Oct 052010
 
Phillies hitting instructor Greg Gross

Phillies hitting instructor Greg Gross

October 5 Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Here are the facts:

Through 95 games, the Phillies batted .254, averaged 4.6 runs per game and ranked sixth in the National League in runs scored. In their final 67 games, the Phillies batted .269, averaged 5 runs per game and moved up to second in the league in runs scored.

Milt Thompson was the hitting instructor through the first 95 games. Greg Gross was the hitting instructor through the final 67 games.

Charlie Manuel said replacing Thompson with Gross in the middle of the 2010 season was the most difficult decision he has made during his six seasons as the Phillies‘ manager.

“When I first came to work here, Milt and I traveled a lot in the minor leagues together and we always talked about baseball,” Manuel said. “I was around him a lot and I considered him a friend and someone I cared about. But you have to make hard decisions that you think are going to help. That decision wasn’t just tough on me; it was tough on the whole organization.”

It was equally difficult for Gross, who had been teammates with Thompson on the Phillies of the mid-80s, and had coached with him at the major-league level.

When his phone rang in Indianapolis late in the evening of July 22, Gross thought general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was calling for a scouting report on top prospect Domonic Brown, who was also with triple-A Lehigh Valley at the time.

“I had no indication anything like this was going to happen,” Gross said. “Yes, I was excited to get back to this level, but there were also my feelings for Milt. I know how he felt because I was in that situation. It happened to me after the [2004] season was over. This was a person that was a teammate, a friend, a colleague and we do the same thing. All those thoughts go through your head.”

Gross, who had been demoted to minor-league hitting instructor and replaced by Thompson a month after Larry Bowa was fired as manager in 2004, spoke to the man he was replacing almost immediately.

“I talked to him that first day and that helped,” Gross said. “You wouldn’t expect anything less than Milt being a professional about everything. He wished me luck and told me he knew I wasn’t pushing for his job. That helped me.”

With that peace of mind, Gross focused on trying to help the Phillies‘ struggling hitters. He said he did not arrive from Lehigh Valley with any specific agenda or solution.

“I wanted to sit back, observe and see how quickly I could try to understand their thinking,” Gross said. “I wanted to see their routines, what they think are keys for them when they’re going good. At this level, with this type of lineup, you have an awful lot of experience off an awful lot of success, so there is not a whole lot in terms of changing things.”

The other thing that helped Gross was that the offense and the team got hot, averaging 6.3 runs while winning seven straight games after the new hitting instructor arrived.”

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