Coaching keeps Crowley in the swing of things


June 23, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

A Friday afternoon before game time at Camden Yards finds former Oriole Terry Crowley doing what he did so often as a player in Baltimore: watching his team's hitters hit.

He's standing behind the batting cage as Matt Walbeck steps in for batting practice, then Chip Hale, Chuck Knoblauch, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield. Crowley, famed Orioles pinch hitter, says he was a natural for the job of batting coach, which he held with the Orioles, the Boston Red Sox and now the Minnesota Twins.

"I spent so much time watching" as a player, says Crowley, 47. "And guys would sometimes ask me for advice" about their hitting. So when he retired from the Montreal Expos and from baseball in 1983, he slid comfortably into the role of batting instructor in the Orioles' minor-league system in 1984.

Since then, Crowley -- eighth on baseball's all-time pinch-hit leader list with 108 career pinch-hits, including two grand slams -- has been coaching professional batters. He spent a year as a roving coach in the Orioles' minor leagues, moved up to Baltimore in 1985 and remained with the club through 1988, after which he was fired and replaced by Tom McCraw under manager Frank Robinson, then preparing for his second season.

-! In the 1989 and 1990 seasons,

Crowley worked as a minor-league instructor for Boston, then was offered a major-league assignment in Minnesota. In his first season, the Twins advanced from fourth in the American League in team batting at .265 to first with .280 and won the World Series. In 1992, the team topped the league with .277.

A lifetime .250 hitter, Crowley spent much of his 15-year major-league career as a pinch hitter and utility player. He did two stints with the Orioles: 1969 to 1973 and 1976 to 1982. While hitting against the Kansas City Royals' Dan Quisenberry in 1982, he became the eighth player to get 100 career pinch-hits.

Crowley, who lives in Hunt Valley with his wife, Janet, and four children, figures the peculiar demands of pinch hitting helped prepare him for the job of batting coach. For one thing, there was all that time spent watching other hitters; for another, "you have to be disciplined in your mechanics because you can't waste any at-bats." And since hitting never came easily to him, he says, "I know what runs through a player's head when he's struggling."

When he spots trouble in a swing, he'll schedule the player for time in "the hole." That's the term Minnesota players use for Crowley's batting clinic: a screened-in swath of right field set aside between games for batting drills. Puckett has said hacking at Crowley's pitching from 12 or 15 feet away is like "breaking rocks in the hole in prison," says Crowley.

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