Bagwell explains decision to step down

Bagwell explains decision to step down

HOUSTON -- Still wiping away sweat from a morning workout, Jeff Bagwell met with the Houston media on Monday in the middle of the Astros clubhouse at Minute Maid Park and explained his decision not to return next season as the team's hitting coach.

Bagwell, who took over as hitting coach at the All-Star break when Sean Berry was let go, informed Astros general manager Ed Wade and manager Brad Mills on Saturday that he wasn't going to return, despite being offered the same two-year contract the rest of the coaching staff accepted last month.

For Bagwell, the decision simply boiled down to being able to spend more time with his family, which includes two daughters, aged seven and nine.

"I never got a chance to see my kids," Bagwell said. "They would get up and go to school at 7:30 [a.m.], and I'd wake up and go to the ballpark at 12 and never [see] them again. I can't do that."

Wade said Saturday that he and Mills would sit down this week and begin coming up with names to fill Bagwell's spot on the coaching staff. Bagwell told the club he needed a few days after the end of the season to make his decision.

"I wish I had a little bit longer to think about it, but I think I would have come up with the same answer," Bagwell said. "My decision came down to the time the coaches put in, the effort they put in and my family. I don't think I was going to be able to give all that kind of stuff for seven months and be away from my family and not be able to see my kids."

The Astros hit .238 as a team in the first half of the season, which ranked 15th in the National League, but batted .259 in the second half of the season, with Bagwell as hitting coach. That was good enough for sixth in the NL. Young players like Chris Johnson and Hunter Pence said Bagwell helped them progress even more in the wake of Berry's departure.

"C.J. said before I left, 'God, I don't know what I'm going to do if you don't come back. I don't know how I'm going to hit again,'" Bagwell said. "I said, 'You're going to be fine; you know what you're doing.'"

Bagwell, 42, plans to remain in the organization in a capacity similar to the one in which he served prior to taking over as hitting coach. He didn't rule out getting back into a uniform at some point, when his kids are older.

After officially announcing his retirement on Dec. 15, 2006, Bagwell was named a special assistant to the general manager as part of a personal services contract between Bagwell and the club. He assisted the baseball operations staff with its Major and Minor League player development programs, as well as spending time in Spring Training and evaluating players at all levels of the Minor Leagues. He even did occasional color commentating on television broadcasts.

"It's not like I'm not going to be around," Bagwell said. "It's basically going to be the same thing I did in the past, and hopefully, I'll do a little bit more. I'll sit down with [owner] Drayton [McLane] and Ed [Wade] and see what they want me to do, but I'm going to try to be around a lot more.

"I know Millsie expressed he'd like to see me in the clubhouse a lot more before games and talk to the guys, and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Bagwell played 15 years in the Major Leagues, all with the Astros. He collected 2,314 hits, 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs, appearing in four All-Star Game games and making six trips to the playoffs. He was forced to retire after a degenerative shoulder condition made it impossible for him to throw a baseball and nearly impossible to swing a bat.

The shoulder injury even hampered his efforts as a hitting coach, making it impossible for him to throw batting practice and flip balls to the hitters in the batting cages. That meant he had to spend a lot of time, as he put it, standing around and drinking coffee.

"I had to rely on other people," Bagwell said.

Bagwell admitted he didn't realize how much time and work the coaches put in before he took the job.

"When you're playing, you have no idea what goes on in that coaches' room, and in today's game, it's even more, because they have that video room where they're in there every single second," Bagwell said. "It was a lot of time and a lot of work."

Bagwell figures to be in the headlines again later this year when he makes his first appearance on the ballot for baseball's Hall of Fame ballot.

"That's not something I think about," Bagwell said. "I don't expect to make that, especially this year."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.