Mabry To Head Trio of Hitting Coaches
By: Warren Mayes
When the St. Louis Cardinals got Mark McGwire, it affected John Mabry.
Mabry only had one season with more than 400 at-bats and that was in 1996, Tony La Russa’s first year as manager with St. Louis. That year, Mabry led the Cardinals with 161 hits and was fourth in the National League for first basemen in fielding percentage at .994. He also was errorless in 14 games in the outfield.
The Cardinals traded for McGwire in 1997 and he took first base from Mabry, who went to the outfield.
Fast forward to the present.
Now, Mabry is taking over for McGwire and he’s excited about the opportunity.
The 42-year-old Mabry was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth round of the 1991 amateur draft. During his 14-year big league career, Mabry played for eight teams, including three different stints with the Cardinals (1994-1998, 2001, 2004-2005). He called it a career in 2007.
“If I was to come back into baseball, it would be with the St. Louis Cardinals,” Mabry said. “They are the team that drafted me. I have my home here. People like George Kissel and Dave Ricketts invested in me when I played here and I want to turn that around and invest in these players that are here now.”
One of Mabry’s big career highlights came when he hit for a natural cycle in a May 18, 1996, loss to the Colorado Rockies.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Mabry said.
He finished his career with 898 career hits in 3,409 at bats for a batting average of .263. Mabry wound up with 96 home runs and 446 RBI.
Last year, new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny encouraged his friend to take the job to assist McGwire. He did and he enjoyed his role. He was careful not to overshadow McGwire. He was the assistant.
His philosophy to hitting is similar to McGwire’s, he said.
“Get a good pitch to hit and hit it,” Mabry said. “It’s really simple. Looking at it that way, you don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We’ve got good guys here who know what they’re doing. They know how to win. We don’t want the paralysis by analysis deal.
“Working with all the guys is cool. You’ve got to understand their swing. Some guys won’t come to you very often and when they do, you’ve got to have some good answers or they won’t come back. Hopefully, you can help them all.”
The Cardinal players are looking forward to working with Mabry.
“I think he brings a lot of knowledge. The guy just loves talking about hitting,” Allen Craig said. “He knows a lot and has a good relationship with a lot of us.”
John Jay agreed.
“I’m definitely looking forward to working with Mabes,” Jay said. “It’s just like the Tony (La Russa) to Mike Matheny transition where we knew exactly what we were going to get. Mabes is the same way. He’s been around us as hitters and he knows us. I’m looking forward to that.”
So is Yadier Molina, whose older brother, Bengie, is the new assistant hitting coach.
“John is a good guy who will help us,” Molina said “I think Bengie will work well with him and help us all be better hitters.”
Mabry is looking forward to the season. He knows he has a big role in the club that will require him to put in long hours.
“It’s a lot of work, it definitely is,” Mabry said. “If you’re going to do the work, you have to do it with both feet and jump in.”