Daniel Murphy was excited to hear that his swing doctor, Kevin Long, was hired as a part of Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez’s staff, coming on board this winter as the new Hitting Coach in Washington. “I was very excited,” Murphy told reporters last month.
“My boy’s coming back. I talk to Kevin quite a bit. We had kind of been talking leading up to it. I think there was — he interviewed for the managing job, and then my hat’s off to [Nats’ GM Mike] Rizzo, [he] kind of transitioned really quickly to that hitting coach position, and I was over the moon. I think everybody knows how I feel about Kevin and kind of what I feel like he’s been able to do and help me in my career.
“But also with what I learned from Kevin, the last few years was kind of taken by Rick Schu and Jacque Jones as well, but I’m very excited to have Kevin here.”
Murphy isn’t the only one who’s benefited from Long’s guidance who thinks that he’ll help hitters in the nation’s capital.
Assistant Hitting Coach Joe Dillon, who crossed paths with Long in the minors when he was still a player in the Kansas City Royals’ system and Long was a coach, is returning to the organization after working at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals’ system from 2014-15. Dillon talked last month about getting the opportunity to work with Long again.
“I’m probably biased,” Dillon told reporters when he spoke at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C.
“I mean, I had him for two years in the minor leagues, 2000 and 2001. I think he’s the best in the game. I think a lot of people do.”
“His body of work speaks for itself, obviously,” Dillon continued.
“But he’s just one of those people, he just has a way of connecting with players. And that’s our job as hitting coach, is you’ve got to connect with them, build trust, and work together and communicate, try to find ways to get better, get more consistency, and he has that knack of just connecting. He’s high energy, he loves what he does, he’s passionate and it oozes from him when he’s working with players and talking about it, so I feed off that, and I fed off it as a player, and I will as an assistant this year, and I’m looking forward to some of the guys that I’ve had as young hitters in the past getting around him and coming up with ideas to help the guys.”
Dillon was asked if he’s on board with Long’s ideas about launch angle and the so-called air-ball revolution.
“My mechanical foundation in how the swing works and how to teach it is all pretty much Kevin Long,” Dillon explained, “... with some stuff sprinkled in and out throughout my career, obviously, and working with different people and different players, and that’s how we learn.
“But absolutely, I think we line up on everything, and knowing that already — that’s why it’s such a great fit to work together as well.”
Returning to the Nationals’ organization, Dillon said, seems like the great fit as well.
“It was a great situation,” he said. “Obviously Mike [Rizzo] and Doug [Harris] and Mark [Scialabba] gave me an opportunity to coach, my first opportunity to coach with Syracuse in ‘14 and ‘15, and then with Kevin Long coming into the picture and Davey [Martinez] as well, two guys that I’ve worked with in the past as a player, so it was a perfect fit all the way around and I’m extremely excited about this year.”