Rick Eckstein talks new gig, bro’s involvement …

Rick EcksteinThe Angels have announced the hiring of Rick Eckstein as their Major League player information coach, essentially a hybrid role that will be part-on-field coaching and part-scouting, per se. Eckstein lives with his wife and 6-month-old daughter in Central Florida and will be uprooting the family to Southern California for the summer. He already got a congratulatory text message from Albert Pujols, who he worked with briefly in St. Louis, and he’s already thinking about his brother, revered Angels shortstop David Eckstein, taking on more responsibilities with the same club. 

Below is a partial transcript of a phone conversation with Rick Eckstein …

On his new role … 

It’s kind of a multi-faceted role. The player information coach title, per se, has many, many arms to it. First and foremost, I’ll be taking advanced scouting reports and working through them, and then getting the information to Mike [Scioscia] and the staff, and just talking about tendencies or positioning of the defense. And anything. Matchups, whether it’s our pitchers against their hitters or their pitchers against our hitters. And just working with other members of the staff, whether it be Don [Baylor] or [Mike] Butcher or even Scioscia on a general tendency. They asked me just to set the defense and talk to each of the guys and put that into place. During batting practice, I’ll be hitting fungos and throwing batting practice and being with the team, and basically doing whatever Sosh or the staff members need me to do. When the game starts, I will actually go up top and I will watch us go through the game. I will watch not only our players, but who we’re playing against, look at tendencies, to make sure we’re defending the field the way we talked about defending the field, per each guy that we’re defending against. Sosh said, ‘I just want your insight. I want what you see, I want you to be an eye in the sky, and give me what you see of our club, what you think. We’re going to implement some of the computerized tendencies that you see.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing previous to this position. It’s exciting, because it’s a chance to be a little bit of this, a little bit of that, being able to work and assist everyone on the staff. I’m very excited about that opportunity.

 On previous experience in a similar role …

When you come up through the Minor Leagues, as every coach has done, you do a little bit of everything. You’re the hitting coach, you’re the defensive coach, you’re the positioning coach. You’re doing a lot. But even with Team USA, when I was with Davey Johnson, making our way through the World Cups and the Beijing Olympics, all that, my job, my role, was to take all the advanced reports and break those down to understand our opponent, how we’re going to defend the field, to talk with our pitching coach, whether it be Marcel Lachemann, who’s with the Angels, and we would just talk about the opposing team and how we’re going to go about gameplan, per guy. It’s been a role that in several instances I’ve done before.

 On what appealed to him about this job … 

This role opens up more doors. It shows people that I can think the game, it shows people that I’m more than just a hitting coach. Not to knock any hitting coach, but just to say my aspirations lie beyond just being a hitting coach. I want more. And when this opportunity came, Scisocia and Jerry [Dipoto] were both telling me, ‘Wow, we look at your background and we look at your resume, your experience and what you’ve done, this role, you’re still going to be on the field coaching, and you’re going to help us do things that we feel we need to do, and you’re also going to be our eye in the sky and take a look at our club and break us down.’ So I think it’s going to open up doors to show people what I can do. And I’m excited about that. And to be on such a proud organization – really, the way I see it, we’re right there. There’s a ton of talent in the system, and I’m just looking forward to being a piece of the puzzle to put it all together.

On why this sort of role is becoming a trend in baseball … 

Because there’s so much information out there. When you’re watching a pitching coach prepare to be ready for a series, I mean there’s so much information out there, that for him to do it by himself, it’s tough. And so now, this player-information coach is a role that will allow people – it’s communication and trust, and you’re building a relationship to where if Mike Scioscia’s got his mind on one thing and Mike Butcher has his mind on something else and Don is over there working with a hitter and I’m in the background doing other type of work, to say, ‘Hey, this is what I think,’ whatever. It helps strengthn the system, and it gives you another pair of eyes on what’s going on and what they see. With how we’re going to communicate, and everybody’s opinion being brought to the table, it can only strengthen the system. And I think a lot of clubs are going to that.’

On being let go as Nats hitting coach in July …

It’s part of the industry. I put my heart and soul into it, I was with the organization for nine years, and going on five in the big leagues. To go through that experience is never easy, but at the end of the day, you come out of it a little wiser, a little stronger, and focused as to what you’re going to do. I appreciate everything Washington did for me. I want to show people that I can be a Major League coach, a Major League hitting coach, and a valued member of the staff. And we went from last place to first place in 2012 in our division. So to be a part of that process and that growth, I feel very blessed. And now, moving forward, I feel like this is an outstanding opportunity for me in my career, and I’m looking so much forward to that, I can’t even put into words how excited I am.

On his brother, David, being more involved with the Angels …

He definitely wants to get more involved. He has a lot of offers to do stuff. He’s committed to his wife, Ashley, and her business. … He’s been involved with Team USA for several weeks during the summer, but now his desire and commitment level is starting to ramp up a little bit. He’s talked with the Angels, they’ve expressed interest in him, so we’ll see what the future holds for him. … He’s just waiting for the dialogue with him and the club to come together and to form that agreement as to what exactly they want and what exactly they can provide.

On where offers for David came from …

From multiple teams, and the Angels. He’s been offered, and he’s stayed committed to his wife and what she’s doing with her business, HerUniverse.com, and doing all that they’re doing with that. But now his baseball coaching side is really starting to ramp up, and he’s excited to be doing more stuff for the Angels. But he’s turned down other jobs from other organizations. He’s just waiting for the right time and the right process, so to speak, to get involved, and I think this is getting real close to him.

Alden

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