The Editor’s Desk with Billy Brost: Who Is Alonzo Powell?
You are probably wondering the same thing I am. Recently, San Diego Padres’ manager Bud Black made an appearance on a local San Diego radio show, and addressed several issues, including the status of who his new hitting coach might be. Black stated that assistant hitting coach, Alonzo Powell is going to be interviewed in the coming days for the permanent post of hitting coach for the Friars.
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If you’re a fan of the Padres, you have to be scratching your head somewhat on this one. Why if, Phil Plantier was shown the door because of the team’s inability to figure it out, and having posted one of the worst hitting months in big league history this past June, why would Powell, who worked under Plantier and from all evidence, did nothing to solve the riddle that was the Padres’ lineup in 2014, be given a shot to supplant Plantier moving forward?
First, we need to know who Alonzo Powell. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1983, but didn’t break in to the show until 1987 with the now-defunct Montreal Expos. It was a less than stellar major league career for the outfielder/first baseman, having played in only 71 big league games, and compiling a .211 batting average, with 3 home runs and 16 runs driven in. After his debut with the Expos in ’87, he didn’t see the big leagues again until 1991, in which he played in 57 games for the Seattle Mariners. That was it. Career in a nutshell. Parts of two seasons. So why should he be handed the reigns of big league hitting coach?
Well, for one, after the conclusion of his big league career, Powell headed overseas to Japan, in an attempt, like many U.S. players, to resurrect a fledgling baseball career in the hopes that someone back in the states will give him another shot. Powell played for the Chunichi Dragons from 1992 through the end of the 1997 season. Here’s the kicker: he became the first foreign born player in Japanese baseball history to win back-to-back-back batting crowns! In the ’94, ’95 and ’96 seasons, Powell hit .324, .355, and .340, and was a two-time All-Star during that period.
Not everyone can hit big league pitching. That’s why it’s the big leagues, and oftentimes, the best coaches had subpar or average careers as players. It seems as if a major league hitting coach gig is the next step in the ascension of a man who has made hitting his professional life. Powell’s first coaching gig was as the Double-A hitting coach for Chattanooga for two seasons. From there, he moved on and served as the skipper for the Dayton Dragons at the Single-A level in 2004 and 2005.
Alonzo Powell continued to work hard, pay his dues and was rewarded when the Seattle Mariners hired him to be their minor league hitting instructor in 2006. After one season in that role, he became the hitting coach for the M’s Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. He does have previous big league hitting coach experience prior to coming the Padres. During the 2010 season, he replaced Alan Cockrell and remained the hitting coach through the 2011 season, when he was hired in San Diego to serve under Bud Black after working in that season’s Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas.
He has become one of Black’s most trusted coaches, and one of his first Padres’ pupils, Jedd Gyorko, should benefit if he is hired as the head man of the hitters in San Diego. At the time of his hiring to work under Plantier, Bud Black had this to say about Powell:
"“We are excited about Alonzo coming on board to be part of our staff. He brings a tremendous amount of experience as a player and coach.”(h/t, Corey Brock, MLB.com)"
The Padres hitters are as familiar with Alonzo Powell as they were with Phil Plantier. Even though the lineup struggled mightily this past season, Powell very well could have a different approach and voice for these hitters. An assistant’s job is to convey the message of his supervisor, meaning that of the dismissed Phil Plantier. For as much change as GM A.J. Preller has made within his own front office, he choice to stick with Bud Black as his skipper, at least for this season. Black may very well in turn, stick with one of “his guys” and promote Powell.