Mariners hire Molitor as hitting coach

  • Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, October 30, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – In the process of hiring one great hitter, the Seattle may be close to retaining another for 2004.

The Mariners announced Thursday that they have hired Paul Molitor, who had 3,319 hits in a 21-year major league career that may land him in the Hall of Fame next year, as their hitting coach.

And in a related matter, the Mariners say indications are positive that designated hitter Edgar Martinez will put off retirement at least a year and play in 2004.

Mariners manager Bob Melvin said Martinez has been working out at Safeco Field and became enthused when he heard Molitor was interviewing for the hitting coach job.

“The message from Edgar was, ‘What are we waiting for? As long as we have him here, let’s hire him,’” Melvin said.

Melvin wouldn’t say that Martinez has told the club what he will do next year, but said with caution that all signs are positive.

“It may be because everybody wants it to be positive,” Melvin said. “We haven’t heard anything negative. You look at what he produced last season (24 home runs, 98 RBI) and figure if the fire is there, he’s going to do it.”

Molitor, asked if he could influence Martinez’s decision to return, politely declined but also shed light on what may happen.

“I’ll leave that in other hands, but I’ve heard it’s headed in a positive direction,” Molitor said.

Molitor, 47, agreed to a one-year contract for the job that became vacant when Lamar Johnson was fired one day after the final game of the season. The Mariners also are believed to have been interested in Hal McRae, Dwayne Murphy, Chili Davis and Leon Lee.

The interviews already had begun when outgoing general manager Pat Gillick, who was GM in Toronto during Molitor’s three seasons there, talked with Molitor to gauge his interest in the opening.

“We really didn’t know that Paul would be available, but when Pat talked to him and found out there was some interest, we got him to Seattle,” Melvin said. “We’re talking about a special player who knows how to talk it as well. We feel like we’ve taken a great step in the right direction in hiring a guy like him.”

During his playing days with the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays, there were few hitters of Molitor’s equal.

He finished with a .306 career batting average and his best season was when he hit .353 in 1987. Molitor is a former World Series MVP, batted .300 or better in 12 seasons and placed in the top 10 in batting average 11 times. Molitor had a 39-game hitting streak in 1987 with the Brewers.

He is expected to be voted into the Hall of Fame next year, the first time he will be eligible.

Molitor retired in 1998 and was the Twins’ bench coach for two years. Last season he was the Twins’ minor league baserunning and infield coordinator.

Molitor said he became more interested recently in returning to the major league level but realized that the Twins wouldn’t break up a coaching staff on a team that won two straight AL Central Division titles.

When Gillick called this time, Molitor listened. During his two-hour interview, he left the Mariners with little doubt that he could handle the job.

“You got the impression this wasn’t the only job he can do,” Melvin said. “He could be a bench coach, third-base coach and, obviously, hitting coach. There’s a very high ceiling for him as a coach.”

Molitor says his approach is to keep things simple and positive.

“Hitting to me is a lot more about simplifying things,” he said. “Generally, a good hitting coach is someone who knows his hitters well, knows what they do that makes them successful and can recognize when they get away from those things.

“I want to be positive and I want to be available to them. A lot of guys make a lot of money, but it’s amazing how many guys need that reaffirmation on a regular basis.”

Melvin believes the Mariners’ veteran hitters will respond to Molitor because of his background and knowledge of hitting.

“Not only was he successful, he went about it the right way,” Melvin said. “It’ll bring instant respect into the clubhouse.”

Molitor said he probably will come to Seattle in January, when many players work out at Safeco Field, and spend time getting to know them before spring training begins.

Among those he hopes to connect with is Martinez, who may not realize the impact he had on Molitor’s career.

“Edgar was one of the few guys who I would stay in the dugout to watch hit,” Molitor said. “He’s a guy I thought I could learn from just by watching him take batting practice.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Grading the Seahawks in their 37-27 win over the Panthers

Seattle turns in a solid all-around performance in front of the 2013 Super Bowl winners.

Monroe’s Mason Davis (1) celebrates with Trent Bublitz (11) after Bublitz’s touchdown reception against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Edmonds School District Stadium in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader poll: Make your picks for Week 5 prep football games

Do you think you can beat the experts in our weekly high… Continue reading

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Most Read