Giants hitting coach Donnie Ecker leaving to join Rangers staff

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Giants hitting coach Ecker leaving SF to join Rangers staff originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Donnie Ecker, who was once such a promising high school quarterback that he was recruited for the role at Nevada that went to Colin Kaepernick, would sometimes compare the Giants' coaching staff to a football team. Ecker liked that Gabe Kapler had hired the best coaches he knew and put them in a competitive environment, but there's a flip side to all of that.

The best head football coaches are constantly losing their top coordinators to head jobs elsewhere, and Kapler is continuing to experience that as well.

A year after watching Ethan Katz head to the Chicago White Sox, the Giants are losing Ecker to the Texas Rangers. The Bay Area native and co-hitting coach is departing to become the bench coach and offensive coordinator for the Rangers, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area. 

This is a huge loss for the Giants but also one they were prepared for. Kapler has built a unique staff that works extremely well together but also is constantly prepared for the next step. The Giants knew other teams would come hard after their coaches after a surprising 107-win season. Ecker was at the top of a lot of wish lists. 

"I think if any of our coaches have opportunities that they're excited about going forward in their careers, I think it's something to be celebrated and explored," Kapler said in September. "Maybe explored and celebrated in that order. Any time teams have success and coaches do really good work, others around the game notice, and I think that's a good thing. I think it's a good thing for our staff and the game."

The Giants expect to have a new member of their hitting staff in place soon, and the opening could create an opportunity. When Katz left to become Chicago's pitching coach last year, Kapler hired J.P. Martinez, a needed Spanish-speaker for the pitching side. It's possible the Giants will now do the same on the hitting side, especially with top prospects like Marco Luciano on the way. 

The Giants will retain Justin Viele and Dustin Lind, their other two hitting coaches, and it seems likely Viele takes on more responsibility. He was hired along with Ecker two years ago to be co-hitting coaches, and both drew rave reviews from players. 

Ecker, 35, has been viewed in league circles as a rising star and future manager, and he certainly lived up to every expectation after Kapler brought him over from Cincinnati. A Bay Area native, Ecker brought innovative methods to the Giants and helped turn around a team that went from having one of the worst offenses in baseball to setting a franchise record for home runs. 

LaMonte Wade Jr., in particular, was fond of giving credit to "Eck and J.V." for helping him tap into his natural power and become a late-innings star. Veterans like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey also bought into the changes and credited Ecker for helping them reach new offensive heights in their mid-30s. 

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Coming to San Francisco was a homecoming for Ecker, who grew up a Giants fan, but so is leaving. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2007 and briefly played in their minor league system before starting his coaching career. That included a stint at Los Altos High, and just seven years after he was the head baseball coach there, Ecker now is the No. 2 with an MLB team. If he keeps getting the kinds of reviews he got in San Francisco, the next step will be becoming a manager, and it should happen quickly.

Ecker ended up spending just two seasons with his childhood team, but on the day after the Giants celebrated clinching a playoff spot, he said he was proud of what the team accomplished. 

"When I was hired I talked about how I felt like I had been raised by the community and the fan base in the Bay Area," Ecker said. "I think a huge responsibility to work for the Giants is that we are way more than just athletes and coaches on the diamond. We hope we can bring joy and things like love and connection to a community, especially with how loud the world is now. Just seeing even that moment last night for our fans and feeling all the love, I'm so happy for the players, their families and the greater Bay Area community."

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