’s assistant. Ironically, Jeff Pentland, the man he replaced, gave him a ringing endorsement telling the New York Post at the time:
"“I fully expect him to be able to do it. I love the guy. Alan is very good. Every chance I get, I pump him up. If I didn’t stay in the job, I wanted him to get it.’’ “He is a veteran guy, he has been around and I think the players accepted him. I think we were a great team.’’"
When Cockrell first took over, the team was still primarily composed of well-tooled veterans who over the course of their careers had probably heard just about everything when it comes to instruction from any number of hitting coaches along the way. So It was with a high level of enthusiasm that. Cockrell spent a considerable amount of his time with last season with Didi Gregorius, and the results were nothing less than spectacular.
When asked by NJ.com to provide an assessment of his work for last year, “Good and bad,” Cockrell said when requested to describe his first year as the Yankees hitting coach when the team was in Toronto in late September. “I’ll leave it at that.”
However, when Joe Girardi was asked Cockrell’s performance, his endorsement came through loud and definite:
“I think he’s had a lot of different hitters,” Girardi said. “He’s had a lot of age groups he’s had to deal with. He works extremely hard. He has a tremendous amount of knowledge about hitting. He’s done a good job.”[/blockquote
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The elephant in the room once Spring Training begins has to be Aaron Judge, who went into a tailspin of epic proportions before his season ended with an injury in September. Cockrell will need to make some pretty quick decision on Judge as to whether it’s something mechanical or mental that caused things to go sideways. No doubt, he’s already been in the video room spending hours going over the kid’s at-bats before and after the slide.
But hitting coaches are usually only as good as the willingness of their students to learn from someone else. Because after, these guys have been exalted as stars since the day they set foot on a ballfield. Many of them have never tasted failure. And the tendency for them to think that they can solve and combat anything that comes their way runs high with many players.
The Yankees Coaches Are On The Hot Seat Too
A hitting coach, then, has as his first and foremost challenge not only to get their attention but to win their confidence at the same time. Some will get it, and some won’t. And for that reason, teams are more likely to give up on a hitting coach well before they give up on (for example only) an Aaron Judge, with whom they’ve already invested a considerable amount of money and time for his future with the team.
And in that sense, you might say that hitting coaches are a lot like umpires. If you notice them, it’s probably not because they’ve done something good.
So very much like Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, Alan Cockrell will be on the hot seat as the Yankees attempt to get their young players comfortable and productive in their new roles as full-time major league players.
Next: Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild Is On The Hot Seat Too
At the moment, Cockrell has the full backing of the Yankees organization. But how this develops becomes just another one of those intriguing sub-plots for the 2017 season that will be absorbing and fun watch.