The Man Behind The Cage: This Pittsburgh Pirates Coach Deserves Some Love


Pittsburgh Pirates Hitting Coach Gregg Ritchie had to be feeling pretty damn good last night heading into the final game of the season with the World Series Champion St Louis Cardinals.  Ritchie’s biggest project of his career was taking shape.  Pedro Alvarez had come alive.

But Pedro’s first at-bat 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.


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?

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.

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