Former Yankees hitting coach Rick Down dies at 68

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Rick Down spent 27 years working for major league teams, most notably as a hitting coach for the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/ny-yankees/" data-ylk="slk:Yankees">Yankees</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/ny-mets/" data-ylk="slk:Mets">Mets</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/boston/" data-ylk="slk:Red Sox">Red Sox</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/la-dodgers/" data-ylk="slk:Dodgers">Dodgers</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/baltimore/" data-ylk="slk:Orioles">Orioles</a>. (Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Rick Down spent 27 years working for major league teams, most notably as a hitting coach for the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers and Orioles. (Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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.

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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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