Longtime major league hitting coach Rick Down died on Wednesday at 68 in his Las Vegas home after a lengthy illness, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
Down spent 27 years with major league clubs and most notably was a hitting coach for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles from 1993 to 2003. Although he topped out in Triple-A as a player, Down was well-loved as a coach while overseeing some of the top offenses of the past 30 years.
Before becoming a major-league hitting coach, Down managed the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Columbus from 1990-92, which eventually fed into the dynastic mid-’90s teams. He helped lead the Clippers to three straight division titles and a team-record 95 wins in 1995, while coaching the likes of Bernie Williams, Brad Ausmus, J.T. Snow and Deion Sanders.
During his first two years as a hitting coach in 1993 and ’94, his Yankees led the league in batting average, including a .290 average in a strike-shortened 1994 season that was the highest mark in baseball since 1950. In a second go-around with the Bombers in the early 2000s, he helped the 2002 team hit 223 home runs, which was then the second-highest mark in franchise history.
Down’s offenses also put up big numbers in his first years in Baltimore and Los Angeles. The Orioles set a major league record with 257 home runs in 1996, while the Dodgers set a franchise record with 211 home runs under his watch in 2000.
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