Hollins May Have An Alternate Route Back To Philly

Dave Hollins sudden retirement closed the door on his playing days, but may have opened up another door that could conceivably lead back to Philadelphia. It might not be coincidence that the first person to talk publicly about Hollins' desire to be a coach was none other than Phillies manager Larry Bowa. The tell-tale signs are there for Hollins to return to the Phillies as a batting coach if not now, perhaps, in the not too distant future.

In a lot of ways, Dave Hollins will always be a Philadelphia Phillie. He bounced around to Minnesota, Anaheim and Cleveland and took different shots at one last flame of big league glory late in his career, but in the end, where did he wind up? He wound up as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization, playing at AAA Scranton. Last season, he spent the year on the DL, but the Phillies were careful to keep him around the big league club for most of the time. He was the veteran presence that Larry Bowa and others in the upper echelons of the club felt the team needed.

When Tyler Houston went down with a broken finger, Hollins hoped for that one last trip to the bigs. Instead, he watched as Nick Punto readied himself for the trip down the turnpike and on to Philadelphia. A sick feeling hit Hollins. Although his .202 average and the fact that he had struggled in almost every way imaginable this season had given him the initial thought, being passed over for a spot that seemed almost perfect for him was the final message. Uncharacteristically, Hollins walked away. There was no tirade. There was no request to be released. There was simply nothing. Just as Hollins had watched Punto leave for Philadelphia, he watched his Scranton teammates leave for Charlotte. Just as a killer waits for that last call that will save his life, Hollins waited for the call and it didn't come.

As the Red Barons battled the Charlotte Knights, Hollins battled his demons. Finally, the demons were conquered and Hollins had reached the uneasy decision to retire. It's not the way he wanted it to happen and probably not the way it deserved to happen, but it happened and Hollins realized that the world didn't stop.

For some, retirement means an easy chair. For others like Mike Schmidt, it means a failed – at least so far – shot at qualifying for the PGA Tour or some other endeavor. For Hollins, it likely means coaching. That's where it truly gets interesting.

As Hollins reached his decision, the Phillies had taken the last two games of a three-game series with Houston and the first game of a three-game set in New York. The offense still wasn't the juggernaut that it was thought it would be, but it was coming around in fits and starts. All season long, the offense has been that missing piece. If not for a Ricky Ledee homerun, the offense could have ruined Kevin Millwood's no-hitter and a piece of Phillies history with it.

What have people said about Hollins since his retirement? They've talked about his intensity and his desire to win. More importantly, what has Larry Bowa said? "Hollins is going to go into coaching and he'll be good at it," remarked the Phillies manager. More importantly, Bowa talked about Hollins' effect on the teams hitters. "I think he really helped some of our young guys last year, Burrell in particular and Marlon Anderson," said Bowa.

Don't be surprised if there is an announcement in the next few days that Hollins will remain with the organization to work with minor league hitters. Don't be surprised if he shows up around the batting cage in Philadelphia, not unlike Mike Schmidt, to talk hitting with some of the Phillies players. And, don't be surprised if Dave Hollins is introduced as part of the coaching staff when the Phillies open their new ballpark in 2004 and Greg Gross isn't. Gross will have a soft place to land with the organization, most likely in the front office or minor league department, but he won't be spending too much more time as the Phillies batting coach. The offense has suffered and Gross has never truly embraced Bowa's fiery ways.

Dave Hollins will be a good batting coach, whether it's next season or somewhere down the road. It will likely be in Philly, but if not, some other team will be the recipient of Hollins' talent and fire. The Phillies team is a perfect fit for Hollins. They're young, but not too young to be too scared of Hollins. Plus, Hollins can get through to people. For all his intensity and toughness, Hollins can be approachable and has mellowed to allow himself to help younger players. This time when there's an opening in Philadelphia, Hollins might be the one getting the call.

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