Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Joey Votto are three of the best hitters of our generation. All are future Hall of Famers. They are also aging veterans. The illustrious threesome has combined to play 58 big league seasons, with Votto the baby of the bunch at 38 years old. Cabrera is 39. Pujols is 42. Their cumulative experience is nearly as notable as their prodigious statistical accomplishments.
What is it like to work with legends like Cabrera, Pujols, and Votto? I asked that question to their current hitting coaches: Detroit’s Scott Coolbaugh, St. Louis’ Jeff Albert, and Cincinnati’s Alan Zinter.
Scott Coolbaugh on Miguel Cabrera
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be around somebody as good as Miggy. He’s obviously a future Hall of Famer. To accomplish the things he’s been able to is eye-opening. I obviously haven’t been around him his whole career – just the last few years – but the way he goes about his business, and the enjoyment he has in the game… he’s still a young kid, even though he’s 39 years old. He treats it like a game. He has fun with it. He keeps it simple.
“Everybody is in awe of how pure of a right-handed hitter he is, how pure his swing is. The things he can do with the baseball a lot of guys have worked hard to do just one time. He does it on a consistent basis. It makes you a better coach to be around somebody like that, to see how he goes about it, and hear what his thoughts are. To sit in a cage and have the conversations with him… and sometimes it’s not even about hitting. It’s about how simple he keeps the game.
“The bottom line is that you can always learn from this game. If you’re closed-minded and not wanting to learn all the time, the game passes you by. Miggy keeps me engaged with some of the things he’s done, that maybe he’s tried to help out some younger players with, especially with the routine part of it. And his swing is as clean as [it was] when he was at his best. He still shows that to this day, at 39 years old. But the conversations – the private conversations you have with him – about how he approaches different types of pitchers, what his thought process is, and things of that nature… they actually help you as a coach. ”
Jeff Albert on Albert Pujols
“It’s great. I’m super appreciative of the time together, appreciative of all of our interactions. He’s got this rare combination where when he talks, everybody listens, but at the same time he’s very coachable. Essentially, he’s seeking coaching. We’ll talk about [hitting] whether he’s playing or not. Whatever he’s working on, whatever he’s feeling during the game, he’ll ask, ‘Hey, what did you see here?’ That’s whether he’s feeling good about something and trying to maintain it, or he’s thinking about making an adjustment.
“It’s been really special to have those type of interactions, and just to be around someone with a career like he’s had. His personality almost makes [the conversations] easier. He’s very open and approachable. He has a demeanor where he’s very interactive with everybody, the other players, the staff. He’s essentially a coach in uniform.
“With all the experience he has, we could talk about something and maybe he can verbalize it to a player in a different way. He can facilitate communication between the staff and the players. For example, he’ll be pretty vocal in hitters’ meetings when we’re talking about the opposing pitcher. He’s very smart about what he sees. It’s’ Hey, this would be my approach. This is what I would try to do against this guy. This is what I’m seeing. ‘ Like I said, when someone has that type of experience, and is successful for such a long time, he says things and people listen. ”
Alan Zinter on Joey Votto
“He’s definitely someone who’s been through many, many years, and has had lots of success at this level. It’s really cool just to listen to him talk. Sometimes you really need to pay attention, because it’s just not common, the vocabulary coming out of his mouth.
“It’s really cool to see how intense, how dedicated, how focused, and how serious he is on everything he does. That’s not common. Everybody is serious, but he takes it to a degree that you just don’t see. He has his way of how he sees the ball, how his body moves, and again, his vocabulary is… I mean, everybody is different. It’s just really cool to hear how he speaks about hitting.
“He’s not out there preaching, but he is very observant. He’ll lend a helping hand to another player, like a Jonathan India. It’s just cool how he goes about expressing himself. It’s not like he’s going out there and saying, ‘This is how you do it.’ He doesn’t do that. He knows that everybody is different. Everybody is an individual. And he’s different. There’s no one like him. ”