DENVER -- New Rockies hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens knows something about the challenge of finding offensive success while facing wildly different atmospheres at home and on the road. His three World Series rings with the Giants over five seasons demonstrate the possibilities.
The Colorado experience -- with not only an extreme hitter-friendly playing environment, but atmospheric conditions that make everything from how pitches move to the way the body handles fatigue different -- is unique in the game. To help deal with it all, the Rockies are trusting Meulens’ track record -- which includes lengthy hitting coach stints (including 2022 as the Yankees’ assistant hitting coach), two terms as a Major League bench coach (Giants 2017-19, Mets 2020), as well as managerial jobs in the World Baseball Classic and winter ball.
His time with the Giants was different, but the same.
Oracle Park had been a home run park for Barry Bonds, but the distant outfield fences and winds off McCovey Cove made it a pitcher’s park to most everyone else. Yet in 2012, Meulens’ third season as hitting coach, the Giants won their second World Series in three seasons -- despite finishing last in the Majors in home runs overall (103) and at home (31), and middle of the road in runs (12th) and OPS (14th).
Meulens joins the Rockies, who led the Majors in home batting average, on-base percentage and slugging but were scarcely competitive in any category on the road. A 68-94, last-place finish in the National League West was the result. Can Meulens help his new team imitate those Giants, whose thought process was balanced even if they had to adopt different mindsets depending on where they were playing?
“There was a balance that we had to have,” Meulens said from Curaçao, where he is conducting a baseball camp in his native country. “In San Francisco at that time, fly balls on a lot of days were pretty much outs. It was a spacious yard with that marine layer bring in cool air -- heavy and thick. It was a hard place to hit a home run.
“We said we were going to score one more run than the opponent. We manufactured runs at times, hit a line drive with runners on base, and kept the line moving and didn’t worry so much about the long ball. Then we’d go out on the road, and depending on where we were playing, guys would adjust and make sure that they got pitches to hit and drove them.”
After interviewing three internal and four external candidates, the Rockies are confident that Meulens could communicate his strategies and build the confidence of their hitters.
“He's got a great personality,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He's a guy that has been a manager in the WBC, he’s been a bench coach, he’s been a hitting coach for teams in San Francisco that won World Series. The résumé speaks loudly. It’s not just one or two things. It’s the collection of the person that, for me, stands out.”
Meulens -- who has a cousin in the Denver area and enjoyed spending time with her and her family when the Giants visited Coors Field -- appeared in the Majors with the Yankees (1989-93), Expos (1997) and D-backs (1998), plus three seasons in Japan. The diverse playing career and his education-oriented upbringing in Curaçao have helped him learn five languages and devote himself to being a communicator. His coaching methods include fostering communication among players.
“I want us to work together and want a one-on-one relationship with players,” said Meulens, who interviewed for the Yankees' managerial job in 2017 and aspires to manage in the Majors. “I also like to pair up guys, or have two or three similar hitters together, so they can work through things and help each other out. That’s one of the strengths of my approach.
“With the Giants, we did not focus on home and road, even though we made adjustments. We had team at-bats, guys willing to give themselves up to get a job done. That’s the beauty of a good offense.”