Feb 12, 2015

New York Mets Hitting Coach: Dave Hudgens (2011-2014)

David Mark Hudgens was born on December 5, 1956 in Oroville, California. Hudgens was a star athlete in high school, first getting picked as the New York Mets number one pick in 1975 & then the Milwaukee Brewers 18th round pick in 1977, but did not sign either time.

The left hand hitting outfielder chose to attend the great baseball school of Arizona State University, where he appeared in two College World Series with the Sun Devils. In four years at ASU he hit .313 with 16 HRs & 135 RBIs. Eventually he signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1979 as an amateur free agent. He hit .291 with 26 HRs & 86 RBIs in 127 games at A ball Modesto in his first season. He was promoted to AA Chattanooga in 1980 but was back in A ball in 1981.

By 1983 he reached AAA Tacoma hitting 21 HRs with 72 RBIs, getting a big league September call up. He debuted on September 4th, 1983 going 0-1 as a pinch hitter. He played six games, getting his only hit on September 25th in a 8-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. It was his only season as a player in the major leagues.

After spending 1984 in the minors, he got an offer to run Oakland Class A affiliate; Pocatello in the Pioneer League. He took the job, ending his playing days. He then led A ball Medford, to the Finals in 1988, in the Northwest League. He even spent a year outside of baseball selling real estate.

He rejoined Oakland in 1996 as the Alderson on base percentage regime was about to begin & the so called MoneyBall era by the Bay. He served as the Assistant Director of Player Development for Oakland from 1996-1998 and from 2000-2002. In 1999 he was the second place A's hitting coach, under Art Howe, bringing the team to a .355 on base % (fourth best in the league) while batting just .259 (13th in the league).

He was back as A's hitting instructor in 2003 under Ken Macha, as the A's won the West but lost the ALDS to the Boston Red Sox. The A's finished second the next two years but despite winning 88 games or more, did not make the playoffs. Both years they improved to fifth in the league in on base %.

From there he went to the Cleveland Indians organization & managed in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues through 2011. Hudgens has been a steady disciple of Sandy Alderson & his on base percentage theories. When Alderson was named the New York Mets G.M. Hudgens was hired & got the job as Mets hitting instructor under Manager Terry Collins.

His philosophy is simple, "Hunt your pitch. We want to do damage in the middle of the plate. If he doesn't give you your pitch? We're walking to first base.". Runners on base leads to runs being scored & that's how games are won offensively.

In his first year the Mets went from 14th in the league in on base % to second. The team had a good first half of 2012 but fell apart in all categories in the second half & the hitting stats dropped off drastically. The Mets finished with a .249 average (10th in the NL) with a .316 on base % (11th in the NL).

In 2013 the club finished fourth, falling to 14th in batting (.237) & 12th in on base % (.306%). Players like Marlon Byrd who had an outstanding comeback year, credited Hudgens for his success.

In 2014 after Hudgens was fired into the second month of the season. His patient style of hitting had long been criticized by many including Keith Hernandez in the broadcast booth. Hudgens blamed Hernandez & Team ownership for his dismissal afterwards. Hudgens claimed he had a good relationship with the players & G.M. Sandy Alderson. The two go back to their years in Oakland together.

Hudgens was hired as the Houston Astros hitting coach for 2015 under new team manager A.J. Hinch. 

Trivia: Hudgens has a DVD instructional hitting series set called Hitting for Excellence, hitting.com.

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