Texas Rangers' hitting coach has pupils swinging praises

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In an effort to spend more time with his two children, Scott Coolbaugh left the baseball coaching profession and started a construction business in 2005.

His business did well, building housing units in Mansfield and Keller. But Coolbaugh's baseball itch came back, and he found the ideal situation staying close to home by becoming the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers' Double A affiliate in Frisco.

Similar to players, Coolbaugh has risen through the Rangers' organization, and has quickly established himself as a major league hitting coach. The Rangers led the major leagues in average (.294), home runs (138) and slugging percentage (.477) after Coolbaugh took over as hitting coach, replacing Thad Bosley midway through last season.

It's been quite a ride for Coolbaugh, who is in his first spring training as the Rangers' main hitting instructor. He doesn't have any regrets about leaving behind his business, either.

"Dealing with subcontractors or dealing with hitters?" Coolbaugh said. "I'll take hitters all day long."

Coolbaugh has worked with every type of professional hitter. He spent five seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization with stints as their High A and Double A manager.

He joined the Rangers as the Double A hitting coach, then moved up to Triple A in 2010 and was promoted to the majors on June 8 of last year.

From a hitter's perspective, there are challenges at every level. Coolbaugh focused on the mechanical side of the swing in High A. At Double A, it's more about teaching game management and understanding how to approach different situations.

At Triple A and the major league level, there are only minor swing adjustments that need to be made. Therefore, Coolbaugh has dedicated most of his time to the mental approach.

"It's really about attacking the pitcher and knowing what the game is asking you to do," Coolbaugh said. "The last half of the year last year and now this year, it's about getting the guys in that mental frame of playing as a team, and trusting one another and picking each other up."

That approach has won approval.

David Murphy struggled in the first half of last season, batting .247, but finished strong with a .308 average in the second half.

"Hitting is a difficult part of baseball, but he brings a very relaxed atmosphere to it," Murphy said. "He's not going to try and do a complete makeover of your swing. He's there to help you, and he's been very encouraging. And I think he's only going to continue to get better."

Nelson Cruz echoed Murphy's sentiments. Cruz had a rough first half last year, too, batting .243 before finishing with a .292 average in the second half.

"We love him," Cruz said. "The way he works, he makes everything simple. We feel more comfortable at the plate."

Added manager Ron Washington: "The most important thing that I like is he talks execution. He's been able to get the message across that we've got to do more than just hit the ball out of the ballpark."

Coolbaugh believes all of the batters have looked good so far through the early parts of spring training, and should put up impressive offensive numbers again this season.

And, while most fans know about the Josh Hamiltons and Michael Youngs on offense, Coolbaugh has been pleasantly surprised by the utility infielder candidates.

He mentioned Yangervis Solarte, who has two home runs, and Greg Miclat and Luis Hernandez as under-the-radar players swinging the bat well. Coolbaugh also has been impressed with top hitting prospect Mike Olt.

"Very impressive player," Coolbaugh said. "He's a kid that goes out there and puts together good at-bats. He's going to be a tremendous player. Your first impression is always big, and I think he's put together a nice first impression."

Coolbaugh put together a nice first impression himself last season.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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