Lansford brings keen eye to coaching

Lansford brings keen eye to coaching

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- His expert eyes focused on the hitter, Carney Lansford makes another mental note. He regards the swing and how it makes it way through the strike zone, how the body and feet are set in motion, and the head movement.

After watching batters for over 30 years as a player, coach and manager, Lansford can picture the perfect swing -- and it's different for every hitter.

"My job is to keep them on their game," Lansford said. "Everybody has their own style and I don't like to mess with guys unless they are really struggling. It's usually something small and if it gets in their head, it becomes a big thing."

Lansford is in his first year as hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, a team he grew up with living in the Santa Clara area. He was born the year before the Giants came to the West Coast, and now he's one of them.

He was a likable player on both sides of San Francisco Bay, even as he played for the Oakland Athletics during their rise to prominence in the late '80s.

His unique batting stance helped him to a career average of .290. He collected more than 2,000 Major League hits and scored more than 1,000 runs. He's played in the World Series four times, including his year with the Briarwood (Santa Clara) Little League team that made it to the championship game in Williamsport, Pa.

"He's a guy who was good for a long time," Giants outfielder Randy Winn said. "There's a certain level of respect for some one who has done it, and done it well. Playing the game goes a long way."

Lansford, who has two sons (Josh and Jared) playing in the Minor Leagues (one in the A's organization), also understands there's a thin line between instruction and obstruction. He leaves hitters alone unless he detects something abnormal about the swing he's always seen and filed away in his memory banks.

"He's there when you need him," Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz said. "He hasn't made any changes in my swing, but I definitely trust his opinion. He watched me in the fall leagues, he's seen me in Triple-A. He knows my swing, and he lets me hit the way I want. If he sees something dramatic, he's right there. He makes us feel confident."

Winn said that while he hasn't messed with his swing, it helps to have another keen eye, and, if needed, a confidant.

"He spends a lot of time getting to know guys on a personal level and on a swing level," Winn said. "You can sit down with him any time. He's someone you would definitely want to seek advice from."

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Lansford said he's been evaluating everybody through Spring Training.

"The veteran guys know," he said. "I just like to know what they want from me, maybe get one or two keys from them."

For Ray Durham, Lansford is like having his own personal guru. Lansford studied under Walt Hriniak, the man who crafted the legendary guru Charlie Lau's hitting theories into action, and whose hitting approach remains a staple of the Chicago White Sox organization.

"I know he struggled last year but I think there are things I can help him with," Lansford said. "He's at his best when he hits from foul pole to foul pole."

Durham, who struggled to the lowest batting average (.218) of his career last year, has been hitting the ball well this spring, hitting well above .300, and hitting the ball hard.

"Coming up with that and having someone around who knows the exact system helps me out," Durham said after a game in which he went 4-for-4. "He's helped me tremendously and it's just little things like staying back on the ball and moving the contact point more toward the body. It makes a difference between hitting the ball hard or hitting a fly ball."

After a session with Lansford, struggling Giants first baseman Dan Ortmeier went out and hit the ball harder than he has all spring.

"Carney took him to the cage and helped him create more movement," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

He could be creating miracles with the Giants, who ranked last in the Majors in slugging percentage (.387) and RBIs (641) and next-to-last in runs (683) and doubles (267) last year. The Giants ranked 27th (of 30) with a .251 batting average and 25th with 131 home runs.

Rick Eymer is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.