ARLINGTON -- The last pitch that Nolan Ryan threw in the Major Leagues was to Mariners backup infielder Dave Magadan. It was a 1-1 pitch and Magadan took it for a ball. Ryan then walked off the mound. "I like to lie to people and say, 'He was just scared to face me,'" Magadan said.
The date was Sept. 22, 1993, at the Kingdome. Ryan had just severely injured a ligament in his right elbow and his 27-year Major League career was over. Ryan and Magadan had a chance to revisit that moment from nearly 20 years ago on Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark. Magadan is in town to visit with players as he gets ready to assume his duties as the Rangers' new hitting coach. He also stopped by the front office to chat with Ryan. "I'm thrilled we have him," Ryan said. "He's going to be a nice addition to our coaching staff and brings a positive message to our ballclub." The Rangers hired Magadan away from the Red Sox. He spent six years as the Red Sox hitting coach and 3 1/2 years prior to that with the Padres. Magadan, who makes his offseason home in Florida, has already started talking with players by phone and will meet face to face with some of them while he is in town. He is also eager to start watching video of each player to get an idea of what he'll be dealing with in Texas. "My first priority is to learn the hitters," Magadan said. "For the next few weeks I'm going to be looking at video of guys, both the good and the bad. The ultimate goal is to get an understanding of what he does well and understand what they're doing when they get away from that. Too many times a good hitter doesn't understand what makes them a good hitter. "I'm not a guy who feels he knows everything about hitting, but I have a good idea of what makes a hitter good and, when he gets out of it, how to bring it back and how to rein it back in." Magadan is the Rangers' fifth hitting coach in four years. He replaces Scott Coolbaugh, who was let go after the season even though the Rangers led the American League in runs scored. The Rangers made the decision to dismiss Coolbaugh only after they were able to hire Magadan away from the Red Sox. The Rangers hired Magadan for a couple of primary reasons. They want him to help Rangers batters to adopt a more disciplined approach to their hitting and to be better situational hitters. "They led the league in runs scored but in talking to these guys, they felt like they left a lot of runs out there on the table," Magadan said. "In our [American League West] division, there is a lot of good pitching and you're not going to bang out 18 hits and 14 runs every night. When you face good pitching, you have to do small things and stay committed to it to score runs. You've got to talk about it every day and make it a priority. "I'm not a big fan of having hitters meetings to talk about generalities. I like talking about it with each individual, what that pitcher is going to do to get you out. Every hitter is going to be pitched differently. What makes Ian Kinsler a good hitter and Adrian Beltre a good hitter doesn't make David Murphy a good hitter. Each hitter is different. When they get away from what they're doing, that's when I come in to get them back." Magadan talks about a disciplined approach to the plate, but he does not talk about taking more walks. If the best pitch to hit is the first pitch to hit, Magadan has no problems with his players swinging away. "I never talk to a hitter about walking more. If you have a good approach and know what you're looking for, and if you stay disciplined, the walks will happen, you'll see better pitches and you'll end up driving the ball. It's all about having a disciplined approach." Magadan does not enter the job completely unfamiliar with his new team. Magadan knows Beltre. They were together for one year in Boston, but it was an important season for Beltre. He had just experienced five rough seasons in Seattle. In 2009, Beltre played in just 111 games because of a shoulder injury and finished with a .265 average with a career-low eight home runs and 44 RBIs. He was a free agent and signed with the Red Sox. With Magadan's help, Beltre came back strong in 2010, hitting .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs. The Rangers signed him to a five-year contract in the following offseason. "Adrian Beltre is one of my all-time favorites," Magadan said. "He's a class guy and a great teammate. He plays hard and wants to be out there every day." Magadan also knows Murphy from Boston. Murphy came up through the Red Sox system before being traded to the Rangers on July 31, 2007, along with two others for reliever Eric Gagne. At the time, the Red Sox had two top hitting prospects in Murphy and Brandon Moss. "We were all big fans of Murph," Magadan said. "He was a guy who could light it up in batting practice and hit the ball a long way. You knew he was going to have success in the big leagues and it's fun to see what he's done in Texas." Many hitters have been successful in Texas. But the Rangers feel they can do better offensively and Magadan is ready to go to work. "Hopefully I can get to know these guys before we go to Spring Training so we can hit the ground running," Magadan said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.