So Long Man Behind the Cage, An Ode to Pittsburgh Pirates Hitting Coach Gregg Ritchie


Gregg Ritchie said he hasn’t spent a summer at home since he was fifteen years old.  Baseball consumed Ritchie and now it seems he is in a comfortable place where he seems determined to make a difference.  Good for him.

Ritchie took some shit as the Pittsburgh Pirates Hitting Coach, but after the 2012 season, the man deserves a tip of the cap.  He is headed to George Washington University where he will be the ball coach with one hell of a coaching staff.  We wish him the best.

We wrote about Ritchie earlier this year and we couldn’t help but think of him as we watched the St. Louis Cardinals battle the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.  Especially after we realized how much more fun it was to watch the Cards when Pedro Alvarez was making them his bitch.

Here is part of the article and a link to the Baseball America story on Ritchies’ new gig at GW.

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Ritchie’s biggest project of his career was taking shape. Pedro Alvarez had come alive.

El Toro’s first at-bat against St. Louis was unimpressive.

Not to worry, the next time up, the Cardinals seemed to pitch around Garrett Jones to get to El Toro. For reasons we will never know or understand, Alvarez just doesn’t get respect from the Cards.

Not to worry.

As the big bull trotted around the bases with his 26th bomb of the season, surely St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny was wondering what he had just done. Nobody had a more sly smile than Gregg Ritchie in the Bucs dugout.

The Pirates never looked back and Alvarez ripped a double later in the game for good measure.

Alvarez had an awful spring training this year. Do you remember the toe tap? The dropping of the toe tap? It all seemed to point to disaster for the Pirates slugger.

Hardly.

Alvarez has delivered in a big way this season. Pedro has reached base safely in 12-of-his-past-13 games during which he is 19-for-45 with ten walks. Just look at his numbers in August, he is hitting over .300. Slugging is strong. On base is tops.

Let’s not forget that his hitting coach has played a big part. Just imagine how many videos he has watched of the Pirates players.

Can you imagine watching video after video of Clint Barmes and Rod Barjas? Damn it must be a bit painful. But even Barmes is hitting better this month–around .285 (22-for-77) coming into the game last night.

Remember that great article on SI this year that talked about how Ritchie helped McCutchen back in the minors?

Grant Halverson-US PRESSWIRE

93.7 The Fan interviewed Ritchie yesterday. Here it is. It’s loaded with some great information including how much he works in looking at the at-bats of his players. Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and Garrett Jones are specifically discussed.

When asked about Pedro in the interview, it’s more than just the long ball.

“The most impressive thing has been the consistency of every at-bat.” Gregg Ritchie, Pittsburgh Pirates Hitting Coach

When asked about how in the world Pedro swatted that low, inside pitch over the North Side Notch.

“….it’s a special thump he has in the bat….” Gregg Ritchie

Ritchie downplayed the pressure, he talked about a consistency in his performance. He said that the Chapman fastball had no impact on Andrew McCutchen.

“Cutch was ready to roll for his next at-bat. He wanted another at-bat against him (Chapman.)” Gregg Ritchie.

It’s a good listen from a coach who hasn’t received much recognition for some of the tremendous improvement in the Pirates offense. Take a quick look–Andrew McCutchen is better. Neil Walker is better. Garrett Jones is better. Pedro. Jose Tabata is stinging line drives again. Michael McKenry has had tough luck lately, but his power stroke that he showed in the minors is evident once again. The list of improvements is long and Gregg Ritchie always seems to be the quiet man in the background watching every swing.

The guy deserves some love. The next game we attend, we’re going to be sure and give him a shout out. You should too.

Not that Ritchie would soak in any of the credit anyway, but still, it’s well deserved. I doubt we will get a reaction, the man seems real comfortable just reaching out his hand to congratulate his hitters when they jog back to the Pirates dugout after scoring another run.

August 28, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) receives congratulations from Pittsburgh Pirates batting coach Gregg Ritchie (58) after hitting a two run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Video of Ritchie working with Chris Leroux and Daniel McCutchen in the cages at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.

Yeh, the Bucs struck out a ton this season, but it makes me wonder just how much Ritchie would be able to improve upon that deficiency next season.  We won’t find out.  I’m happy we won’t, if only because it seems Ritchie went out about as much on top as a Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach could over the past 20 years.

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From the BA article:

“A lot of people say, ‘That’s the major leagues,’ ” said Ritchie, who was introduced as GW’s new coach last week. “Yeah, you’re right, that’s the major leagues. It’s a great, fantastic thing—it’s unbelievable. It’s the pinnacle of the baseball world, really. But at the same time, spending all that time away from your family, wanting to become a better father . . . This is a great opportunity to do something you really love, and do it somewhere you really love, and be home with your family at the same time. That’s the trifecta. It made it a lot easier decision.

“I know some people don’t understand it, but when it’s family, it made it easier.”

 

Here is the rest:  Gregg Ritchie Sets Out Bold Vision For GW  Baseball America

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