Home Pittsburgh Sports College Football Ringing the Bell

Ringing the Bell

When hitting coach Gregg Ritchie accepted the head coaching position at George Washington University early this fall, the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking for someone to rejuvenate their offense.

On Oct. 31, the Pirates hired former all-star shortstop Jay Bell to fill the void as the Bucs hitting coach. Bell will attempt to improve the 2012 offense that finished nearly last in the National League in batting average and on-base percentage.

Bell, 46, played eight of his 18 Major League Baseball seasons with the Pirates organization in the early 1990s and was a crucial part of the N.L. East Championship teams in 1990, 1991 and 1992. Bell became the Pirates’ everyday shortstop in 1990, only a year after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians. While his range in the field was average, Bell excelled at knowledge of the other team’s hitters and was masterful at the plate.

In 1,106 games with the Bucs, Bell hit .269 with 78 homeruns and 423 RBI. He also produced a .282 average in 20 post-season games with Pittsburgh, which included a .414 (12-for-29) average during the 1991 National League Championship Series against Atlanta.

Bell played mostly as a contact hitter, racking up singles and doubles, but his real expertise was as a bunter. Bell still holds the Pittsburgh club record for most sacrifice bunts in a season (39 in 1990) and was a Silver Slugger winner with the Pirates in 1993. On top of his first All-Star and Silver Slugger season in 1993, Bell won the Gold Glove Award, breaking a streak of 13 straight gold gloves at shortstop by former St. Louis Cardinals hall of famer Ozzie Smith.

After departing from the Pirates organization in 1996, Bell played a short stint for the Kansas City Royals in 1997 before settling down with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998. Bell moved to second base during the 1999 season for the Diamondbacks and had some of the best power numbers of his career.

Bell smashed 36 of 38 homeruns while playing at second base during the season and drove in a career-high 112 runs. He made his second and final all-star game appearance that season and helped Diamondbacks capture the N.L. West with a 100-62 record, finishing 14 games above the second place San Francisco Giants.

Bell captured a World Series title in 2001 with the Diamondbacks, scoring the game-winning run in an iconic game seven. Bell scored off of Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single in the ninth inning, dethroning the New York Yankees as MLB’s powerhouse. 

Bell played the two remaining years of his career with the Diamondbacks in 2002 and with the New York Mets in 2003. When Bell retired in 2003, he had appeared in 2,063 career games while batting .265, scoring 1,123 runs and driving in 860 base runners.

After retiring as a player, Bell spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons as a bench coach for Arizona before spending three seasons as a spring training advisor with the club. He spent the 2012 season as the hitting coach for the Southern League champion Mobile Bay Bears, Arizona’s double-A affiliate.

With an excellent career and some bench coaching experience all in the past, Bell is looking forward to helping the Pirates organization return to a winning tradition.

“Pittsburgh is starved for a team that can get back to those glory days,” Bell said. “It’s just a matter of time before it happens. It should be a great challenge for me. It’s definitely a great opportunity for me to get back to a city that I loved playing in.”

Coupled with enthusiasm, Bell’s reputation for being a knowledgeable baseball player will be an immense help for an offense that, besides all-star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, struggled mightily in the early and late parts of 2012.

As a team, Pittsburgh only hit .243 with .304 on-base percentage, one of the lowest in the entire league. Despite the slow start and rocky finish, the Pirates showed signs of life in the middle of the season. Bell will need to draw from his experience to keep the team consistent throughout the course of the year.

Bell knows what it takes to win. He was a part of winning teams in Pittsburgh and won a World Series in Arizona. The Bucs are hopeful Bell will able to return those winning ways to the Bucs through a more efficient offense.

Previous articleA New Recipe for Cooke
Next articleTeams to Watch in the NFL Playoffs