- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto was put in a strange situation replacing veteran hitting coach Greg Walker in 2012.
Walker, who at times took heat for the White Sox’s struggles at the plate, announced his resignation from his position in September 2011. Enter Manto who had made a name for himself in the minors as a batting instructor.
White Sox captain Paul Konerko was going to be a test for Manto. Konerko was Walker’s No. 1 fan and confidant during their eight years together.
“He has done a heck of a job just getting in here and earning people’s trust,” Konerko said. “He has built up a nice relationship with every player in here and each one is different. I think being a hitting coach is the toughest job in baseball -- if not all of sports, just from a physical aspect and work involved. There was definitely an adjustment for me, but it has gone along just fine.”
Manto was a .230 hitter in parts of nine major league seasons. Many people would ask how a.230 hitter can teach big league hitters to get better at their trade.
“You can take the opposite viewpoint to see why mediocre career hitters make better hitting coaches,” Konerko said. “Great hitters are rarely good hitting coaches because a lot of those guys are what you call ‘unconscious competent,’ meaning they did what they did and had no idea how or why. Guys like Jeff had to really work themselves to death in order to stay in the majors.”
The 47-year-old hitting instructor spent four seasons in the minors before getting his chance to coach the Sox batters this season.
“I think he has done a great job,” said manager Robin Ventura. “Each guy he works with the message is different. Most importantly he allows them all to be different, he is very patient without letting the player go the other way. He has done a great job.”
“The main thing I tried to do with (Dunn,Rios and Beckham) is to gain their trust and remind them how good they are,” said Manto. “It was not anyone’s fault they failed to get to their numbers last year, so we tried to concentrate on this year only. We hope to run with it as long as we can.”
With every pitcher and every game there is a new approach for all 13 hitters on the team.
“I know each guy now and hopefully that means I can help them define what they are looking for in matchups,” Manto said. “I have 13 different hitting approaches, so there is no blanket statement I can make to all of them. We look for success as a team by looking at wins, not batting averages, but we know the statistics are important.”
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18hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com