James Rowson’s hitting philosophy is to not have one — at least not an overarching one to which all of his players must adhere.
The Yankees’ new hitting coach is not entering the job with a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead one aimed at leaning into each hitter’s strengths as he tries to help get a struggling offense back on track.
“I don’t have a style, one style — I think the player creates their style and you have to learn their style,” Rowson said Tuesday on a Zoom call, a day after his hiring became official. “So by doing that … if a guy thinks one way and produces a result, that’s good. You stick to that thought. If there’s another player who has the exact opposite thought of that and produces a positive result, you stick to that thought.
“I think your key is you don’t pigeonhole the player into your philosophy. You learn what they think, what they produce and that’s how you move.”
That will be Rowson’s task in the coming months in hopes of resurrecting a Yankees offense that was one of the worst in the majors in 2023.
The Yankees fired hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who came from an analytics-based background, at the All-Star break, with GM Brian Cashman later saying it was due to a “lack of connectivity” with his players.
They replaced him with Sean Casey, who leaned more on his experience as a major league hitter to develop relationships especially with the veterans, but the offense overall did not see any improvements.
In Rowson, the Yankees likely see someone who can connect and communicate with his players while also mixing in the more advanced analytics in ways that resonate.
“[Former pitching coach] Mike Butcher, he used to always say, ‘I’m not old school. I’m not new school. I’m in school,’ ” Rowson said. “I would always think that mindset was what I was looking to accomplish.
“What I found over the years as a hitting coach with players, as players come through different generations and players come through time, a lot of it is matching the language. A player may talk about launch angle per se, another player may consider it back-spinning a line drive the right way. … You’re trying to get into their mind to find out what they think and how they think. And then at the end of the day, you’re looking at what they produce from what they think.”
Before Rowson dives deep into each of his new players, their swings and what they may need to do to rebound next season, the 47-year-old indicated he wanted to get to know them better so that they could have strong relationships to fall back on.
One of those relationships already has a foundation in Aaron Judge, whom Rowson worked with during his second stint as the Yankees’ minor league hitting coordinator from 2014-16.
“The relationships last forever,” Rowson said. “Hitting has ups and downs. I mean, we’ve seen this: hitting’s hard. It’s the toughest thing to do in all of sports. Guys struggle and it’s a tough thing to do. So being there for your guys when they’re struggling, having some answers for them, having things that can help them through some of those situations are things that I kind of pride myself on.”
Rowson said no decision had been made yet on assistant hitting coaches Brad Wilkerson and Casey Dykes.
He planned to talk to manager Aaron Boone about that “in the near future” while continuing to re-acclimate himself in the organization.
The Mount Vernon native also said has already texted with some of his players, including Giancarlo Stanton.
Getting the scuffling veteran back to being a productive hitter will be among his top priorities.
“I think the first thing is just to make that initial contact, let’s talk, hear what he has to say,” Rowson said. “I think one of the biggest attributes of a hitting coach is not always what you know, but sometimes it’s listening. Listening is a big key factor in this, hearing guys and understanding where they’re coming from, because it’ll help you guide the path of success for them at times.”