As St. Louis hitting coach Jeff Albert remains under fire, assistant receives high marks

Turner Ward doesn't generally see himself as a hitting coach.
"I like to call myself a Guardian," the 57-year-old St. Louis Cardinals assistant coach shared in the team's dugout last weekend. "Or more from, you know, the options and suggestions coach, because there's not just one option."
The Cardinals' tactics -- in this case, batting -- have come under severe scrutiny in recent years. Hitting coach Jeff Albert was heavily criticized by the public but supported at every turn by the organization.
As the team's offense smoldered in the middle of last summer, the front office went to work to quash suggestions that Albert was losing his job. Despite a shock managerial sacking, team officials made it clear that Albert would return and praised the progress made in the minor leagues under a program largely designed by him.
Where they felt they could improve, they acknowledged, was in communication. Albert has a deep understanding of the most modern tools and how they can be applied to enhance an offensive attack, but even his most steadfast defenders grudgingly admit there are challenges in delivering that material as the season progresses the players gave.
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Finding a coach with major league playing experience became a priority. Cardinals alum Ryan Ludwick made a cameo in uniform in late summer after he was officially reinstated. That winter, former assistant coach Jobel Jimenez was offered a demotion from the major league staff and a nebulous coaching position if he decided to return to the organization. He did not.
Instead the club turned to Ward, who played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues. He also has six years of experience as a head-hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. In the Arizona organization, he linked with Paul Goldschmidt, whom Ward managed in the minors and coached in the majors.
The relationship between the two is so deep that Goldschmidt presented Ward with the plaque he received for winning the 2015 NL Silver Slugger Award at first base.
"I think just having a guy who's been in your shoes before offers some value," Goldschmidt said. “It's not the Holy Grail; that's not the answer. That's why we have a balanced staff and a balanced group of players. Sometimes you need that, sometimes you need other things, sometimes nothing at all.”
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"Turner was great," said third baseman Nolan Arenado. "He was there. He's played the game before. It's always nice to have a guy like that. He's really good at giving you a good sense of who you are as a hitter rather than caring about what makes that pitcher good.
St. Louis Cardinals star Paul Goldschmidt hits a double in a game against the Chicago Cubs in 2020. Goldschmidt and fellow standout Nolan Arenado gave high praise to Turner Ward, the organization's 57-year-old assistant hitting coach.
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Mastered challenges, appropriate concepts
When asked about the challenges of getting data to players, Ward said, "It's the difference between feeling like knowing the feeling and what's real, right? A batsman saying, man, I don't feel the leg, I don't feel that, I feel my hands. Well, there's mechanics in there.”
Ward explained hitting concepts from topic to topic and offered examples. Harrison Bader felt a certain way last year. Tyler O'Neill is feeling different this year. Each batsman must focus on data taking and the measurements that produce infinite results, each of which has the ability to become its own obsession.
When Paul DeJong was demoted to Triple-A Memphis by his struggles on the plate, the club spoke out about the number of voices in his head and the need to simplify it. When each and every swing in practice can be broken down frame by frame, it's not hard to see where obsession has the potential to slide into paralysis.
The story goes on

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