The Reds named Alan Zinter as their new hitting coach at the big league level on Thursday, and they promoted assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker with an additional title of director of hitting.
Zinter, 51, is replacing Turner Ward, who was not brought back for next season. He spent the past two seasons with the Giants as their assistant director of player development, offense.
“Going into this, there was a great level of familiarity, a lot of trust -- both personally and with Alan’s approach to hitting,” said Reds manager David Bell, who was San Francisco’s director of player development in 2018. “I really believe in a very simple foundation he believes in. It’s clear and it’s simple. It really hits on a lot of what I believe in and will lead to runs, and it will lead to winning games. Alan has a lot of experience. He’s confident. He’s a leader. It was really important to find someone who is just a great teammate, a collaborator.”
Prior to working with the Giants, Zinter was the assistant hitting coach for the Astros in 2015 and the hitting coach for the Padres in '16 and '17. Before that, he was a Minor League hitting coach for the D-backs from '08-11, and he also worked for the Indians as their Minors hitting coordinator from '12-14.
The San Diego experience wasn’t entirely positive. Zinter was released from manager Andy Green’s coaching staff after a 2017 season where the Padres were ranked at or near the bottom of the National League in most categories.
“Every time you experience something and get another opportunity to work at that level again, it’s great,” Zinter said. “I learned a lot from my time in San Diego on just how big league players operate on a day-in, day-out basis, how the veteran-type guys go about their business. They are human beings, they’re emotional. They’re regular people. It’s so cool being able to work with them -- them being the best on the planet at what they do, but still needing guidance and structure.”
A first-round Draft pick by the Mets in 1989, Zinter was a first baseman, outfielder and catcher who played parts of two Major League seasons with Houston in 2002 and Arizona in '04. He spent 19 seasons playing in the Minor Leagues for several organizations.
Part of Zinter’s interview was completed at the batting cage at Great American Ball Park in front of president of baseball operations Dick Williams, general manager Nick Krall and Bell. Zinter worked in the cage with the team’s translator, Julio Morillo, a former Minor League player.
“It was a cool process, being able to get into the cage and share with the people in there how I assess the hitter, what’s important to me when I work with certain hitters,” Zinter said. “I hadn’t been through that before. I thought it was brilliant that everybody could get on the same page and actually see how I interact with a hitter on a daily basis.”
The other part of the interview occurred in Arizona, where Zinter spent the day with Bell and Ecker. Although Zinter and Ecker hadn’t worked together before, Bell was pleasantly surprised at how the pair clicked.
“They may describe things a little bit different, but it was really incredible to spend the whole day with them,” Bell said. “They’re very similar with their foundation. And when they weren’t saying the exact same thing, they had just great chemistry and were able to land on a common terminology.”
“At the end of that, it became very apparent that Alan Zinter would be a great fit for our organization,” Williams said.
Ecker, 33, was hired in November as assistant hitting coach on Bell’s 2019 Major League staff. He spent the '18 season as the hitting coach for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake. Ecker began his coaching career at Los Altos (Calif.) High School ('13-14), his alma mater, before joining the Cardinals’ player-development department to serve as hitting coach for Class A Palm Beach ('15-16) and then Peoria ('17).
The club said that Ecker will have “increased involvement in the creation and implementation of the organization’s hitting philosophies and protocols.” The coaching structure will be similar to what’s recently been done on the pitching side. On Oct. 1, assistant pitching coach Caleb Cotham was promoted and received the additional title of director of pitching. Analytics specialist Kyle Boddy from Driveline Baseball was also hired as director of pitching initiatives and pitching coordinator.
“This is a concerted effort by Nick and David to continue to connect -- even more closely -- the organization as a whole and specifically the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues,” Williams said. “It’s important that we make hitting and pitching as simple as we can for these guys. … We want to make sure [the players] are hearing similar language, similar philosophies.”