Bichette won't return to Rockies next season
DENVER -- Dante Bichette could no longer watch his wife Mariana race across the country, trying to keep pace with their two sons as coaching the Rockies consumed nearly all his time.
So Bichette, 49, announced before Tuesday's game vs. the Red Sox he will leave the Rockies' staff after spending one season as the club's hitting coach.
His older son, Dante Jr., was a first-round selection by the Yankees in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and is playing for New York's Class A affiliate in Charleston, S.C. His younger son, Bo, is a top high school prospect and is playing in baseball showcases across the country.
"It's just the tug from home," Bichette said. "I got unfinished business from the kids back home. Mamma paid for 251 hotel rooms this year."
Twelve years removed from his last big season, Bichette admitted he had forgotten just how much of a grind the 162-game season presents. It wasn't just the long hours at the ballpark, but also traveling between cities had eaten up his energy.
Bichette realized it was a full-time job when he was hired. Early in the season, he remembered exactly what full-time meant.
"The grind of the season, it's a long season and you got to be in it 100 percent. Your heart's got to be in it 100 percent," he said, "and I just can't give that to the organization right now."
Bichette said he would "be scared to try [coaching] again," but was proud of what he accomplished. Bichette singled out catcher Wilin Rosario as the hitter who made the most progress under his watch.
After a strong rookie campaign, Rosario is batting .292 with 79 RBIs -- both better than his 2012 numbers -- and his 21 homers are just shy of last year's pace.
"I do believe he's becoming a hitter, and not just a talent," Bichette said of his star pupil. "He probably learned a little bit about himself this year on how the league's going to go about getting him out. We talked about that quite a bit."
Bichette, a four-time All-Star with the Rockies in the 1990s, loved to talk hitting with Michael Cuddyer. He loved watching third baseman Nolan Arenado become a bona fide big leaguer.
But that wasn't enough to justify more time away from his wife and kids, who live in Orlando, Fla.
"I couldn't help but come hang out for the year and see if I could make a difference, get the Rockies back on track," he said. "It's a wonderful bunch of people here."
Manager Walt Weiss, a teammate of Bichette's on those power-laden Rockies, said his departure didn't come as a complete shock. Weiss knew his friend was troubled by the long stretches away from home.
"It was great having him around," Weiss said. "I know it meant a lot to me. He brought a lot of wisdom and a lot of presence to our club. He's a really intelligent guy when it comes to hitting and really knows hitting. He's always welcome to be a part of this again."
Players will surely miss the energy Bichette brought to the position, the former member of the Blake Street Bombers looking right at home behind the batter's cage at Coors Field. But Bichette knows he can get his baseball fix elsewhere, whether it's coaching his kids or joining the Rockies for Spring Training.
"I love being around people that are chasing something cool like this," Bichette said. "That's what really the lure was probably to get back and chase something really cool like this. But I got that home with the boys. They're chasing it, too."