New Mets hitting coach Lamar Johnson not short on experience

White Sox first baseman Lamar Johnson heads for

White Sox first baseman Lamar Johnson heads for home plate Thursday June 21, 1979 after hitting a two-run homer in the first inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners in Comiskey Park in Chicago. (Credit: Chicago Tribune / Edward Wagner Jr)

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PHILADELPHIA - Since taking over as the Mets' hitting coach last Monday, Lamar Johnson has tried to keep a low profile.

He has busied himself in the video room, trying to get a grasp of the swings he's now in charge of trying to improve. He has met one-on-one with several players, including captain David Wright.

Johnson's first days on the job have amounted to an extended evaluation period -- just as he had predicted -- though the 63-year-old also has managed to settle in.

"He seems like he feels comfortable," Wright said. "He's done it before and he's played. I think that automatically he has a lot of respect in here. Guys will listen to what he has to say."

That credibility comes from experience. Johnson's resume includes three previous stops as a big-league hitting coach with the Brewers (1995-98), Royals (1999-2002) and Mariners (2003).

Before coaching, Johnson enjoyed a nine-year playing career as a first baseman and designated hitter in the big leagues, hitting .287 with 64 homers from 1974 to 1982. He spent all but his final season with the White Sox, where he wore the team's infamous uniform shorts (three games in 1976).

"They were quite comfortable," Johnson said with a laugh.

More than a decade had passed since Johnson's last gig as a big-league hitting coach. Since then, scouting reports and statistics have become more sophisticated. But the basics about the job have remained the same.

"Basically, you still have to go in there and you still have to hit the ball," Johnson said.

Wright said Johnson has spoken about his views on hitting, both in group sessions and during one-on-one meetings. While staying behind the scenes, Johnson also has started to take a hands-on approach.

Said Wright: "He's jumped right in and made some observations."

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