MILWAUKEE – Baseball fans in Wisconsin saw a familiar face in the first base coaching box for the Cubs, as Menasha’s own Eric Hinske is now on the staff. Hinske is in his first year as a coach with the Cubs after ending his playing career last year in Arizona.
If you run into Hinske at the ballpark odds are he’ll be wearing a smile. You don’t have to be around him look to see just how much he loves being at the park. After a successful playing career he’s starting the second stage of his professional baseball life with the Chicago Cubs organization, he team that drafted him in the 17th round back in 1998.
“It was different when you come to the realization that you’re done playing. I’m only 37 years old and I’m supposed to be retired for the rest of my life,” Hinske said.
Like many “retirees” Hinske new role took a little time to adjust to. He’s young enough that he actually was teammates in Tampa Bay with two players on the Cubs roster. He quickly adapted though to the new kind of relationship.
“The transition was different for me especially the first couple of days of spring training where I had to talk to players about playing outfield and base running,” Hinske joke “but other than that but you get used to it and I feel like I’m in a good routine now. I’m a well-oiled machine right now.”
During his twelve year playing career Hinske played for seven different teams, won an American League rookie of the year award and a World Series ring so he can relate well to the peaks and valleys his players go through.
“Twelve years in the big leagues is a long time. I went through a lot up here and basically I’m trying to just give back to the guys coming up now,” Hinske said. “I want to teach them how to go about their business up here, how to act on and off the field and just tell them what I know and you can’t, there’s no substitute for experience.”
Hinske may not have to take batting practice or be physically ready to play a 162 game schedule but his role coaching first base and outfielders has him spending a lot more time studying film than during his playing days.
“As a player you just have to worry about yourself, get yourself in shape, get yourself ready to play. Now I have other players to worry about, a lot of other players to worry about so I’m definitely in here earlier and staying later but it’s great,” Hinske said with a big grin.
He said that growing up in Menasha he never could have imagined the places baseball would take him but his accomplishments didn’t happen on accident.
“I worked very hard to get where I did in my career and I’m very proud of my career and very proud of the job I got with the Cubs. It means I did things the right way when I was in it, Hinske said proudly. Doing things the right way has earned him many more days at the ballpark and that is good reason to smile.