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Q&A: Meet new Giants hitting coach Powell

S.F. native joins club after World Series run with Astros
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Alonzo Powell will bring a wealth of experience with him into his first season as the Giants' hitting coach. Powell, 52, played professionally both in the Major Leagues and in Japan. The San Francisco native played alongside Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and Cooperstown candidate Omar Vizquel as a member of the Mariners. He also competed against Barry Bonds while performing for Lincoln High School. Powell joined the Giants after serving as the assistant hitting coach for the World Series-champion Astros. MLB.com recently caught up with Powell for a brief chat:

Being born and raised in San Francisco, what did you come to appreciate about the city and the Bay Area the most?

Alonzo Powell will bring a wealth of experience with him into his first season as the Giants' hitting coach. Powell, 52, played professionally both in the Major Leagues and in Japan. The San Francisco native played alongside Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and Cooperstown candidate Omar Vizquel as a member of the Mariners. He also competed against Barry Bonds while performing for Lincoln High School. Powell joined the Giants after serving as the assistant hitting coach for the World Series-champion Astros. MLB.com recently caught up with Powell for a brief chat:

Being born and raised in San Francisco, what did you come to appreciate about the city and the Bay Area the most?

I feel so lucky to grow up in that area because it's so diverse. You have people of all colors and backgrounds. It gave you a good appreciation for what the world is like.

What neighborhood did you live in?

I lived in the Ingleside area, by San Francisco State.

Did you play other sports at Lincoln besides baseball?

I played football -- I was a strong safety and receiver -- but my senior year I did not play. I got hurt my junior year, and I knew that baseball was going to be my next venture, so I kind of stuck with baseball my last year.

Are you a 49ers fan and/or a Warriors fan also?

Yeah, all of the above. I also had the Raiders back then, too, because they were pretty good. Again, the good thing about growing up in the area was getting to see baseball from the American League side and the National League side.

To fast forward, at what point this season did you sense the Astros had something special going?

We kind of knew it over the winter. With the additions that were made, bringing in [Brian] McCann, [Josh] Reddick, Carlos Beltran, we knew if we stayed healthy, we'd be able to compete for the division title. That was our main goal going in. The way the game is now, it's paramount to win your division so you don't have to get yourself involved in a one-game [Wild Card] shootout.

Have the Astros asked you what your ring size is?

I'm sure that will come in due time. They haven't officially asked as of yet.

Is Jose Altuve good because of his height (5-foot-6) or in spite of it? Or does it not make much difference?

I think it's all of the above. He had to overcome so much in his young career just to prove that he belonged. I think you've heard the story about him trying out and they basically told him to go home, and his dad said, "If you're that confident about how well you did, go back." He's been proving people wrong since then, and he's doing it now. He's an unbelievable player. I've been around a long time and I got a chance to see Ichiro [Suzuki], and I thought I would never, ever say there was a better hitter than Ichiro. But two months into my first season [with Houston] in '16. ... Watching Jose day in and day out, he was just as good if not better than Ichiro with his willingness to drive the ball and get extra-base hits.

What's the most basic thing you tell hitters as a hitting coach?

Before you can do anything, you have to have the ability to see the ball, which allows you to decide whether or not to swing. And then balance comes into that.

What do you recall about your first big league hit (off Cincinnati's Tom Browning in 1987)?

It was my first Major League game. I made the Montreal Expos roster from Double-A; we had some injuries that spring. That was the year Andre Dawson and Tim Raines somehow couldn't find a job. Here I am, a 22-year-old rookie. It was Opening Day, my first day in the big leagues. ... My first at-bat I was so nervous, I didn't even swing. I ended up striking out on about five pitches. Here's the opportunity I've been waiting for my whole life and I didn't even swing the bat. I think they knew I was a little nervous, so my next time up we had a runner on first and they put on a hit-and-run, since obviously on a hit-and-run you have to swing the bat. I got a fastball middle-away and I hit a line-drive double into the right-center-field gap for an RBI. That's something you're never going to forget.

What was it like playing with Ken Griffey Jr.?

Unbelievable. He's the best player I've ever been on a field with. Oh, maybe I shouldn't say that, because I played against Barry in high school. Junior, I thought, all-around, was the best player that I was a teammate of, let's put it that way. He made the game so easy. He was a very smart player, he knew exactly what was going on and he had a great feel for what he was doing.

What was it like playing with Omar Vizquel?

I met Omar when I played against him in winter ball. I think that was in 1986 in Venezuela. He had a great feel for the game and didn't swing the bat too well, but everybody knew he was going to be a great shortstop. To Omar's credit, he made himself into a really good hitter.

When you played against Barry Bonds in high school, was it possible to think that this guy might become the all-time home run leader?

Well, you knew he was good, there's no doubt about that. Did you know that he would be the all-time home run leader? Probably not. But you knew he was going to be a superstar-caliber player. There wasn't anything on the field that he couldn't do. Me and my high school buddies joke that we were 20 years ahead of the game because we knew we couldn't get him out, so we'd walk him, and he'd steal second and third and score on a ground ball. But at least he didn't hit it over the fence or in the gap.

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Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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