NEW YORK - Kevin Long, Scottsdale’s connection to the New York Yankees, began his work as the team’s hitting coach even before spring training, when Alex Rodriguez invited him to Miami in January to investigate his swing.
The two apparently hit it off. Rodriguez is leading the major leagues in home runs and RBIs in Long’s first year as hitting coach, after 18 years in the minor leagues as a player and a coach.
“It’s a long time to wait for this opportunity … and the New York Yankees, of all teams. The tradition,” said Long, who grew up and still makes his home in Scottsdale.
“It’s just been a whirlwind experience. I’m enjoying every minute of it. I sort of feel like I belong, a lot more than when I first started. It’s been a good match so far.”
Long, the hitting coach at Triple-A Columbus for three years before replacing Don Mattingly, was a freshman on the University of Arizona’s 1986 College World Series championship team and was All-Pac-10 Southern Division in 1989.
He made it as far as Triple-A in the Kansas City organization before getting into coaching, and he said the same principles apply at every level, even here.
“You can talk about them being high-dollar guys, and superstars, but they still go through the same things that everybody does, just for not as long a period of time,” Long said.
“And there are not as many tweaks. You don’t have to revamp swings and start from scratch. It’s more making one little adjustment than one big one.”
The Yankees led the major leagues in on-base percentage and were second in runs entering Thursday’s games.
“He has always been a guy who worked extremely hard at what he did, and he’d figure out ways to get it done,” said D-Backs third-base coach Chip Hale, who played with Long in college. “And he could adjust. That’s part of being a good coach, being able to teach.”
OJEDA UP, CALLASPO DOWN
Shortstop Augie Ojeda will join the D-Backs in Baltimore today, when his contract will be purchased from Triple-A Tucson.
Reserve infielder Alberto Callaspo, hitting .208 in 125 at-bats, will be optioned to the Sidewinders in order to continue his development with regular playing time.
“It’s hard,” Callaspo admitted about trying to stay sharp with limited time. “I’m going to get some at-bats, get hot and come back up here.”
Callaspo had only 32 at-bats in the last 23 games after rejoining the team May 19 following nine days on the restricted list while charges of felony criminal damage and misdemeanor assault against his wife were investigated.
Callaspo was the D-Backs’ minor league player of the year in 2006 after hitting .337 with a Pacific Coast League-high 165 hits.
Ojeda, who spent parts of five seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota before signing with the D-Backs in the offseason, was hitting .323 with eight doubles and 17 RBIs in 99 at-bats. He missed almost a month with a groin injury.
The D-Backs are likely to designate right-hander Mike Schultz for assignment.
The team announced the signing of 16 2007 draft choices, the highest being 10th-rounder Evan Frey, an outfielder who played with Max Scherzer at Missouri. Yakima and Missoula, the D-Backs’ short-season teams, begin play Tuesday. …
Sandwich picks Cal State Fullerton right-hander Wes Roemer and Mississippi State catcher Ed Easley are playing in the College World Series, so negotiations with them have not begun.