It doesn’t take long to notice Josue Perez and Brian Dayett are as different as peanut butter and dill pickles and only a little longer to understand that combination goes together quite well.
The most unusual thing could be that a short-season baseball team such as the Spokane Indians has two hitting coaches since the Texas Rangers paired Dayett with Perez last year.
“We have roughly 15 hitters, that’s quite a bit for one coach,” Dayett said. “Plus, we have an extra arm for BP (batting practice), extra fungo hitters. We try to stay on the same plan from spring training. We go over it with the coordinator.”
“Some guys might like the way he said it, some might like the way I said it,” said Perez, in his third season with Spokane. “We might say the same thing with different words, but we mean the same thing. … We find words that are simple, so they can get it. We don’t want them to get confused.”
Perez, an extroverted Cuban who just turned 34, spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, most of them with the Philadelphia Phillies. He reached Triple-A before the dream ended.
“At first it’s never easy, because you love it so much,” Perez said. “That’s why you’re here. My personal experience, mentally I wanted to continue to play, but physically I couldn’t. I was dealing with too many injuries.
“My last year as a player was for the Rangers. I became a coach right away.”
Dayett is 20 years older and is from New London, Conn. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 16th round in 1978. He spent nine years in the minors and five in the majors with the Yankees and Chicago Cubs before finishing his career in 1991 after three years in Japan.
Dayett, nicknamed “Bam Bam” for his build, went into the archery business for a half-dozen years before returning to baseball.
“I enjoy the competition,” Dayett said. “It’s my seventh year with the Rangers. I’ve done a lot of low-A and rookie ball with the Astros. I like working with the younger kids and at this level, because they have so much to learn and it seems like they listen better.”
The second year of the Perez-Dayett combo got off to a good start, although the Indians, who start a critical three-game home series with Boise tonight, are slumping.
“Usually this time of year they hit that wall, the 100-game mark,” Dayett said during the last homestand. “They play about 60 games in college, then they come here and play 35-40 more. They’re a little tired, so their bats are a little sluggish. Pitchers are a little smarter. It’s the second time around, so they have scouting reports on our hitters.”
Scouting reports are Dayett’s strength. He even keeps notes on rookie umpires as he sits back and quietly observes.
Perez is the always moving, always vocal one.
“They’re really good,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “Josue is really the guy, ‘Bama’ is the experience. He’s been around a lot of years. He comes from a completely different perspective.”
Though they are preaching the Rangers’ way, the hitting coaches have different perspectives.
“There’s not one certain way to hit,” Dayett said. “I look for a good, solid foundation with a little rhythm in the swing (and) good, loose hands. Stay behind the ball and really concentrate on the head – keep the head still.”
“They need to understand the sequence of the swing,” Perez said. … “Sometimes you go out there and you might not see the ball well, but just because you believe … you’re going to get a base hit.”
For Perez, the best tip he picked up came early.
“When I learned the most was in my first big league camp, when I saw how the big league hitters were going about their business, how professional they were,” he said. “They had a plan going to the cage, they had a plan going to BP. That caught my attention.”
Dayett credited Ed Napoleon and Johnny Oates for his strategy.
“Knock the (batting practice) screens over or make believe the infielders are dominos and try to knock them over,” he said. “Get on top of the ball, hit line drives. (If) you hit down on the ball, ground balls take bad hops, fly balls don’t.”
Coaching at this level starts with observations.
“First-year players coming out of high school and college, a lot of times we don’t mess with them for the first 30 days because they’ve been successful,” Dayett said. “They hit .400 in high school, they hit .380 in college, with an aluminum bat – so you can scratch about 100 points off that.
“We study them (and) if they’re successful, you let them go. If they’re not, they’ll come to us and we’ll start tweaking them.”
The coaches, including Hulett, communicate constantly. Then comes the process of finding out which players connect with which coach.
“I treat them all the same,” Perez said. “You think they all have a chance. We’re giving them the base so they can go on.”