- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Mitchell Page is one of the most respected hitting instructors in the game. Page this year returned to the Washington Nationals for his second season with the team and his first under new manager Manny Acta.

Page gained notoriety when he served as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2002 to 2004, a span in which the Cardinals twice reached the league championship series and once advanced to the World Series.

Under Page’s tutelage, the Cardinals ranked among the major leagues’ top two teams in runs scored for three straight seasons. In 2004, the Cardinals led the NL in runs (757), hits (1,544) and slugging percentage (.460).

Ken Wright caught up with Page and talked about Page’s hitting philosophy.

Q: With a managerial change this season, the Nationals didn’t have to retain you, but they did. Can you talk about how that whole process went down and how you returned this season?

A: Simply let me say this first: From looking at Day One here at spring training to now, I think Jim, Stan, and Boonie picked the right guy to run this young team. [Acta] brings lots of energy and lots of education. He knows hitting, pitching, infield, outfield work. He brings a complete repertoire to the game. He’s open for communication.

That’s one thing I’ll say: They brought the right guy in.

I think what Manny did was he researched a little bit the history about me, and he saw me working. So, he talked to a few guys - Schneider, Zimmerman, Johnson - and talked to Pujols and Scott Rolen over there. Those guys told him about me and how I work, that I’m dedicated to the job and I just want to get the best out of the players.

So, he strictly said: “Page is my man, I want you back here.”

Q: You have a reputation as a highly respected hitting coach. How did you earn that label?

A: My history working with the big names shows that nobody so far - knock on wood - nobody has slipped backward. … It’s just not the education of the swing. It’s working with the complete body and giving them a good idea of all the pitching they’re going to face during a series and trying to develop a student, a professional hitter.

The swing is not always the problem. It’s how the guys go up to the plate, how they prepare themselves the first time against pitching. Every day a good hitter has to make a slight adjustment based on who started out there. You take Glavine or you take a Clemens, you’ve got to prepare totally different. Your approach has got to be totally different facing those two guys. So, I try to make it a complete thing with the mental part of the hitting to the physical part of hitting.

Q: In all your years in baseball, who was the greatest hitter you’ve seen?

A: It’s hard to say the greatest, but one of the best is Pujols. I’ve been around him for three or four years, and that’s a prime example. We’ve got a guy on our team that reminds me so much of Pujols, and that’s Zimmerman because he’s a student of the game.

I tell everybody there’s 50 people in the big leagues with the same amount of physical tools that Pujols has, but what takes Pujols to the next level is what’s between his eyes or ears. His mind, his mental approach, his soul - it overshadows lots of guys in the big leagues. That’s why he’s capable of doing what he’s doing because of his mental approach to hitting - [it’s] way beyond lots of people at the major league level.

Q: What kind of player were you? You played eight seasons with Oakland and Pittsburgh.

A: I was a good line-drive hitter. …

Q: What position did you play?

A: Left-field and DH. I played with a golden glove. I could get to the ball, but it wouldn’t stay in my glove for that gold to ever close.

Q: Is your son Kyle still in the organization? He worked out last year with the potential draft picks.

A: He never signed. He’s still in school. He’s still young and sort of green. He needs another year of junior college and then see if he’s ready by then.

Q: Will he go back in the draft?

A: He’s going to have to because they’ll have to sign him before they draft him. Otherwise, he’ll be available to anybody else, but he’s not getting lots of playing time right now because there are lots of sophomore kids in front of him. He should get more playing time next year and be able show his skill. He’s going to play in a summer league up in D.C. He needs 200 at-bats to tell what he’s really going to be like.

Q: Where do you live during the offseason? Do you live down here in Florida?

A: I’ve got a place in Florida, and I’ve got a place in Arizona. So, I go back and forth. But this year, I spent more time in Florida than I did in Arizona.

Q: Where did you live in the D.C. area?

A: Alexandria. Over off Jefferson Davis highway. A nice area.

Q: Did you like that area?

A: Oh, I love it. When I say love it, everything is right there for you. It was a short drive to the ballpark and it takes me less than 10 minutes to get to the ballpark. It’s a great area out there.

Q: Do you have any aspirations of becoming a manager some day?

A: The last thing I want to do is manage. I want to help take this team on the offensive side to the World Series and probably end up roving again and working with young kids.

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