Steve Braun Makes Impact in Trenton

Steve Braun is a 56 year old Trenton native who is now the Trenton Thunder hitting instructor. Braun is a 15-year Major League veteran who was a .271 career hitter. He is now in his fifth season as a member of the Trenton Thunder coaching staff, and second year with the Yankees. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

Braun was a 1966 graduate of Hopewell High School in nearby Pennington, NJ and still resides in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Braun is divorced but added his first grandson to his family on the last home stand before the Thunder played a double-header against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Steve Braun describes working for his hometown Trenton ball club as his dream job. "It's the job I had always dreamed about doing. I thought it would be nice some day to coach in Trenton." When Braun first heard that a team was coming to Trenton, he knew that this was where he wanted to be. At the time, he happened to be a roving hitting instructor for the Boston Red Sox. The Thunder were a Red Sox affiliate, at that point, and he was able to land his self proclaimed dream job.

When the Thunder switched affiliations to the Yankees before the 2003 season, Braun asked one of his good friends in the game to see if the Yankees needed a double AA coach. As it turned out they did, and within weeks of Braun's inquiry he was hired as the Yankees double AA hitting instructor with the Trenton Thunder.

Braun exudes a passion for his job that shows up in willingness to work with any and all of his players if they are willing to work with him. Jason Grove is one of the players Braun singled out for his hard work. "I don't think Jason's missed a day all year of extra work." The payoff can be seen in his recent power surge at the plate as well as the hot hitting of several other players who have been under the tutelage of Braun. Another player Braun has spent a lot of time with is Aaron Rifkin. The efforts of both Braun and Rifkin were manifest in Rifkin's Eastern League player of the week honors, where Rifkin hit .462 for the week ending May 23rd. Rifkin has also raised his batting average 97 points since the start of the last home stand on May 11th.s

Braun says the thing that he tries to stress to his hitters at this level is to "manage the strike zone" and "to get good pitches to hit." Beyond pitch selection, hitters at this level need to "stay back and see the ball well" according to Braun. He tries to teach his hitters to get in positive counts and to control the movement in their stances.

His lessons bear fruit when hitters proclaim the benefits of making a pitcher work a deep count or staying back on a pitch and getting their job done. Braun says its "personally gratifying when a hitter talks up the glory of a 12 pitch at bat. It reinforces learning the importance of a hitter getting strikes every time they get to the plate." To this end, he tries to impart on his young hitters that importance of having a plan every time they go to the plate.

Braun said a major impediment with this year's team is that there are several players trying to make major changes to their swing during the season. Braun stated, "That is probably the hardest thing to do. If you look at Tiger Woods, when he changed his swing, he didn't do it when the big tournaments were coming up."

Braun touts his greatest success as a coach being "David Eckstein's achieving Major League success as an everyday player." Eckstein, of course, played his minor league ball in the Red Sox system when Trenton was a Boston affiliate. Braun's best moment as a player was "without question winning the World Series with the Cardinals in 1982 and all the good years on those Cardinal teams."

Steve Braun said he has no minor or major league managerial intentions in the future and is doing a solid job escorting the hitters in Trenton back from the doldrums of offensive ineptitude to a team that can realistically compete offensively with any in the Eastern League.

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