Sunday, March 21, 2004

Molitor not intimidated with tasks as hitting coach

By Tim Korte
The Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. - The new hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners knows a thing or two about his trade.

Paul Molitor finished his 21-year playing career with 3,319 hits, ranking eighth all-time. He had a .306 lifetime batting average, drove in 1,307 runs and was MVP of the 1993 World Series.

Did we mention he's going into the Hall of Fame this summer?

"He brings instant credibility to the job before he even steps into the uniform," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said.

But Molitor believes he's taking a step into the unknown. This is his first full-time coaching job away from the Minnesota organization, where he broke in as a bench coach four years ago.

"I don't have any unique philosophies or styles that I'm going to bring," Molitor said. "It's more just trying to get to know these guys and get them on track, to be as consistent as they can."

Many hitting coaches could get intimidated in a situation of working with hitters such as Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud and Bret Boone.

But not Molitor.

Molitor has been spending time in the clubhouse talking to hitters, learning their daily routines and asking what gives them difficulties when they struggle. He reminds them that even the best have room to improve.

"If I can help with the mental approach to the game, I think that will be a strength," Molitor said.

The path to the job came through Pat Gillick, the former Seattle general manager who held the same position in Toronto when Molitor played there. It wasn't long before Melvin knew he'd found his man.

There's been plenty of talk in recent years that Molitor would make a fine manager, but he insists he's not looking beyond this season.

"It's a position that requires fire and passion, when you're ready to take it by the horns and run with it," he said. "I just haven't had the situation or timing in my life, considering personal and family issues, that have made it right yet."

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