Randy Ruiz has always been a hitting coach at heart, eager to impart wisdom on the fine art to teammates. So when the Ducks signed the 37-year-old slugger on June 9 to anchor the middle of their lineup and serve as hitting coach, all that meant for Ruiz was a fancy title to go with his regular guidance of young hitters.

Ruiz replaced Lew Ford in the position. Ford, who will continue to play -- he was tied for the league lead in batting (. 343) entering play Saturday night -- was promoted to bench coach.

This is the second straight season Ruiz has called Bethpage Ballpark home. He played 45 games for the Ducks last season, hitting .298 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs. He left the Ducks last July to play in the Mexican League, where he stayed until his release in early May.

Ruiz, a Bronx native, was drafted in 1996 by the Mets. He spent parts of three seasons with the Twins and Blue Jays. In 68 games and 217 at-bats, he hit .272 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs. Ruiz hit .333 with one home run and eight RBIs in his first eight games (27 at-bats) after returning to Long Island.

How did the conversation start that led to you becoming hitting coach?

It was something to think about. I'm in my late 30s now and this may be something I'm thinking about doing in my later days, becoming a hitting coach somewhere in the United States. It was just to give it a try. You can't give up on something until you try and do it. I like what I do. When you get to professional baseball, it's more one-on-one. I've tried to get to know everyone's swing, let them be and have fun. I love it. If I have the opportunity to do what I do best -- hit, show people how to hit and show them how to be positive -- then maybe this is what I'm going to do in the future.

When you look at a player's swing, what do you look for?

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Everybody has their own style. When it's all said and done, you have to have a plan and be ready to hit. I don't try to be judgmental. If there is something wrong, we'll fix it. But if it's not broke, don't fix it. I try not to be too complicated or run to people and say, "You have to do this.'' I let the guys go and let them be. It takes time. Hitting is not easy. If everybody could hit, there'd be more guys hitting .350 every year. Like they say, 3 out of 10 makes you a superstar. You have to understand that there is going to be more failure than gain in this game.

Did you talk to Lew Ford about balancing being a hitting coach and playing every day?

Of course. It's knowing when to balance stuff out, not put any pressure on yourself and doing what you have to do. The difference is now guys come to me and say, "Randy, can I get some [help]'' and I'm obligated because this is what I do. I'll go over and help them out. But I'm not going to change who I am, how I am and what I do because I'm a coach. I just feel like I'm a part of the team.

Next up: Bridgeport at Ducks, 1:35 p.m.