The Manager in MLB oversees their coaching staff during a game. In addition to supervising the coaching staff like the hitting coach and pitching coach, managers help set the team’s tone during the game. For every good Manager, you have someone who directly helps them with their day-to-day activities, which is the bench coach. Learn what a bench coach does during a Major League Baseball game now.
What are the Responsibilities of a Bench Coach?
The bench coach of a Minor League and Major League club acts as the Manager’s right-hand man for decisions. For example, a manager may be thinking of making a move during the game, so they first consult with the bench coach. Instead of addressing the entire team in the dugout or clubhouse about getting a hitter out, the manager and bench coach will engage in a dialogue about a particular strategy.
A bench coach also sets up practice situations and stretching routines for MLB players before games. Usually, you will see the bench coach out with the players on the field during these assignments. Also, a bench coach helps coordinate spring training programs and routines early in the year.
Finally, the bench coach is similar to the role of a Vice President of the United States. That means that if the President (and in this case manager) gets sick and can’t perform their duties, the Vice President will step into that President’s role, which is the same as the bench coach. That means that the bench coach needs to be fully aware of the Manager’s game plans, meet with the General Manager on roster moves, understand the game’s rules, and more.
When Does a Bench Coach Take Over the Manager’s Responsibilities?
The most common reason why a bench coach takes over managerial responsibilities is if the Manager gets ejected from the game. An ejection can occur if the Manager argues balls and strikes with an umpire or defends their player who gets into an umpire altercation. A Manager might only miss that game, or even a few games, which means that the bench coach immediately takes over those managerial responsibilities.
A bench coach will take over the managerial responsible if the head coach can’t make the game. While rare, a manager might not be able to attend a game for personal reasons, like attending a funeral, being sick, or going to their kid’s graduation. Even rarer than the occasional sick day, a coach who quits during the season will have the bench coach take over Manager’s responsibilities.
Who Was the First Bench Coach in MLB History?
The first bench coach in baseball was George Huff of the Illinois Fighting Illini Baseball in 1905.
How Much Does a Bench Coach Make?
A bench coach on an MLB team makes around $150 – $250k a season. A bench coach’s salary is similar to what a hitting and pitching coach and bullpen coach make per season as well. A first base coach and a third base coach make a little less than a bench coach but typically fall in the $100k range per season.
To put the salary difference in perspective, managers on MLB teams make significantly more than their coaching staff. Below are some of the highest-paid managers to manage games in baseball history.
- Bruce Bochy (San Francisco Giants making $6 Million)
- Mike Scioscia (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim making $6 Million)
- Joe Maddon (Chicago Cubs Making $6 Million)
- Terry Francona (Cleveland Indians Making $4.2 Million)
- Ned Yost (Kansas City Royals Making $3.7 Million)
Why are Bench Coaches Important?
Outside of a bench coach’s day-to-day roles for a team, professional baseball teams like hiring bench coaches to become managers of their team. Since the bench coach works closely with the Manager, you effectively hire the best candidate who would be open to that career change. Some of the best bench coaches to become managers in recent memory include Alex Corra and Terry Francona. These players came to the Boston Red Sox as bench coaches and eventually won a World Series with the team.
Similarly, the bench coach is the next to step up if anything happens to the Manager during the regular season. Like the President and Vice President of the United States, MLB teams have a backup plan ready to go if anything happens to the ship captain. Having a coach who can assume the coaching responsibilities at a moment’s notice is critical for any organization.
Don Zimmer as a Bench Coach
Don Zimmer, like many bench coaches, was a professional baseball player first. He played on the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Senators, and Toei Flyers from 1954 – 1966. His professional career as a hitter might not have been impressive with a .235 average, but his time as a coach is what sets him apart.
Don Zimmer might be the most famous bench coach in recent memory if you are a New York Yankees fan. Don Zimmer joined the Yankees as a bench coach in 1996 and helped the team win four World Series titles. While Joe Torre (Manager) was away while recovering from prostate cancer in 1999, Zimmer managed the Yankees to a 21-15 record during that time.
Don Zimmer left the New York Yankees after 2003 and went to the Tampa Bay Rays. From 2004 – 2014. During that time, Zimmer acted more as a team’s assistant and helped the younger players adjust to professional baseball. After Don Zimmer passed away in 2014, the Tampa Bay Rays retired his number 66 to recognize the positive impact he made on the team.
Conclusion on the MLB Bench Coach
The bench coach for Minor League and Major League teams acts as the right-hand man to the Manager. Outside of a bench coach’s day-to-day responsibilities, they are the second most crucial team coach. If anything happens to a manager during a game or season, they need to take over the managerial role, which Don Zimmer did for a bit in 1999.