Baylor returns to Angels bench after freak Opening Day injury

Hitting coach Don Baylor is back after breaking his leg on Opening Day while catching the ceremonial first pitch.

Lisa Blumenfeld

ANAHEIM, Calif. —

Watching baseball on TV is fine and great for fans. It’s even better for most coaches, who can break down video of each hitter and pinpoint their tendencies — the same for the opposing pitchers, too.

Angels hitting coach Don Baylor isn’t like most coaches.

The 1979 AL MVP has watched his team belt out a .258 average since Opening Day from his couch, but not by his own choosing. But on Tuesday night, Baylor was back at Angel Stadium, returning to full-time coaching duties after a freak injury suffered on Opening Day.

"That’s the good thing about watching on TV is you get to see it," Baylor said from the Angels’ dugout. "I’ll use it, but I don’t like to just be mesmerized by it because hitting is a feel, you’ve got to feel it. You can see it, but you’ve got to feel it."

Feeling the game was something Baylor hadn’t been able to do since breaking his leg during the ceremonial first pitch March 31. Baylor was playing catcher for Vladimir Guerrero, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season after signing a one-day contract and retiring an Angel that day.

"He got the clearance to be on the bench and travel," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Baylor before the first of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. "So obviously he’s not 100 percent, but he’s strong enough to do what he feels he needs to do to with walk with these guys."


Baylor, who underwent surgery the day after the injury, is a quick study, and has guys like Mike Trout to help aid those studies as he finally gets to see in-person his new players. It was only in October that Baylor joined the Angels’ staff, and along with all of the veterans with whom Baylor has to build a rapport, the team features a few new additions since Opening Day like C.J. Cron and Grant Green.

But Baylor doesn’t feel like he’s even so much as a step behind. He saw Cron, Green and the rest of the 40-man roster in the spring.

"It’s really important," Scioscia said. "Dave (Hansen) and Paul (Sorrento) have been doing a great job, but Donnie’s presence is certainly something that I know will help us on the bench and help these guys in the cage and in the batter’s box, so we’re happy to have him back."

Hansen took over in Baylor’s absence and will now move back into his role as the assistant hitting coach while Sorrento’s next role is now unknown. Sorrento was added to assist Hansen but now appears to be the odd man out. It’s likely that he will move into a role as a roving hitting instructor, as the organization is currently without a rover.

It wasn’t quite torture for the Baylor but it was something close, as the former slugger dearly missed being at the ballpark. He’s been going to ballparks day-in and day-out nearly his entire life. He might be a lifer at this point.

"I’ve been fortunate to play this game I’ve always loved, played it and coached it," he said. "It’s a blessing to play, be around the ball, be around the guys. I talked to Don Zimmer’s wife last year. Zim, he coached with me and he just wanted to come to the park every day. That’s all. He didn’t worry about anything else."

With the broken leg healed, Baylor is ready to give up his position in front of the TV and take back the one on the bench.