Brad Wilkerson #6 of the Texas Rangers celebrates a solo...

Brad Wilkerson #6 of the Texas Rangers celebrates a solo homerun against the Boston Red Sox in the sixth inning on April 4, 2006 at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas.  Credit: Getty Images

Brad Wilkerson returned Monday to a place he never really expected: the major leagues.

The Yankees hired the former outfielder/first baseman as an assistant hitting coach, a new peak in a second career that began nearly a decade ago because, well, he wasn’t up to much else. He started as the head coach of the middle school team — yes, middle school — when The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, asked him if he wanted to help out in 2014.

“I was playing a lot of golf, about four years out from retirement. They asked me. That job opened up. That’s where my kids went to school. Heck, I’m not doing anything, let’s try it,” Wilkerson, 45, recalled during a video news conference on Monday afternoon.

“There’s no doubt I had a lot of questions at first. And this wasn’t an end-of-the-rainbow type of situation. But as I got into it and I started coaching . . . I really figured out that I really love to be on the field and to help guys and see them reach their goals. It’s very gratifying to me. Anything I can do to help these guys [the Yankees] do the same is obviously my No. 1 priority and No. 1 goal.”

Wilkerson ascended from there: to the varsity team at that private school in 2015, then to Jacksonville University as recruiting coordinator/hitting coach in 2020. He was preparing for the start of the Dolphins’ season next month when the Yankees called about 10 days ago, he said, and asked if he would be interested in a job.

Given the timing and his comfort level in Jacksonville, Wilkerson told them he was open to only a big-league gig.

The Yankees had a vacancy because Hensley Meulens left to be the Rockies’ lead hitting coach. The interview process “escalated pretty quickly” from there, Wilkerson said. He found that hitting coach Dillon Lawson’s mantra of “hit strikes hard” resonated with his personal philosophy from his playing days.

Like Meulens last season, Wilkerson will be the only one of the Yankees’ three hitting coaches with experience playing in the majors. He had a .247/.350/.440 slash line with 122 homers for the Expos/Nationals, Rangers, Mariners and Blue Jays from 2001-08. Neither Lawson nor assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes played professionally at any level.

As someone who can directly relate to what hitters endure each day as they try to hit the best pitchers in the world, Wilkerson sees an open lane to contribute — “getting these guys right, more so mentally than physically in a lot of ways,” he said.

“Obviously, I haven’t been in a big-league dugout in a while. But I feel very confident in my skills to get these guys to relax and be themselves and get the most out of their ability.”

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