GEORGE CASTLE: Astros brass have Mallee’s back, so there’s no stress in cellar

2013-08-27T21:00:00Z 2013-08-28T03:05:06Z GEORGE CASTLE: Astros brass have Mallee’s back, so there’s no stress in cellarGeorge Castle On the White Sox nwitimes.com
August 27, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | No wonder the Houston Astros aren’t last in the American League in runs scored (guess who is – answer below).

No wonder Hawk Harrelson says the ‘Stros play “27 hard outs.” The team with the stumble-bum 44-86 record may lose the majority of the time, but you still have to work up a sweat to beat them.

It must be the positive mental attitude of John Mallee.

Sit in the visitor’s dugout next to Schererville’s Mallee in 95-degree heat Tuesday afternoon, and you’d think you’re experiencing “summer resort weather,” an old Harry Caray term.

The first-year Houston hitting coach is so positive, so upbeat, that his mostly young charges likely block out the fact they bring up the rear in the bulk of AL offensive categories.

(Answer to the above question: the recently surging Sox scored 492 runs to the Astros’ 514 runs.)

“I got a lot of support of (owner) Jim Crane and (GM) Jeff Luhnow and (manager) Bo Porter," Mallee said. “He’s a player’s manager, but he demands a lot from the guys. He doesn’t settle for lack of effort, lack of preparations.

“I love to teach, I love to watch them develop, and being here with this group and with the support of the manager and the front office, I don’t have a lot of stress if we don’t perform right away.”

Mallee has a hitting philosophy: “We’ll be here all night.” The Sox found that out to their displeasure when two ninth-inning homers beat closer Addison Reed on Monday.

Houston’s gain in Mallee’s long experience in tutoring young hitters is the region’s loss. Almost any ballplayer who was anyone in the area sought out Mallee over the years for his offseason instruction and traveling teams.

Now he’ll be so busy flitting around the country to work with his players that his personalized coaching will be limited to family and friends. Mallee’s original plans were to move full-time to Houston, but wife, Candy, and sons J.D., 14, and Austin, 8, have managed to keep the homestead in Schererville.

First baseman Brett Wallace appreciates Mallee’s visits to Sonoma, Calif. Mallee won’t feel he’ll have to gamble visiting strikeout-prone Chris Carter in Las Vegas.

He may not have to travel to Venezuela to counsel Jose Altuve, no doubt baseball’s shortest, but perhaps most spirited, No. 3 hitter at 5-foot-5.

“He’s got a low center of gravity and short arms — all things that help hitters hit,” Mallee said. “His hand-eye coordination is second to none. He can put more balls in play out of the zone than anybody, and get hits out of them.”

There’s supposed to be more talent on the way for the ‘Stros. They’ll go very young and Mallee, at 44, has to comprehend 21st Century eye lingo.

“My two young sons keep me up to date with the language,” he said. “Both my sons are very visual learners, and I know these guys are as well. You use a lot of visual language. They’re very intelligent kids today. You can use the bio-kinetical terms with them, the different sciences involved in swinging the bat.”

See ball, hit ball, that sounds so 1955. Sounds like Crane’s got his batting guru for the New Age.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.

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