Thursday, February 25, 2016

Meet a Prospect: Alan Cockrell

Alan Cockrell was named the New York Yankees assistant hitting coach prior to the 2015 season and the team responded with the second best offense in all of Major League Baseball. Jeff Pentland, the head hitting coach from 2015, was fired after the season and Cockrell has accepted a position as the team’s main hitting coach and will work side-by-side with former Triple-A hitting coach and current Yankees assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames. Not many players and fans knew much about Cockrell before the 2015 season and not many know him today, until now.

Atlee Alan Cockrell was born on December 5, 1962 into a Christian household. Cockrell spent his High School days at Joplin, Missouri’s Parkwood High School where he represented the Parkwood High School Bears. The Bears were the team’s football team, not the school’s baseball team as you would expect, and Cockrell was the team’s starting quarterback. During his tenure there, three seasons as the starting QB, Cockrell led the team to a 31-3 record with 3,499 yards, 44 touchdown passes, 1,541 rushing yards and 36 rushing touchdowns and even kicked 154 PAT’s with eight field goals. Cockrell did it all including the year when he led the Bears to a perfect 14-0 season outscoring their opponents 653-33 and a Missouri State Class 4A High School Championship in 1980. Cockrell’s efforts there led him to take a scholarship at the University of Tennessee to be the team’s starting quarterback.

Cockrell was the first ever true freshman to start for the Volunteers when he did so in 1981 but five games into his Tennessee football career he suffered a major knee injury that threatened his college and professional career. Cockrell led the Vols to a 6-5-1 record in 1982 and a 9-3 season in 1983 including a Florida Citrus Bowl win over Boomer Esiason and the Maryland Terrapins in his final game with the school. The San Francisco Giants drafted Cockrell in the first round of the 1984 Draft, 9th overall, and his love for baseball drowned out any aspirations to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League.

Cockrell played nine seasons in the minor leagues for five different organizations before finally making his Major League debut in 1996 with the Colorado Rockies. Cockrell had a strikeout against Billy Wagner and a double off future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine in Atlanta before playing in his final MLB game on September 29, 1996. Cockrell bounced around various minor league affiliates inside the Rockies organization as a manager and hitting coach before returning to the Majors as the Rockies hitting coach in 2007. Under Cockrell the Rockies slugged their way to a National League Championship and a trip to the World Series before running into the red hot Boston Red Sox. Under Cockrell the Rockies led the league in on-base percentage, batting average and total hits although it was not enough to keep Cockrell in a job after the team fired him before the 2009 season.

Cockrell was named the Seattle Mariners hitting coach in 2010 replacing Alonzo Powell but unfortunately for him he was the first out four coaches who were relieved of their duties alongside then manager Don Wakamatsu. Cockrell was out of the game completely until the New York Yankees came calling in January of 2015.

Cockrell and his SwingPath Coach training device he invented will now bring his talents to New York to be their hitting coach. How will the Yankees offense respond? I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned, either way congrats to Cockrell. After the career, the setbacks and the life in the game that you’ve had you have definitely earned your stay here in the Bronx.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)