Recognized as one of the top hitting instructors in the country, Keith Lytle recently became the first assistant baseball coach selected to the NAIA Hall of Fame. Lytle, who has been a baseball assistant at Oklahoma City University since 1989, has helped the Stars post the most wins of any collegiate baseball program since 1991. OCU has recorded 12 consecutive 50-win seasons and made 12 trips to the NAIA World Series. Lytle also served as a part-time hitting coach with the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks for three years when they were affiliated with the Texas Rangers. During his time with the RedHawks, Lytle worked with several future major leaguers, including outfielder Nelson Cruz, the 2008 Pacific Coast League MVP and current Rangers outfielder. Earlier in his career, Lytle also coached in the Shenandoah Valley League, an NCAA-sanctioned collegiate summer league in Virginia.
I'm hoping in some way this maybe will open the door for other assistant coaches so they might have an opportunity to experience this honor, too. I feel awfully blessed. I'm honored because this doesn't happen very often. It's really neat, something I never anticipated. There are so many assistant coaches across the country in every sport that do such a great job.
When I work with young kids, they remind me every day how blessed I've been. I don't take that for granted. Kids have such a great passion for the game. They have such a tremendous desire to get better. So many young kids just ooze passion. That's what it's supposed to be about.
Freddy Sanchez is the hitter I've worked with that I take the most pride in. Freddy was our first big, marquee guy that came through our program. What he accomplished in college and his professional career, being an All-Star, is really neat to see. He won a National League batting title. Just to play a small part in that is really neat.
My first year with the RedHawks, they were without a hitting instructor because of some moves at the major league level after Mike Boulanger took the minor league hitting coordinator position. They had to fill a void. At the time, at that point in the season, Mike Boulanger called and asked if I'd do him a favor and help out with the RedHawks. It turned out he did me a favor.
It's so great to see (Orioles first baseman) Chris Davis have a year where he's leading the major leagues in homers. I'm so proud of him, knowing how hard he worked to get to this point. I saw him on the other end of this when he was having a tough time and was frustrated. To see him have this type of year and to be able to celebrate it with him is special.
It makes me smile when I see some hitters I've worked with have some success in the majors, a guy like Justin Smoak in Seattle. Along the way you help guys on rehab like (Ian) Kinsler or Josh Hamilton. What I like about team sports is even though I work with hitters you're around everyone on the team. Some of the pitchers you knew are pitching really well in the big leagues, a guy like Tommy Hunter with the Orioles. The whole experience with the RedHawks was really neat.
I probably would still be helping the RedHawks if (the Rangers' affiliate) hadn't moved to Round Rock. I could have taken the Round Rock (Triple-A hitting coach) job when the Rangers left. I had the decision of staying here and watching my son play or spend most of the summer in Round Rock. That was an easy decision for me. But I certainly have missed that aspect of being a hitting coach. I really enjoyed my time with the RedHawks.
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