When Scott Coolbaugh was dismissed as Texas Rangers hitting coach after the 2012 season, primarily because club higher-ups were looking for a bigger name after a disappointing ousting by the upstart Orioles in that season's wild-card playoff, Coolbaugh decided to remain in the organization.
"The reason why I stayed is because I am a loyal person. When I put my mind to be somewhere, when I put my heart and soul into it, I've got the mindset that I'm doing it for longevity, and am not chasing the next gig or the next area to stop," said Coolbaugh, who Friday was named the Orioles' hitting coach. "A lot of people like to jump ship when things go bad. But I had stuff I needed to learn and get better at, and I took it upon myself to take that challenge, and good things happened, obviously."
When the Orioles received a 24-hour window to formally negotiate with Coolbaugh, who in 2014 was the Rangers' minor league hitting coordinator, Orioles manager Buck Showalter seized the opportunity. He and club vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson met with Coolbaugh for a couple of hours in Dallas on Friday and offered him the job, which for now appears to be a one-year deal.
"He is just solid. I think we probably kicked the tires on 15 guys, and it came down to three or four that we interviewed. But I think Scott is the best fit for us," Showalter said. "He's not a guy that goes around tooting his own horn, but his body of work is pretty impressive. He doesn't self-promote, but the baseball industry certainly knows who we are talking about."
According to an industry source, the Rangers offered Coolbaugh a multiyear deal to stay in the organization, but the opportunity to be back in the big leagues was too enticing.
"I'm extremely excited and actually humbled at the same time for an organization like the Orioles, that have had success, and for Buck to give a guy like me a chance," Coolbaugh said. "I just want to fit in and be a part of it."
The position came open earlier this offseason when former Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley was reassigned within the organization, with the club citing personal reasons for the move.
Coolbaugh, 48, has spent the past eight seasons in the Rangers organization, including a stint from June 2011 through the 2012 season as big league hitting coach. Texas led the majors in runs scored and was second in the American League in total bases in 2012, but he was removed from the job when the Rangers hired Dave Magadan, who had built a reputation as a top hitting coach with the Boston Red Sox.
Coolbaugh wasn't considered a big name in baseball circles, but he was valued enough to be given the Rangers organization's Triple-A hitting job in 2013 and minor league hitting coordinator position in 2014.
"I look at it a little differently. I think he is a big name within the industry," Showalter said. "He may not be a headliner, but you talk to people in the industry, and his name will be mentioned pretty quickly."
Although he doesn’t have much of a history with Showalter — Coolbaugh played in the minors in Arizona in 1999 while Showalter was the Diamondbacks manager and managed a then-Diamondbacks affiliate in 2000 — Coolbaugh has worked alongside Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby and also tutored Orioles slugger Chris Davis in the minors and, briefly, in the majors.
"I kind of know a lot about the young man and I know what he is about. I'm a big Chris Davis fan and I have always rooted for him," Coolbaugh said. "When you get to know somebody over the years, that's what it really is about. It's a people business. You get to know the players, you build equity with the players, and you find out what makes then tick."
A former third-round draft pick of the Rangers who spent parts of four seasons in the majors with Texas, Coolbaugh was a career .215 hitter in 432 big league at-bats and a career .261 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage in 12 minor league seasons. When asked about his style as a hitting coach, he used one word: "Simple."
"I believe in simple things. I'm not one of these cookie-cutter guys. I try to work with players on an individual basis," he said. "I try to find out what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and really try to put it into a simplistic form for them, so they can go out there and perform at their highest ability."
Showalter said Coolbaugh's embrace of more modern hitting philosophies and an old-school work ethic made him an attractive candidate.
"He is very open-minded. He embraces everything and anything that has a chance to make the hitters better," Showalter said. "He will have an ear to all facets of hitting."
One area the Orioles need to improve is plate discipline, which could lead to a higher on-base percentage. Coolbaugh has a simple plan for that, too.
"It is all about getting a good pitch to hit. I think it is about being in a position to recognize pitches," Coolbaugh said. "It is a matter of taking each individual and knowing their strengths and weaknesses and trying to get them in a good position where they can see the ball and make good decisions. And I think with that type of mindset, the on-base percentage will take care of itself."
Although somewhat tenuous, Coolbaugh also has some Orioles ties. He was in the organization for one season, in 1993, playing 118 games, mostly at third base, for Triple-A Rochester, then an Orioles affiliate.
His name also might resonate with baseball fans because of a family tragedy. Coolbaugh's younger brother, Mike, died tragically in 2007 when a line drive struck him in the neck while he was coaching first base in a minor league game.