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Bichette rejoins Rockies to be hitting coach

Popular ex-slugger was four-time All-Star, hit .316 in seven seasons with Colorado

DENVER -- Dante Bichette, one of the Rockies' first stars and still beloved by local fans, has come back to the organization as the new hitting coach. The team announced the hiring Tuesday on its Twitter account.

Bichette, who will turn 49 on Sunday, represented the Rockies in four All-Star Games and ranks in the top five in several of the club's career offensive categories, has spent the years since his 2001 retirement teaching hitters. He's worked in the Orlando, Fla., area with his sons' youth and high school teams, and with Draft prospects and young professionals.

Bichette will work under the Rockies' new manager, Walt Weiss, a former teammate with Colorado in the 1990s. Bichette replaces Carney Lansford, who was let go at the end of this past season.

"It's a passion of mine since I was 10 years old; I'm infatuated with hitting," Bichette said. "People ask me what I've been doing since I retired, and I tell them almost nothing has changed. I've been throwing batting practice and working with hitters. It's something I love to do, and would love to have the chance to do it at the Major League level."

The Rockies also talked with Jason Giambi, 41, who played for them from late 2009 through this past season and was mulling whether to retire and take a coaching job or continue his playing career. Giambi also interviewed for the managing job.

"I'm ready to roll," Bichette said Tuesday.

Bichette's oldest son, Dante Jr., was a Yankees supplemental first-round Draft pick (51st overall) in 2011, after years of work with his father, who coached a youth team to an appearance in the 2005 Little League World Series and coached Dante Jr. and an Orangewood Christian High School team that set a Florida state record with 84 home runs.

Bichette also has been working with his younger son, Bo, who is trying to make the varsity team at First Academy High School in the Orlando area as a 14-year-old freshman.

"It's actually fueled that fire to learn and teach," Bichette said of his work with youngsters. "It's one of those things where I wish I knew then what I know now. It's a great feeling to work in the batting cage each day with people at an early age."

Bichette is confident he can help hitters at a much higher level.

During his playing career, Bichette enjoyed a resurgence when he joined the Rockies' expansion team in 1993 and came under the influence of then-manager Don Baylor, who has long influenced hitters and is currently the D-backs' hitting coach. In seven seasons with the Rockies, Bichette achieved a .316 batting average (fourth on the team's career list), a .540 slugging percentage (seventh) and an .892 on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (seventh). He also had 1,278 hits (third), 2,187 total bases (third), 201 home runs (fourth) and 826 RBIs (third).

His career and his work since retirement have given him ideas of the differing needs of a Major League hitter.

"Some guys, you talk to them, tell them how good they are, build their confidence," Bichette said. "Some you talk to them about their swing. There are a lot of young guys who come to you for help with how to approach the pitchers in the league. Some guys you just don't touch."

Bichette will join Tom Runnells, who will continue the bench-coach job that he has held since Jim Tracy became manager during the 2009 season, as the two confirmed coaching appointments on Weiss' staff. Tracy resigned in October. Runnells interviewed for the top job, and agreed to stay with the staff after Weiss was hired.

Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, indicated last week that the Rockies were leaning toward retaining the two pitching coaches, Bo McLaughlin and Jim Wright. They operated last season as co-pitching coaches, with McLaughlin in charge of starters and Wright in charge of relievers.

Other prime candidates for the staff are Triple-A Colorado Springs manager Stu Cole and Colorado Springs hitting coach Rene Lachemann -- a former Major League manager who managed Weiss for a year with the Marlins.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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