Originally created 11/10/99

Rettenmund replaces Baylor as hitting coach



ATLANTA -- Fresh from signing the Padres' Merv Rettenmund as the Atlanta Braves new hitting coach Tuesday morning, general manager John Schuerholz crossed paths with his counterpart, San Diego GM Kevin Towers, in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif.

"After (Towers) congratulated me for signing Merv, he said, `The players love him. They listen to him, believe in him and love him,' " Schuerholz said. "That's from the guy he used to work for.

"I've been in the game a long time and I know people by the work they do and the reputation they have and the esteem in which they're held, and Rettenmund was at the top of the industry."

Rettenmund, 56, signed a two-year deal worth about $350,000. He spent the last nine years with the Padres, making him the longest-tenured National League hitting coach, and San Diego's offense set club records in several offensive categories in 1997 and 1998.

"This is a different challenge," Rettenmund said. "If we don't win, we're terrible. What a challenge. Every time I've made a change, it's worked out for the best."

After watching the Braves' big-swing offense disappear against the Mets and Yankees in the postseason, it's apparent Schuerholz wanted a hitting coach who stresses bat control, making contact and using the whole field.

"(Schuerholz) said that a million times in talking to him," Rettenmund said. "He wants the ball put in play."

Eight-time NL batting champion Tony Gwynn said Rettenmund would have a tremendous impact on Atlanta's hitters.

"He can make a huge impact there because what he teaches is more basic," Gwynn said. "When you are facing quality pitching, you've got to have some sort of control. You can swing hard, but as the ball comes through you've got to be able to hit different pitches.

"I understand why interest in Merv was so high, because he's the type of hitting coach who can make a difference if you are willing to listen -- and I emphasize that word willing. He can make a huge impact."

Prior to joining the Padres, Rettenmund was the hitting coach for the Oakland A's from 1989-90, the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers from 1983-85 and held a variety of coaching positions in the Angels organization from 1980-82.

"Selfishly, I wanted to keep him," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "I just thought Merv was going to stay. I'm disappointed he's leaving. I thank him for his contributions."

Rettenmund has some big shoes to fill. He replaces Don Baylor, who in his only season as the Braves' hitting coach oversaw an offense that set a franchise record for runs and produced the NL MVP in third baseman Chipper Jones. Baylor was named Chicago Cubs manager two weeks ago.

Rettenmund inherits a lineup that averaged 5.2 runs per game without first baseman Andres Galarraga and catcher Javy Lopez. While admitting he knows Rettenmund only by his reputation, right fielder Brian Jordan stressed the importance of having a hands-on hitting coach in Baylor's mold.

"A hitting instructor that stays on you constantly with drills can definitely help you out tremendously," Jordan said. "The quickest way to get out of a slump is working hard and if you've got a great hitting instructor that's going to stay on your back every at-bat, like Don, it's very important."

Rettenmund spent parts of 13 seasons as a major league outfielder with the Orioles, Reds, Padres and Angels from 1968-80. He led Baltimore with a .322 average in 1970 and holds the San Diego record for most pinch hits in a season with 21 in 1977. He played in the World Series in 1969, 1970 and 1971 with the Orioles and in 1975 with the Reds.