PEORIA, Ariz. – They worked together for hours, tinkering with timing and rhythm until achieving the desired result.
New Mariners hitting coach Dave Hansen was still a player with the Mariners back in 2004 and 2005, when teammate Raul Ibanez came to him for help. The pair spent off-hours honing their craft, then would take the field together, Hansen as a much-coveted pinch-hitter and Ibanez as an outfielder who’d just rejoined the Mariners after several years in Kansas City.
By the time their extra work away from the field was done, they’d achieved exactly what they wanted: Ibanez could play the guitar.
“Really, he taught me how to play,” Ibanez said. “I actually recommended him – highly recommended him – as a hitting coach a year or two after he was done playing because he was such a great teacher. He had so much patience with all of us he was teaching how to play guitar when he was still a player.”
Ibanez and others would often go to Hansen for hitting advice back then as well. Later, the guitar would come out and the lessons began anew.
“He just had a really smart teaching method and was very patient,” Ibanez said. “And he’s the same way as a hitting coach. He keeps it very feel-based. It’s not a mechanical-based hitting philosophy.”
These days, the duo continues to put in long hours together away from the field – Hansen, 44, just starting with the club as a coach and Ibanez, 40, trying to extend his playing days a little longer.
Hansen agrees his hitting philosophy isn’t as mechanical-based as others can be. In fact, one might say his philosophy is more guitar-based.
“There are some similarities there,” Hansen said. “Especially hitting because music’s in-time. And we hit in-time. So, there’s something to be said for it.”
Hansen grew up in a musically inclined Southern California family and began playing guitar at age 11. By his senior year in high school, he was in a cover band called The Ladds.
In fact, the band was playing in his hometown of Long Beach in 1986 when Hansen announced onstage that the Dodgers had drafted him with their 47th overall choice. He broke in with the Dodgers in 1990 and over the next 15 seasons compiled a .260 lifetime batting average.
And his guitar never left his side.
“What it did for me mentally, in this game, I can’t describe,” Hansen said. “It’s such a great way to disconnect and regroup your mind. … It’s a good hobby to have outside the game. And I think we should do something as a hobby.”
Hansen got into coaching in the Arizona Diamondbacks system in 2007. Then, in July 2011, he became the Dodgers’ hitting coach through the end of last season.
When the Dodgers let him go, the Mariners jumped at the chance to get a younger coach they felt could relate to their players better than the previous, much older, hitting instructor, Chris Chambliss. But it isn’t just the young players Hansen can relate to.
“It really doesn’t feel any different now that he’s my coach compared to when he was my teammate,” Ibanez said. “He’s always been the one teaching me things, and I’ve always been the guy listening. So, when you look at it, this is probably the way it should be.”