The hit list: Mechanics key for hitting coach Lee Stevens
Mechanics key for hitting coach Lee Stevens
Lee Stevens remained around the game of baseball after he retired from his playing career.
That made him want to get back into it even more.
“I had this conversation with my wife, literally for years, and it kind of just came to me maybe the time is now,” Stevens said.
Stevens, 45, got in touch with a couple of contacts through his playing days and had a couple of interviews with the Rockies. Stevens replaced Drew Saylor, who is now the manager at Class A short season Tri-City (Wash.), as the Grand Junction Rockies hitting coach.
“I’m very lucky and fortunate that the team in my backyard is willing to give me a chance at this,” Stevens said. “I’m going to do the best I can with this.”
Stevens played 17 seasons in pro ball, including 10 in the major leagues before he retired in 2003. He played first base and outfield with the California Angels (1990-1992), Texas Rangers (1996-99), Montreal Expos (2000-02) and Cleveland Indians (2002). Stevens played in Japan from 1992 to 1996. He batted .254 and hit 144 home runs in the big leagues.
After he retired, Stevens moved to Denver and gave private lessons. He was an assistant coach at Highlands Ranch High School for five years, then gave private lessons the past four years.
“Coaching high school was a great experience,” Stevens said. “You develop relationships with the guys. After three or four years, I wanted a little bit more. I wanted to see that professional level again.
“This will be my first opening day since 2002, so I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to it.”
Stevens is looking forward to building relationships with players and helping them learn how to handle difficult situations and carry themselves on and off the field as much as teaching them the art of hitting.
“My career was 17 years, but I swear it feels like it was 15 minutes,” he said. “I can’t believe I’ve been retired for 10 years. I wish I opened my eyes a little bit more.”
Stevens plans to keep the Grand Junction Rockies’ hitters swings intact.
“Mechanically, I start from the feet up, balance and using the whole field,” Stevens said. “A lot of these guys have what they have, so I want to work with what they have and try to get them to use the whole field.
“The last thing you want to think about when you’re up there in the batter’s box is mechanics. That’s what all the early work is for. Now their focus is on the pitcher. You can take a bad swing and hit a good pitch if your approach is good.”
He believes switching from aluminium bats to wood bats is more of a mental block than a hurdle.
“I’ve never bought into that (hitting wood for the first time),” Stevens said. “Maybe it’s just me, but I picked up a wood bat and started hitting. I think that’s a distraction to them. They need to get over that.
“The bats they’re using now in college, wood bats are better in my opinion,” Stevens said. “The sooner I can convince them, they’ll have more carry and hit the ball harder with this wood bat. If I can change their psyche a little bit, they’ll get over it.”
Dick Monfort’s son, Sterling Monfort, will get a chance to get his coaching feet wet with the Grand Junction Rockies.
Monfort, 22, graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in hotel management. He played on the Arizona State club baseball team.
“I’ve always been interested in the scouting department,” Monfort said, “seeing all these kids at this age develop into major-league talent.”