Carrying a stout nickname like ‘The Hitman’ for 40 years is no easy task but grading out with a .293 average over a 14-year Major League career proved worthy then and still does. As a player Mike Easler loved nothing more than hitting. He couldn’t wait to grab a bat and get to the plate. When he wasn’t at the plate, he’d talk about hitting with other players, especially later in his career.
The newest member of the Bisons loves hitting but has changed his approach, to teaching.
“When you leave the batting cage with Mike Easler you think you can hit,” Mets manager Terry Collins said while chuckling. “Whether you can or not, you believe you can.”
That is exactly the attitude Collins wants around core group youthful talent tabbed for Buffalo this season. A trait that impressed New York’s first year manager while watching Easler’s approach and the way players have reacted since first hiring him in 2006 while with the Dodgers organization.
Leading up to his first season with the Mets organization, the 60-year old has already ripped through countless hours of video on the computer familiarizing himself with a number of players he expects to watch through spring training and with Buffalo over the summer.
Listening to the notes rustle in the background, the Bisons new hitting coach fired off names and a note about each. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Zach Lutz, Reuben Tejada and Fernando Martinez all were on his scratch pad.
“When you’re working with young kids you can teach and form them,” Easler said. “So when they get to the Big Leagues they’re ready for the situations.”
As he prepares for the future, the list of names he mentored in the past was equally promising. Sluggers Albert Pujols, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Mo Vaughn are a small sample of individual talent benefiting from his tutelage from impressionable ages.
Since his retirement in 1988, he’s served as the hitting coach for Milwaukee (1992), Boston (1993) and St. Louis (1999-2001). He joined the Lost Angeles Dodgers organization in 2006 as the hitting coach at Double-A Jacksonville and moved onto Triple-A Las Vegas in 2007. He split the 2008 season as the Dodgers hitting coach and the organization’s minor league hitting instructor.
Easler clubbed 118 home runs and 522RBI over his 1,151 major league games with Houston, California, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Yankees. The outfielder was a National League All-Star with Pittsburgh in 1981 and was part of the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates team.