Walt Hriniak

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Walter John Hriniak

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Biographical Information[edit]

"He made you believe that there was one way to stay focused, one way to stay positive, and one way to get you to get a hit three out of 10 at-bats. We stuck with that program, and I made it happen for years." - Frank Thomas, giving Walt Hriniak credit for influencing him

After a short major league career as a catcher, Walt Hriniak went on to a long career as a hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. He preached a style similar to hitting coach Charley Lau, teaching hitters the importance of timing and weight shift.

A prototype was Lau's student George Brett: starting all the way back and then diving forward and toward the plate as the pitch comes in. The batter releases the top hand for full extension and finishes the swing with the back foot coming off the ground and all the weight shifting to the front leg.

Two of Hriniak's most notable products were Rich Gedman and Dwight Evans. He was sometimes given credit for the transformation of Evans from a mediocre hitter in the 1970s to one of the best hitters in baseball in the 1980s. Evans was often recognized for the bizarre stances he used, often with the front foot nearly off the ground to emphasize keeping his weight back. But as much credit as Hriniak got for Evans, he was sometimes blamed for the downfall of Gedman. Not only did Gedman seem to lose all his hitting ability during the 1987 season, but he did so while flaunting the Hriniak style with an exaggerated emphasis on technique (hitting with one hand and head down).

In the late 1980s, when blamed for a slow start of the season by Red Sox hitters, Hriniak predicted that by the season's end the Sox would score 800 runs and in the end he was right.

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
1972 Jamestown Falcons New York-Penn League 42-28 3rd Montreal Expos none
1973 Jamestown Expos New York-Penn League 41-28 3rd Montreal Expos none
1976 Lethbridge Expos Pioneer League 30-42 4th Montreal Expos

Further Reading[edit]

  • David E. Skelton: "Walt Hriniak", in Bill Nowlin and Leslie Heaphy, ed.: The 1986 Boston Red Sox: There Was More Than Game 6, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016. pp. 271-277. ISBN 978-1-943816-19-4

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