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Donnie Ecker named 2021 MLB Coach of the Year by Baseball America

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea | 2020 Feb 18

For his role in helping several Giants to career years at the plate, Donnie Ecker has been named the 2021 MLB Coach of the Year by Baseball America. 

Ecker, who joined San Francisco’s staff prior to the 2020 season, combined a personal touch with analytics to guide SF’s batters. The 35-year-old parlayed his success with his Giants into a bench coach and offensive coordinator position for the Texas Rangers. 

“Players have ownership over everything,” Ecker told Baseball America. “We support players more than we challenge them, and we collaborate where no one person’s idea is bigger than the sum of the parts. This award is a San Francisco Giants award. It’s excellent coaches and excellent players working together.”

Like many of the coaches hired to Gabe Kapler’s staff, Ecker’s path to the major league bench was a bit unconventional. He had a brief professional career in the minors and in the independent Frontier League, but then worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first as an assistant at Los Altos High School — where he starred in football in baseball at as a student.

With the Giants, Ecker and the other hitting coaches connected with players personally, several of whom credited them for providing information in a palatable way. 

Ecker also prided himself with contributing to San Francisco’s organizational commitment to mental health awareness.

“We created spaces for people to be open and vulnerable and talk,” Ecker told Baseball America. “Are you getting the guy who knows he is in a safe place? We had healthy individuals who knew they were supported. If support is low, the challenge can’t be high.”

Ecker is seen as a rising star in the industry, as evidenced by his upward mobility move to Texas. He and the staff helped several SF batters, including Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., and Darin Ruf, to especially strong seasons.

With Ecker’s departure — in addition to longtime coach Ron Wotus stepping away from everyday on-field duties — the Giants overhauled their coaching staff for 2022. Hitting coaches Justin Viele and Dustin Lind are still with the team, and Pedro Guerrero is joining them as another hitting coach. Taira Uematsu has been promoted to assistant coach and Mark Hallberg is taking Wotus’ former post at third base.

 

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