Home Sports Meet the baseball fan who made Aaron Judge’s hitting ‘savage’

Meet the baseball fan who made Aaron Judge’s hitting ‘savage’

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On the night of June 20, 2018, after a three-and-a-half-hour game at Yankee Stadium against the Seattle Mariners, Aaron Judge had a secret midnight rendezvous to keep, despite a 1 o’clock game the following afternoon.

Judge met a baseball coach named Richard Schenck at an Upper West Side batting cage. Even though he’d come off a 52-homer, Rookie of the Year season, the Yankee right-fielder decided he needed help with his swing.

The meeting was secret, writes Jared Diamond in his new book, “Swing Kings: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Home Run Revolution” (William Morrow), because Schenck was not with the Yankees or Major League Baseball, and was also somewhat controversial. But to Judge, he was invaluable.

“[Schenck] pointed out issues with Judge’s swing mechanics,” writes Diamond. “He wasn’t coiling one of his legs enough. The result was a swing driven by his arm rather than his lower body, where power is generated. Twelve hours later, [Judge] homered off Mariners ace James Paxton.”

So who is Richard Schenck?

A longtime baseball fan, Schenck owns a pool hall called Teachers Billiards near St. Louis. In middle age, he became passionate about learning swing mechanics so he could teach them to his sons and improve their hitting.

Richard Schenck found success by deciphering Barry Bond's swing and then found clients online. He became Aaron Judge's batting coach after meeting him in secret.
Richard Schenck found success by deciphering Barry Bond’s swing and then found clients online. He became Aaron Judge’s batting coach after meeting him in secret.@TheJudge44/Twitter

Researching hitting online, he came to believe that “nobody knew what they were talking about.” And in online discussions, he launched personal attacks against anyone he disagreed with.

“Those on the receiving end say he attacked their kids when he didn’t like their swings, with a level of online harassment and trolling some say crossed over into abuse,” Diamond writes.

But on the hitting front, Schenck was smart. Watching clips of Barry Bonds, he convinced himself that deciphering the outfielder’s swing was the secret to becoming a great hitter.

“The theory was, if I could make my arms and my body and my feet and everything in the same position Barry Bonds’ was in, I would feel what he feels,” Schenck says in the book.

For two years, Schenck studied videos of Bonds in his basement every night, trying to replicate his swing. In September 2006, he found his holy grail.

“As Bonds swung, the barrel of his bat blurred behind his head,” Diamond writes. “Schenck had never noticed that before.”

He also noticed that Bonds’ “first move wasn’t forward, but back.”

“He was launching into his swing with a rearward move, ‘snapping it into an arc,’ as Schenck put it,” Diamond writes. “He was creating bat speed not when he started moving forward, but when his bat went backward.”

With this information, Schenck offered his advice online and eventually found clients, becoming an admired independent coach.

When player-turned-agent David Matranga, who once trained with Schenck, started representing Judge, he asked his client to spend five days with his former mentor after the 2016 season.

In time, Schenck’s exercises brought Judge a much-needed quickness.

“He had a lot of work to do,” Schenck said, “but it was, ‘OK, I kind of understand what you’re doing here.’ ”

But Schenck’s trolling became an issue and Matranga gave him an ultimatum — either control the harshness online or lose Judge as a client.

Schenck has since mellowed his tone.

And in early 2018, Judge acknowledged his coach on Twitter, calling Schenck a “career-changer.”

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