BRADENTON, Fla. (KDKA) — The sun rises on another day at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., which means Jay Bell is already hard at work.
With the new day’s sunshine blaring into his eyes, it didn’t take long to realize, this guy lives and breathes hitting.
“Hitting basically is target practice,” said Bell.
It wasn’t too long ago that Bell was hitting for the Pirates. He was their starting shortstop for eight years from 1989 to 1996. Now, Bell has returned to the Pirates as their new hitting coach.
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“When I put the jersey back on, it was like going back home,” Bell told KDKA.
The opportunity to join the Pirates arose when Bell was about to leave for New Zealand to help coach in the World Baseball Classic.
“Flew to Pittsburgh, met with Kyle Stark and Neal [Huntingdon] and Clint Hurdle at the airport, had about a three hour interview, and got back on the plane and flew back to Arizona,” Bell said. “Got on a plane the next day and flew to New Zealand.”
Landing Bell on his staff was something Hurdle was hoping to do long before this year.
“During his playing career in Arizona I was a coach in Colorado; we spoke all the time. We played each other 19, 20 times a year,” said Hurdle. “He was always a guy, once he got out, once he left Brenly’s staff as a bench manager in Arizona, he wanted to stay close to home with his kids and you honor that. You don’t know when he’s going to come back, when he’s going to get out, but he got out last year. And not only that, he left Phoenix to go coach in Mobile, Ala., in the minor leagues. That for me, that rang the bell. That guy’s ready to start moving. It was one of our best gets over the winter.”
Well, Hurdle may be pleased, but Bell’s coaching skills were really going to be put to the test on this day.
For there was a new Pirates’ hopeful in Bradenton this year, one who was not afraid of completely making a fool out of himself.
Bell: “So, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to go over to the tee and we’ll start you off at the tee.”
KDKA’s Jory Rand: “That’s where I peaked in my baseball career, with tee ball. It was all downhill.”
Bell: “That’s okay. What we try to do is we try and make life-long lovers of the game. Whether it ended at tee ball or whether it ended somewhere else.”
First lesson – form and aim, positioning, where to look and body rotation.
So much goes into simply putting a bat on a ball that it took nearly 10 minutes before Jory even got the chance to actually try to do that.
When he finally did, he heard a few of these:
Bell: “All right. That’s all right.”
And a few of these:
And one of these:
But in the end, Jory told Bell: “Jay, I appreciate the lesson. I’m guessing I should stick to hockey though.”
“You know, I’ll tell you what, Jory, just a little more work and we’ll get this thing put together,” Bell encouraged him.