RIP to Rick Down, a long time minor-league manager and big-league hitting coach for the Yankees, Orioles, Mets and more. He died on January 5 in Las Vegas, Nev. after a lengthy illness. He was 68 years old.
Down originally was an outfielder/first baseman in the Montreal Expos farm system. He was drafted in the 74th Round of the 1969 June Amateur Draft from Southgate High School in Southgate, Mich. He lasted in the minors for eight seasons, which is a pretty good minor-league career for a 74th Round pick. He had a lifetime .257 batting average and hit 36 home runs. His best season was in 1974, when Down hit .282 for the AAA Memphis Blues with 11 homers and 53 RBIs, all of which were career highs. His last full-time season was 1975, though he played a little in 1978 while coaching with the Mariners organization.
Down turned to coaching for a few seasons in the late 1970s before becoming an assistant baseball coach at the University of Nevada- Las Vegas. He was there from 1979 through 1984 when he returned to pro baseball. He was a roving hitting instructor for the California Angels from 1985-1988, and then the Yankees hired him to be a minor-league manager. He worked in the Yankees minor-league system for five seasons, mostly with the Columbus AAA team. He had a 423-296 managerial career and worked with Yankee rookies like Deion Sanders and Bernie Williams.
From 1993 through 2007, Down was employed pretty much constantly as a hitting coach. He worked for the Yankees (1993-15), Orioles (1996-8), Dodgers (1999-2000), Red Sox (2001), Yankees again (2002-03, and Coordinator of Instruction in 2004) and Mets (2005-07). During his time, the Yankees led the AL in hitting in 1994 and ’94, and the Orioles set a then-record with 257 home runs in 1996.
“He was knowledgeable, very loyal, a lot of fun to be around,’’ former Yankees and Orioles manager Buck Showalter said in the Baltimore Sun. “Players loved him because he didn’t want to do anything but make you better as a hitter. When you saw guys like Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs sitting with Rick and listening to him talk about hitting, that ought to tell you something.”
News stories: Baltimore Sun: https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bs-sp-rick-down-passes-away-at-68-story.html