With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the 51s are on track to lead the Pacific Coast League in hitting and first baseman David Cooper has all but locked up the PCL batting title.
Las Vegas hitting coach Chad Mottola has been instrumental in the team's success, helping the 51s hit .308, which would break the franchise record of .301.
"He's my favorite hitting coach I've ever had, and that's saying a lot because I thought really highly of my guy last year," said Cooper, who is hitting .375 and poised to become the fourth PCL batting champion from Las Vegas -- joining John Kruk (.351, 1985), James Loney (.380, 2006) and Terry Tiffee (.378, 2008).
"He understands what you go through as a hitter," said Cooper, who went 3-for-5 in Tuesday's 7-6 loss to the Fresno Grizzlies at Cashman Field and has a league-best 48 doubles and a team-high 90 RBIs. "He remembers what it's like getting in the box when things aren't feeling right."
Adam Loewen, a former big league pitcher who is trying to return to the majors as a hitter, also counts Mottola as his favorite hitting coach.
"I've never heard a bad thing said about him. Ever. That's rare with a coach. Usually there's some conflicts," said Loewen, who is batting .311, is second in the PCL in doubles (43) and second on the team in RBIs (80). "He's easy to work with, a fun guy to hit with."
Mottola was drafted fifth overall in 1992, one spot ahead of Derek Jeter, and carved out a 16-year playing career before becoming a coach.
"He's gone through it all," Loewen said. "He's struggled and succeeded at all levels, so he knows exactly what everybody needs individually. That's the biggest thing, he's not telling everyone there's only one way to hit."
While Mottola has guided the 51s to the league's best batting average, he said he's not concerned with numbers.
"I don't care if a guy hits .200, I want him to learn something to build off it so his career keeps going in the right direction," the 39-year-old said. "It's about having a swing that plays in the big leagues, not about a swing that plays in Triple A."
In his two seasons in Las Vegas, Mottola has worked with some outstanding hitters, including current Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia (last year's PCL Most Valuable Player), Brett Lawrie (who hit .353 for the 51s this season) and Eric Thames (.352), and former Toronto player Travis Snider, batting .327 for Las Vegas.
"I don't think you can say enough great things about him as a hitting coach. He's a guy who really understands different personalities and different styles of swings," Snider said.
In a game in which failing seven of 10 times is considered a success, Mottola said many times his most important task is to help hitters overcome mental hurdles.
"This game will drive you crazy, so a lot of times it's not (a) mechanical (issue), it's something mental they're going through," he said. "It's tough to be positive in a game of failure. A lot of times, talking about it helps a lot."
n NOTE -- Toronto recalled catcher Brian Jeroloman from Las Vegas.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.