Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jeff Datz, Headed for Third - 678

Originally published Nov. 21, 2010; Updated March 25, 2014
A long-time coach for the Indians, Jeff Datz made the switch to third for 2006, something that paid immediate dividends.

In two early April games, Datz was aggressive, sending two runners home, both of whom were safe on close plays, MLB.com wrote.

"I like going to third," Datz told MLB.com. "There's more involved at third base than first. You have to know catchers' arms, outfielders' arms, relay guys' arms. We get an advanced scouting report once the season starts. You try to watch those guys throwing and all the plays that they make, and you have to know what our guys can do."

Datz was coaching for the Indians in just the latest stop in a baseball career that dated back to 1982, when he was drafted as a catcher by the Astros.

And, while he went to third for 2006 - and he'll be returning to third in 2011 as third base coach for the Mariners - he had trouble getting there as a player. Or even first, for that matter, something he would joke about later.

Datz' playing career was one that lasted nine seasons in the minors and one brief stint in the majors. He began at short-season Auburn in 1982, hitting .224. He didn't make AA until 1985, hitting just .193 at Columbus.

Returning to Columbus for 1986, Datz had the best run of his career, hitting .325 and earning a look at AAA Tucson.

Going into 1987, Astros manager Hal Lanier was aware of Datz, though Datz had a slow spring. ''I'm giving Datz a long, hard look," Lanier told The Orlando Sentinel. Datz didn't make it that year, he spent it back at AA Columbus. He also didn't make it the next.

It wasn't until he made it to the Tigers organization in 1989 that Datz made it to the majors. He hit .247 at Toledo, but got the September call-up to Detroit. He played in seven games for the Tigers, getting 12 plate appearances. He walked twice and got two hits, the extent of his major league playing career.

Datz returned to the minors for 1990, playing at AAA Columbus. It was his final season as a player. He returned for another go in spring 1991, but was released.

Years later, in 2008, Datz appeared to joke about his troubles at the plate as a player. On a hot day, it was suggested Datz use a newspaper as a towel. "That's what I used to use as a bat," Datz said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

His playing career over, Datz turned to coaching and managing. By 1994, Datz was managing the short-season Watertown Indians. Among the players he oversaw at Watertown was Jim Betzsold.

"We really like what we've seen from him so far, especially his power," Datz told The Los Angeles Times of Betzsold. "He's definitely got some juice in his bat. He's done a heck of a job for us, and has hit well in the clutch."

Datz moved up to managing AAA Buffalo by 1998. There, in May, he oversaw Dwight Gooden under rehab. Speaking to The New York Daily News, Datz told of what he looked for in a pitcher.

"Velocity is not the most important thing. Command, movement and velocity, for me, is the order," Datz told The Daily News. "Everybody loves to see the 95-mph fastball, but Doc's probably not going to get there. He was, what, 91, 92 last year. So if he can get back to there, that's great."

In 2002, Datz joined the Indians in Cleveland, as a coach. He stayed with Cleveland as a coach through 2009, when manager Eric Wedge was let go. After a season as a coach with the Orioles, Datz rejoined Wedge for 2011 with the Mariners.

Datz was also headed back to third.

"He does a fantastic job in putting the day together every day," Wedge told The Tacoma News Tribune Nov. 5. "He can do anything, serve any role, and he'll be a great third base coach."

In April 2013, Datz was diagnosed with skin cancer, receiving six weeks of radiation treatment, according to The Seattle Times. That July, after his treatment was complete, he told The Seattle Times his approach to getting better.

"I tried to throw BP the whole time through radiation," Datz told The Seattle Times. "I wanted to do that to say, 'Hey, cancer, you're not going to beat me.'"

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