December 22, 2010
It's comforting to know former New York Yankees don't have issues finding employment after their professional baseball careers are finished. Interestingly, former Yankees first baseman Andy Phillips has the unique opportunity of coaching big-time college baseball in the SEC at Alabama, his alma mater.
Phillips will coach the Crimson Tide hitters and assist in recruiting, while Dax Norris, who spent several seasons in the minor leagues and is a former catcher, shifts from hitting coach to pitching coach.
The interesting moves come as a result of pitching coach Kyle Bunn abruptly announcing his resignation last week. And with the season slated to begin in less than two months, the Crimson Tide had to quickly move for an assistant coach.
The search ended with Phillips, someone with plenty of credibility as a player at the collegiate and professional levels.
"He brings something special to the table. He was a great player here and a good player at the Major League Level. Most importantly, he has a passion for coaching at Alabama and the timing was just right. I couldn't be more excited to have him," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Obviously, with two former college All-Americans on the staff now, I think we have a great deal of knowledge on our staff."
"While Andy is excited to join the program, I think Dax also is excited to be heading over to the pitching side of things for us."
Though there's always a risk in hiring a first-time assistant, there's no question Phillips brings much credibility to the table from a playing standpoint.
Phillips played for the Crimson Tide from 1996-99 and compiled a .356 career batting average. His 322 career hits with the Tide remains the school record. Additionally, he helped guide the Tide to the College World Series in three of his four seasons with the program in '96, '97 and '99. Phillips finished his career with All-American honors.
The Yankees selected Phillips in the seventh round of the MLB draft out of college in '99, and he made his MLB debut with the organization toward the end of the '04 season. In his first at bat with the Yankees, Phillips hit a home run over the Green Monster in Fenway Park, and is one of just seven Yanks to hit homers in their first at bat.
Phillips had a more prominent role for the Yankees in '06 when a Gary Sheffield injury forced Bernie Williams to move to the outfield, thus leading to Jason Giambi taking over the designated hitter role and Phillips moving to first base.
His best year at the big level came in '07 when he batted .292 with two home runs and 25 RBIs. He ended the year with 185 at bats.
Phillips also had stints with the Reds, Mets and White Sox before finishing his career with two seasons in the Nippon Professional League in Japan.
Overall, knowledge of the game won't be an issue with Phillips. But it will be interesting to see how he coaches and how much his background plays to the Crimson Tide's favor on the recruiting trail.
Either way, it's always nice to see a former big leaguer give back to his alma mater. Phillips is just doing it in extra special fashion.