Mallee brings vast hitting knowledge to hometown Cubs
CHICAGO -- John Mallee became a hitting coach because he couldn't hit and now finds himself teaching big league ballplayers in his hometown with the Cubs.
The Cubs' fourth hitting coach in the last four seasons, Mallee has strong Chicago ties. He grew up on the South Side and attended Mt. Carmel High School. Drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round in 1991 out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Mallee had a pro career that lasted two Minor League seasons. He batted .208.
"When I got to professional baseball, I realized I wasn't the best player on the field anymore and I didn't perform and I wanted to figure out why," Mallee said. "I started to study the swing and the approach and all those things."
He was going to follow his father and become a Chicago cop, but first worked at the White Sox training academy. Ron Jackson, who was the big league team's hitting coach, asked Mallee to open a session with some kids. Mallee was so enthusiastic, he had to be cut off after 30 minutes. Jackson then asked Mallee if he had considered coaching in the pros.
"A lot of times, it's not the guys who really hit, but the guys who didn't hit and try to figure out why [who become coaches]," Mallee said.
Three weeks later, on his 26th birthday, Mallee was hired by the Brewers. He's been in professional baseball ever since.
In his first season in 1996, Mallee was assigned to Class A Beloit. Anthony Iapoce was on that roster, and batted .290. Iapoce is now the Cubs' Minor League hitting coordinator, and no one is happier to have Mallee on the Cubs' staff.
"He's been with a guy who won a batting title [in Jose Altuve], he's been with a guy who won a home run title [in Miguel Cabrera]," Iapoce said of Mallee, who was the Astros' hitting coach for two seasons after spending nine years as the Marlins' Minor League hitting coordinator. "Good coaches work with all players, and that's what he is, a good coach."
Mallee got right to work, talking to the baseball operations people at Wrigley Field about the type of analytical information he wants. In December, he went to Puerto Rico to work with infielder Javier Baez.
"How do you get the trust of the player? They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," Mallee said. "No. 2, how prepared are you and how well do you know them? It's not just knowing the swing, but their swing. What should their approach be? That takes communicating."
If the Cubs players need recommendations, they can ask former Mallee students.
"When I left the game, I didn't feel I was done with the game," Mallee said. "I said, 'OK, I'm going to try to do this as a coach and try to help players, give them some of the things I could've gotten more out of.' The success I've had is a result of the players I've had."