Touching base with Bobby Meacham.
Every Friday through Spring Training, we’re running a feature called “Touching Base” in an effort to let the fans get to know the Major League coaching staff, from the four newcomers to the two returnees.
We hope this gives you insight to what coaches do every day. Their duties extend far beyond what you see them do on a field once the game starts.
This week, we spotlight first base coach Bobby Meacham.
Base coaches generally go unnoticed by the viewing public over a course of a season, partly because what they do while in the public spotlight appears to be pretty basic.
They stand at their posts and play a necessary role in directing traffic, but that’s hardly the only duties they have as members of a Major League coaching staff. Their duties extend far beyond what we see them do on the field. It’s just that most of it is executed behind the scenes.
Yes, a first base coach has the basic responsibilities that we see every day — he reminds the runner how many outs are in the inning when he reaches base and gives the warning signal when a pickoff attempt is about to be made — but what else does he do?
Try keeping track of Astros first base coach Bobby Meacham for a few days. He’s everywhere. He’s constantly on the go, teaching, advising and reminding the players that bunting and smart baserunning can make or break a team over the course of a season.
He calls bunting “kind of a lost art in baseball these days,” but doesn’t believe it has to be that way. The former Yankees infielder was asked to bunt plenty of times during his six seasons in the big leagues, and he understands how detrimental a lack of ability in that area can be if not properly executed.
“Billy Martin, my manager, always said, ‘If you’re going to make so many outs, I want you to make productive outs,” Meacham said. “Making outs that moves runners, making outs that sacrifice, suicide squeezes…they’ll produce runs somewhere.”
Meacham, pictured above with Brad Mills and Al Pedrique
On the defensive side, Meacham is in charge of the infielders. Taking ground balls, practicing double plays and working on backhand moves all fall under his window. He’s also in charge of properly aligning the infielders — in other words, make sure the players are standing where the hitter is most likely to hit the ball. Sounds simple enough, but that exercise requires tons of preparation in studying spray charts, having a general knowledge of the opposing team’s hitters and understanding the infielder’s defensive strengths and weaknesses.
Simply put, it’s Meacham’s responsibility to always be thinking one step ahead of his players.
“These guys are professional, they want to do better,” Meacham said. “They don’t care about the criticism as much as they want to know what we think about it and how they can get better. To teach different things like positioning is important for the infielders. That goes along with the spray charts that we kind of know where players might hit the ball. All of that might add up to less runs here and there that will hopefully help us win ballgames.”
Meacham pictured above with Pedro Feliz, right
Meacham was primarily a shortstop during a Major League career that spanned from 1983-88. Four years after his playing career was finished, he managed in the Royals farm system with the Class A Eugene club before moving to the Rockies’ organization for one season as a coach for the Triple-A team in Colorado Springs.
He then moved on to the Pirates organization, where he coached and managed in the Minor Leagues for the next eight seasons. He managed at Double-A Carolina from 1994-95, was a roving baserunning coach in 1996 and was the Pirates’ roving infield instructor from 1997-01. He managed in the Angels organization at Class A Rancho Cucamonga for three seasons from 2002-04 and was the Rockies’ roving infield instructor. He coached in the big leagues for three seasons, in 2006 (Marlins), ’07 (Padres) and Yankees (’08).
That’s quite an extensive resume, but perhaps no coaching job was more important than the 1993 gig with the Triple-A Rockies. That year, he coached under Brad Mills, who managed that club from 1993-96.
Meacham was hired by the Astros last Oct. 30, less than a week after Mills was introduced as the Astros’ new skipper.
“I knew Brad was interviewing for the Houston job,” Meacham said. “We talked over the years and stayed in touch.
“We have similar philosophies and we talk about the game all the time. Our families exchange Christmas cards and we kept abreast of what’s going on in the game. That came in handy for him when he needed a coach that he could trust and thinks kind of like he does. It worked out well for both of us.”
Just the facts: Bobby Meacham
Born: Los Angeles, CA
Resides: Littleton, CO
Drafted: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981.
Major League debut: June 30, 1983
Final game: July 10, 1988
Something you might not know: Attended San Diego State University, where he was a teammate of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and Padres manager Bud Black. Meacham and Gwynn were in the same draft class.