CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Hooks hitting coach John Moses, who’s currently in his first season in the Astros organization, received word prior to Friday night’s game that he was named as the 2011 Mike Coolbaugh Texas League Coach of the Year.
This prestigious award — established in 2007 — honors the memory of former Tulsa Drillers coach Mike Coolbaugh, who lost his life on July 22, 2007 after being struck in the neck by a line drive while coaching first base during a game against the Arkansas Travelers.
The 54-year-old Moses takes pride in being associated with a first-class minor league affiliate and unselfishly dedicates the honor to the entire Corpus Christi coaching staff — manager Tom Lawless, pitching coach Don Alexander, athletic trainer Eric Montague and strength coach Quentin Eberhardt — by stating it’s a collaborative effort focused on making young ballplayers better.
“Tommy Lawless told me about the award prior to Friday’s game,” Moses said. “I know it is a great honor being from the Coolbaugh family. I really hope they are doing fine. I was our telling our radio guy, Matt Hicks, that realistically, it belongs to everybody in the coaches’ room. It’s a reflection on what is going on in the organization. We have had some pretty good players here.
“We all have a part in it. We work hard together with each and every player on the team. The guys in the clubhouse mean everything to us coaches. The Hooks’ ownership is great. It’s an honor to work here. I’m thrilled to win it, but we don’t set out to win awards.
“It’s our job as coaches to execute and make a difference in player development. We still have a lot of work left. This is not, by far, a finished product. You can see the direction the Astros are heading and some of the players that are coming up.”
Moses, a former utility outfielder and first baseman with the Seattle Mariners (1982-87, 1992), Minnesota Twins (1988-1990) and Detroit Tigers (1991), has established a stellar reputation as an effective communicator with a strong ability to teach and bring the very best out of his players, especially the youngsters in the midst of trying to climb the minor league ladder.
He served as a positive influence this season in the further development of infielders Jose Altuve and Jimmy Paredes, as well as standout left fielder J.D. Martinez — all of whom wound up earning a call-up to the big leagues with the Astros straight from Double-A.
The trio of Altuve, Martinez and Paredes became the first position players in the Hooks’ seven-year existence to earn a direct call-up.
Although Moses hears Altuve, Martinez and Paredes credit him as a part of their success, he pinpoints all the coaching staffs in the Astros’ farm system, especially at the lower-level affiliates, as playing a crucial role in how the young players continue to evolve.
“I think what you look at is where some of the guys were last year,” Moses said. “We have had several guys this season come through here that were in the Class A level, either last year or the beginning of this season. Some of the guys, like Altuve, Martinez and Paredes, are up in Houston now. That attributes a lot to not only this coaching staff here, but also the other coaches with the other affiliates. Those guys have done a great job.
“This is the greatest part about coaching. You get to see the achievements of your guys and see the direction that players head.”
Furthermore, outfielder Jacob Goebbert — a 13th-round pick by the Astros out of Northwestern University in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft — excelled under Moses’ leadership and ultimately earned a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in early August after hitting .305 with five home runs, 34 RBI, 18 doubles and four triples over 272 at-bats in 75 games for the Hooks.
Moses couldn’t be more proud of Goebbert’s progression and now views power-hitting outfielder and University of Nebraska product Adam Bailey, who was recently promoted to Double-A from High A Lancaster, as a youngster with a similar approach to the game.
Bailey currently ranks second among Astros minor leaguers behind Hooks first baseman Kody Hinze in home runs (22) and RBI (87).
“Jacob Goebbert was here for a while,” Moses said. “I really enjoyed working with him. He brought a lot of energy to this club. I know we miss him now here. I see a lot of resemblance in Adam Bailey coming up. They are a lot alike in numerous ways.”
The Hooks enter Sunday’s matchup against San Antonio with Martinez (.338, second), Jimmy VanOstrand (.307, sixth) and Brandon Wikoff (.303, seventh) ranking in the league’s top 10 in batting average.
Martinez possesses enough at-bats to still factor into the category, despite currently being on the Astros’ 25-man active roster.
With nine games remaining in 2011, Moses has witnessed steady improvement over the course of this season among his hitters.
The longtime coach views the Double-A level as arguably the most crucial in any organization, considering it can make or break a player, as the competition tends to expose flaws and exploit weaknesses.
Moses says it’s up to the ballpayers to listen to the coaching staffs and be willing to make the adjustments when the time arises.
“I’m very excited about the players we have here,” he said. “Of course, I really want to see them end up with the Astros. Whether they will or not, I don’t know. You always try to help the players achieve great things and steer them in the right direction. You work hard with them and hopefully they make the adjustments. To me, that’s the biggest thing. Double-A baseball is probably the most crucial spot in any big league organization.
“You get a lot of prospects that come through. You can work as hard as you can with them, but if they’re not willing to make the adjustments, then it will be their road block. With our staff here at Corpus Christi, we have almost 90 years of baseball coaching experience. That’s a lot of experience. The players have to understand that. We, as coaches, have been through a great deal, more than what some of the players may even realize.
“We try to teach them from our mistakes. I think as a whole, the Astros are headed in the right direction with the pitching and hitting that is coming up. The guys have to keep making the adjustments.”
Moses takes comfort in the fact that Altuve, Martinez and Paredes, in addition to other potential Hooks players down the road, will continue to learn under the guidance of Astros skipper Brad Mills — his former teammate at the University of Arizona.
“I know Brad Mills very well,” Moses said. “Brad was a really good player in his day. Plus, he’s a good baseball man. It’s a collaborative effort with all the affiliates and the Astros. It’s our job to keep the players focused and put them in positions to succeed.”
At this point, Moses will play it by ear regarding his coaching future, as minor league coaching staffs tend to change on a yearly basis.
He plans to return home to Scottsdale, Ariz., this offseason while seeing how everything unfolds and what opportunities might exist.
Moses previously served as a first base/outfield coach for the Mariners (1998-2002) and also held the same position with Cincinnati in 2006 prior to being named as the interim first-base coach for Seattle in 2007 after manager Mike Hargrove resigned.
Also, he was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the hitting coach for their Triple-A affiliate in 2008 and held the position through last season.
“I would like to get back to the big leagues, obviously,” Moses said. “Whether that happens again, I don’t know. I spent a lot of years in the major leagues, but we’ll see. I have enjoyed my time here at Corpus. The fans and the organization are great. I like being here. I will say this has been the roughest league I have been in regard the traveling. That 15-hour bus trip from Corpus Christi to Springfield, Mo., is brutal. It’s a lot of movie watching, listening to music and sharing stories to pass the time.
“Still, it has been really fun. I wouldn’t change any of it.”
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