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The New York Mets are reaping the benefits of what former Arizona coach Jerry Kindall experienced having Kevin Long in his Wildcat lineup in the late 1980’s.
Hitting, hitting and more hitting.
Long, in his first year as the Mets’ hitting coach, is headed to the World Series following New York’s completion of a four-game sweep of the Cubs tonight in the National League Championship Series. Another former Arizona player, Pat Roessler, a member of the 1980 NCAA title team, is the Mets’ assistant hitting coach.
Long won a World Series title as the New York Yankees’ hitting coach in 2009. The Yankees fired him after last season following eight years with the major-league club as a fall guy because New York did not reach the playoffs for the second consecutive year. He was let go despite the Yankees having the second-most runs in baseball during his tenure.
Roessler, the Yankees’ director of player development from 2005 to 2014, was also fired. Long hired him as his assistant with the Mets this season.
Long, a prolific hitting center fielder during his Arizona days, is in the World Series while the Yankees are at home again.
“I don’t have any hard feelings for the Yankees and what happened there,” Long told ESPN.com on Sunday. “I’m just pleased that we’re playing right now and there’s only four teams left. That’s the satisfaction I get.”
In the postseason, the Mets have defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dynamic duo Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and also the Cubs’ top two pitchers Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. In the four games against the Cubs,the Mets tallied 21 runs and 35 hits. Daniel Murphy, the Mets’ second baseman, has homered in six straight postseason games, a major-league record.
Turns out Kevin Long moving Murphy closer to the plate might have been a smart move.
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The Mets finished seventh in the National League in runs scored with 654 during the regular season. But in the second half, after several important acquisitions, the Mets scored the most runs in the league at 373.
Long and hitting are synonymous dating more than 30 years to when he starred at Phoenix Thunderbird High School.
Long still holds the Arizona record for most extra-base hits in a game (five against UCLA on April 4, 1988) and ranks in the top 10 in several different statistical categories (second, extra-base hits; sixth, doubles; seventh, multi-hit games; eighth, total bases; ninth, runs scored).
Kindall amassed one of Arizona’s best single-season group of players when the Wildcats won what was called the Six-Pac in 1989, the baseball conference of the Pac-10 at that time. Included on that team were highly-productive players such as Long, infielder Trevor Hoffman (went on to become a Hall of Fame caliber reliever in the majors), first baseman J.T. Snow, pitcher Scott Erickson, catcher Alan Zinter and outfielder Damon Mashore.
Erickson, Long, Hoffman, Snow and Zinter were all first-team all-conference selections. Long was a second-team All-American that season.
All of them, including Mashore (Dodgers minor-league hitting coordinator), are still involved with baseball.
Erickson and Snow will provide commentary on Pac-12 baseball games for the Pac-12 Networks this season.
Zinter is Houston’s assistant hitting coach.
Hoffman is the senior advisor for baseball operations, overseeing pitching instruction at all levels of the Padres’ minor league system.
Imagine the text messages exchanged tonight between those guys and Long with Long headed back to the World Series.
I vote Kevin Long for MVP. #DontFireKevinLong
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale was a teammate of Long’s during Arizona’s NCAA title season of 1986 when Hale was a junior and Long was a freshman.
“He was a battler,” Hale told The Arizona Daily Star in July. “He was one of those guys who was there to help everyone else out. He was just a great kid, who was still a freshman and learning.”
Long carries on that work ethic with the Mets, providing what he’s learned in a life full of baseball to New York’s lineup.
“He’s made a huge impact on our offense,” Mets manager Terry Collins told NJ.com recently. “He watches countless hours of film. He breaks down every single at-bat, all year long.
“When we’re done hitting, Kevin goes up and watches the video of the inning before and picks out not just perhaps the mechanics of the swing, but how they’re being pitched, how can we get to this guy.”
Collins has fired and reassigned his previous two hitting coaches, Dave Hudgens and Lamar Johnson, respectively, in the last two years. No such move will happen this season.
“I tell you, our guys are ready to go when the game starts,” Collins said. “I think his passion to be a hitting coach, which is a hard job, and these guys all buy into it. They buy into what he does. He’s got some drills they do and they talk lingo during the game about these drills.”
Following only one season, the Yankees fired Long’s replacement, Jeff Pentland, after their season concluded.
“There’s times where there’s got to be somebody to take the fall,” Long told ESPN.com. “Somebody takes the blame. It’s easy to point fingers at hitting coaches or pitching coaches or managers. Baseball is such a streaky game. You’re going to go through ups and downs.
“here’s always going to be a time where you can point to the offense or point to the pitching or point to the manager for maybe not pushing the right buttons. So, yeah, there’s some volatility involved in this game and you just kind of have to fight through it.”