Molina's enjoying new phase of brotherhood with Cards
Bengie altered family travel plans to join Yadier, St. Louis as assistant hitting coach
WASHINGTON -- When Bengie Molina stepped away from baseball after the 2010 season, he made his wife, Jamie, a promise. He wasn't going to ignore the itch he had to transition into a coaching role; but he would hold off on acting upon it for three years.
And so the two began to make a to-do list, one dominated by destinations.
They hit several of the locales in 2011-12, but the plans for '13 were especially grand. A vacation to Europe -- with a lengthy stop in Greece -- was in the works. So, too, was a monthlong fishing and adventure trip to Alaska. Molina wanted to attend the Little League World Series, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and take Jamie, a former collegiate tennis player, to Flushing Meadows, N.Y., for the U.S. Open.
The pause in travel planning, though, came in November, after Molina took a phone call from younger brother Yadier, who passed along news of a hitting-coach opening within the Cardinals' organization. There was really no additional sales pitch needed. It was the type of coaching job Bengie Molina desired -- albeit, a year ahead of his schedule -- and a location that would allow him to realize an unfulfilled dream: being on the same Major League team as his brother.
A reunion nearly happened for the two brothers after the '10 season, when the Cardinals discussed signing Bengie to serve as Yadier's backup. Since that never happened, Molina wasn't about to let a second opportunity pass by.
"If it would have been somebody else [offering a coaching job], I probably would have thought about it twice and wouldn't have taken it, because I wanted three years off," Molina said. "But because Yadi is in this organization, it's a good chance to hang out with him more, and at the same time, it's a great team and a great opportunity for me to go back into baseball. And it's not just Yadi. I love teaching. I love helping. If I can pass something on to them, then I will. I'm very excited to do it."
Molina is only months into the job as the Cards' assistant hitting coach. Relationships, he said, have formed naturally, perhaps a product of his outgoing, positive personality. He believes, too, that he is past the uncertainty he felt through much of spring.
It wasn't hesitation about taking the job -- of that, Molina says, he has no regrets. Rather, it was the uncertainty of knowing how to fit in, when to have a voice and where to step aside.
"It was a very, very weird feeling," Molina said of assimilating into the coaching ranks. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know where to be. I didn't know what time to be here or there or when I was throwing batting practice. Where's my place? But then I figured it out little by little, and after that, it became easier. Now, I'm having a lot of fun."
The Cardinals, who needed to fill a coaching vacancy created when John Mabry took the head hitting coach position, took a chance with hiring Molina. He had no previous coaching experience at any level.
But the Cards believed in Molina's background and were intrigued by the perspective he could offer after his 13-year career catching at the Major League level. He'd approach the position almost in a backward sense, not so much fixing hitters' swings, but rather preparing them for pitchers and pitch sequences.
"Four eyes are better than two when you're looking at something, because you're getting different points of view," Mabry said. "The preparation part of it is understanding what our hitters do well and what they don't do well and how the pitchers are attacking them. We can benefit greatly from what he's seen in the past as a catcher, what he saw as a hitter and what he's now seeing as a hitting instructor. You take all those things and try to apply them and try to create a game plan."
One of Molina's primary tasks is to prepare the team's bench players in-game for possible pinch-hit appearances. He's typically busiest, therefore, during the middle innings, but he spends any downtime trying to decipher tendencies from the opposing pitcher. Molina will then disseminate that information in the dugout.
Molina utilized the time at Spring Training to gradually learn the tendencies of his new pupils' swings. Mabry's perspective helped, as did the time Molina spent watching video from last season. But he found the best resource to be his brother, who, while making his career reading the swings of his opponents, has also instinctively dissected the swings of his teammates.
He told his older brother what he saw, which gave Bengie a foundation from which to proceed. Yadier was also able to highlight personality characteristics, which helped Bengie determine how best to approach each player individually.
"He loves it," Yadier Molina said of his brother's assimilation into the organization. "He has so much experience that he'll be good teaching the young guys. And not only the hitters, but he can also teach the pitchers. He brings a lot to the table."
The Molina's relationship, though, goes much deeper than Xs and Os. Having always dreamed of playing alongside his brother, Bengie Molina has found the next-best thing.
There was an initial awkwardness, Bengie admitted, to knowing when to approach Yadier and how to offer feedback. That's now past, having given way to Bengie's growing appreciation for the talented younger brother who long ago followed in his big league footsteps.
"Watching him play the game live has been an unbelievable feeling," Molina said. "Even though I never did play with him, we're here on the same team, cheering for each other and trying to win a championship together."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.