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June 25, 2013

Finding his groove

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — George Brett likes to say that hitting was always easier for him to do than say.

After all, he was one of the best of his generation — of any generation, really. His pursuit of the near-mythical .400 mark during his MVP season of 1980 came up just 10 points short, and to this day remains one of the most spirited cracks at it since Ted Williams reached it in 1941.

But for Brett, stepping into the batter’s box, peering back at a pitcher and then putting the right swing on the ball came naturally. He worked his tail off, of course, but when someone would ask him to explain his sweet swing, he would usually just shrug.

It was easier to do than say.

Well, now he’s getting paid to say rather than do. He’s three weeks into a monthlong experiment as the Kansas City Royals’ hitting coach, and just like Williams and scores of other greats who have tried to become coaches, Brett is finding results maddeningly slow to show.

“I’ve seen results in batting practice. I want to see them in games,” Brett said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve seen some guys alter their swings a bit, their stances a little bit, and they’ve had a little success, which is good. Some guys are working on it and it looks good in BP but it hasn’t carried over to a game yet.

“When it carries over to a game,” he added, “we’ll be OK.”

The question that will soon face Brett is whether he’ll be around to witness it.

The Hall of Fame third baseman turned down numerous opportunities to coach over the years, mostly because he didn’t want to deal with the daily grind. But he also didn’t know whether he’d be any good at it, a hard admission for someone who has always excelled in baseball.

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