Mark Quinn acknowledged Thursday that when he was first approached about becoming the Orioles’ new assistant hitting coach, he wasn’t sure if he was ready. Quinn had built a highly successful baseball academy in Houston, where he found his post-playing-career passion in teaching hitting at a variety of levels for the past eight years.
But the more Quinn went through the process, the former major league outfielder became sold that this was the right time for him to return to the big leagues, this time as a coach for the first time.
The Orioles announced Thursday they have hired Quinn for the position. He will replace Einar Diaz, who becomes one of the team’s two bullpen catchers. Quinn was selected from about 100 candidates and was ultimately selected over Kansas City Royals minor league instructor Milt Thompson, the other finalist for the job. Orioles manager Buck Showalter, vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh conducted the final round of interviews.
“Kind of what I expressed to Buck is that I’ve learned so much more about hitting since I’ve finished my professional career just by being involved in it for hours on a day-to-day basis,” Quinn said. “I want to help at the big league level. I think I can help at the big league level. … But ever since I’ve taken myself out of the batter’s box, I have gained some new perspective about how to go about preparation on a day-to-day basis, on how to analyze failure and on how to pick up on things a lot quicker than when I was actually in the batter’s box.”
Quinn played parts of four seasons with the Kansas City Royals, posting a .282/.324/.481 hitting line. His best season came in 2000, when he finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .294/.342/.488 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs. After his time with the Royals, Quinn also played in the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox minor league systems, mostly at the Triple-A level, before retiring in 2007.
During his playing days, Quinn was known for being a free-swinging hitter -- he walked just 56 times in 1,166 major league plate appearances. But as he has concentrated on teaching hitting at The Baseball School, an academy in Houston he owns and operates, Quinn said he has learned much more about the different aspects that make a good hitter.
“It’s not just hitting,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot of things that go into being prepared and getting in that batter’s box with a positive state of mind from the timing of your meals to your weight workout to stretching, your flexibility. I also want to relay to these guys, I know there are some guys locked up with long-term contracts, but there are a lot of guys that aren’t and I really want to get across to the players if I can that this is not a career; this is an opportunity and you have to make the most of the time you have. It could be a small window. It could be a year.
“But take it from me -- you never know when it’s going to be over,” added Quinn, whose career was sidetracked by a left hamstring injury in 2002. “In my mind, as a big league player and having success my first couple years, I thought I was comfortable, but one injury forced me out of the big leagues and it was a scratch and claw to get back. And it was just a compound of injuries that kept me out of the big leagues, so my advice to these guys is to take every at bat, every game and every day like it is a very precious thing to be a big league ballplayer and give it all you’ve got now because there might not be a tomorrow.”
Quinn will attend next week’s Orioles minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., to get accustomed to the team’s big league spring training facility and meet the staff that will be there working with some of the organization’s young pitchers. But Quinn said spring training is when he will get a crash course on his new team. He said he wants to watch players hit, how they swing and wants to talk to them before giving his input.
“There will be a lot of quiet evaluation on my part in spring training on watching guys, watching their path to the ball, watching their setup, looking at their balance, making sure their head stays down,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, but I want to see guys hit a lot. I think that’s how I’ll be able to help, by getting a feel for the guy, watching them swing every day and then seeing them in game situations.’”
Despite scoring more runs than the previous year, the Orioles had the third-most strikeouts and third-fewest walks in the AL in 2015.
“I know the fundamentals of baseball and the fundamentals of baseball is that you’ve got to put the ball in play,” Quinn said. “So, looking at it from the statistical standpoint, strikeouts look like they can kind of cripple some of the situations that are conducive to scoring runs. You take the Kansas City Royals for example; keep the line moving, that’s their motto. That means put the ball in play, so for guys and teams that strike out, my first thought … is how do we get to two strikes? How are we putting ourselves in a position to strike out? Are they swinging at bad pitches? Are they taking good pitches?”
Quinn was first approached by the position by Anderson and the two have a long history together. Anderson first struck up a conversation with Quinn before a game during Quinn’s rookie year in 2000 when they were opposing players. Their relationship grew in 2003, when they both played for the Padres’ Triple-A team, and because they both spent the offseason in California, they soon became workout partners and friends. Anderson reconnected with Quinn this offseason about the opening.
“To be honest, in the beginning I was a little skeptical,” Quinn said about first being approached about the position. “I had built a very successful business in Houston and I didn’t know what the professional coaching career entailed. Obviously, I know the travel as a big league player, but I really wanted to be around guys who want to be the best at their craft and I think I can help and that’s the message I relayed to Brady: that I’m prepared now to enter professional coaching. I told him I didn’t think I was quite ready to be a coach as soon as I finished playing, but now after doing what I was doing the past eight years, I feel more prepared to be a hitting coach now.”
Around the horn
Former Orioles right-hander and UMBC product Zach Clark has been hired by the Houston Astros to be an area scout. Clark pitched in just one big league game for the Orioles, on May 1, 2013. He allowed three runs on three hits over 1 2/3 innings 1 in Anaheim -- and was then sent to the minors to focus on becoming a knuckleball pitcher. Clark didn’t return to the majors that season and pitched in the independent Atlantic League the past two seasons. His is the fourth player from UMBC to play in the majors. … Former major league outfielder Curtis Pride, a Silver Spring native, was named Major League Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion. Pride, who has been deaf since birth, played parts of 11 years in the majors. After retiring, he served as head baseball coach at Gallaudet University and was on President Barack Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.