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November 21, 2014

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Ex-big league batting champ Bill Madlock helps local youth with swings

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Former major league slugger Bill Madlock gives hitting instructions to Greenspun Junior High softball player Autumn Owens Wednesday, May 5, 2010.

The Hitting Coach

Former major league slugger Bill Madlock gives hitting instructions to Greenspun Junior High softball player Autumn Owens Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Launch slideshow »

In late June 1979, Bill Madlock was traded in a five-player deal from the San Francisco Giants to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At the time, the Giants were 8.5 games back in the National League West, while the Pirates faced a similar 6.5-game deficit in the National League East.

But four months later, Madlock was a World Series champion as the third baseman of the 1979 “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates.

Madlock, a four-time batting champion, spends his time in retirement giving hitting lessons at The Dugout in Las Vegas. He has lived in Southern Nevada for two decades.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Especially when you see the improvements in these kids year after year, walking into the cages with the game ball from last night’s game.”

Madlock retired in 1990 after playing a few years in Japan after a big league career that saw the Illinois native hit for a lifetime .305 batting average.

After retiring, he immediately jumped into the coaching ranks, working in Taiwan, Colombia and Panama before landing with the Detroit Tigers as a hitting coach in 2000.

“There’s no right or wrong way to hit,” he said. “Every hitter is different and you have to relate. You see it from player to player and country to country -- the kids like to hit like their countrymen.”

And Madlock’s job is to take a mix of what kids see on television, read on the Internet and mimic on the diamond, simplify things and allow them to find their own individual style.

“All of them are different,” he said. “You have to relate to the kids because week-to-week they change, from watching games on television to online teaching.

“I never try to say 'this is the way [Albert] Pujols hits' or 'this is the way Manny [Ramirez] hits,'” he continued. “When you’re dealing with those guys, they are the finished product. Here, we’re working with players just starting.”

Madlock won back-to-back batting titles in 1975 and 1976 with the Chicago Cubs.

In 1976, he was locked in a race with the Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Sr., one that went down to the final day.

“I didn’t even think about it,” he said. “Not once.”

Madlock said he started coaching because, “When you stop playing, what you’ve done all your life is related to baseball. Now, as a coach, I can relate to all different levels of players and I enjoy it.”

After his two-year stint with the Tigers, he toiled in the Cleveland and Boston minor league organizations before becoming a youth hitting instructor.

“When you go from dealing with guys like Juan Gonzalez and Bobby Higginson, you’ve got to be able to communicate,” he said.

His goal is to bring out the individuality in each player by minimizing their weaknesses, maximizing their strengths, and most importantly, simplifying the pressure in today’s youth baseball.

“People try to make up new ways to hit,” he said. “There aren’t really any new ways. The game hasn’t changed in 200 years and it’s not going to for another 200.”

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