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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Hitting it big
Mike Lum has found success as
The Lum file
Mike Lum's major league statistics:
Seasons played: 15
Games played: 1,517 (the most by a player from Hawaii)
At bats: 3,554
Hits: 877 (includes 128 doubles, 20 triples, 90 home runs)
Batting average: .247
Major League transactionsJune 21, 1963: Signed by Milwaukee Braves as amateur free agent.
Dec. 12, 1975: Traded by Atlanta Braves to Cincinnati Reds for Darrel Chaney.
Nov. 2, 1978: Granted free agency.
Feb. 15, 1979: Signed as free agent with Atlanta Braves.
May 1, 1981: Released by Atlanta Braves.
May 17, 1981: Signed as free agent with Chicago Cubs.
Dec. 17, 1981: Released by Chicago Cubs.
He'll be ready to start his 17th season with the White Sox when spring training opens next month in Tucson, Ariz.
"I have six coaches working under me. Our job is to benefit the big-league team whether the players come through our system or through trades," Lum said. "Sometimes that means getting the players good enough so that another team is interested in them.
"We have a great staff. A lot of our coaches have been there for quite a while. I've hired some of the people I coached. I had Ken Williams (Chicago's senior vice president/general manager) in Double A and now he's my boss.
"It has been a very good life. I have been very fortunate, met a lot of good people in the business. You just have to work hard and do the best job you can. You are teaching a skill. There is a lot of repetition and it is time consuming."
Lum signed with the Milwaukee Braves after graduating from Roosevelt in 1963. He also had a football scholarship to Brigham Young, but that was before the NCAA allowed an athlete to be a pro in one sport and compete in college as an amateur in another.
The Braves assigned him to Waycross, Ga.
"What a culture shock. They had segregation then," Lum said.
His plan was to attend BYU each fall, but after his second season, the Braves invited Lum to instructional league.
"That was an honor in those days. It meant they thought something about you. I decided to stick with baseball," said Lum, who played in nine games for Atlanta at the end of the 1967 season as a 21-year-old.
His best season was 1973 when he hit .294 in 138 games with 16 home runs and 82 RBIs for Atlanta. He was traded to Cincinnati in 1976, spent three seasons with the Reds, came back to Atlanta in 1979 and '80 and split the 1981 season between the Braves and Chicago Cubs.
His final year as an active player was 1982 in Japan with the Taiyo Whales.
"I wanted to stay in the game. I loved it in Japan, but unfortunately, they didn't invite me back," Lum said. "I didn't have a lot of options at that point. Then Hank Aaron (Atlanta's minor-league farm director) called and asked me to come to spring training. I went and basically he created a position for me with the extended spring program. When that was over, I was assigned to a South Atlantic League team."
Lum became intrigued with the whole process of teaching hitting and the philosophy behind the art. He says hitting consists of balance, vision, rhythm and timing, all necessary for the movement of the body to swing a baseball bat and make contact with a ball traveling at high speeds through different planes.
"You know what you have been told, but having the patience to recognize flaws in a player's swing because everyone is different, that took me some time to develop," said Lum. "I think I've educated myself in biomechanics. I've learned a lot from Coop DeRenne (former Rainbow assistant coach and a professor in UH's department of kinesiology and leisure science). We talked a lot about his studies. It's how I helped myself help the kids."
He moved to the White Sox for the first time in 1984 after getting a call from Charlie Lau, a well-known hitting instructor. After the 1985 season, he spent a year with the San Francisco Giants, then three with Kansas City, including two as the Royals hitting coach before returning to the White Sox in 1990.
"Charlie was way ahead of his time in the teaching aspect. There were no videos. We learned through film. He didn't just think it up, he studied hitting," said Lum.
"Now, the first thing we do when a player comes into the organization is teach work ethic. We allow them to play with what they bring to the table. If a player hit .400 in high school, he must have done something right. In time, we make adjustments, not changes. Talking adjustments is more positive."
Lum is fortunate that Chicago's minor-league teams, with the exception of Great Falls, Mont., are located in the southeastern part of the United States, just a short flight from his home in an Atlanta suburb. His schedule has him on the road for two weeks, then it's a week off.
"When I come to town, I look at tapes with the coaches. We put together a plan to attack problems. Every player has a plan, a goal sheet," Lum said. "I'm not there to revamp a player. My job is to teach hitting coaches how to teach."
Lum lists two highlights from his 15-year career in the majors. The first was playing with the 1976 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds.
"There were quite a few future Hall of Famers (Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez) on that team," Lum said.
The second was hitting three home runs in his first three at-bats against San Diego in the first game of a doubleheader in Atlanta.
"I came up the fourth time with the bases loaded and walked," Lum recalled.
Retirement? No way.
"I want to work until I'm 70. I enjoy what I'm doing, working with minor-league players. I enjoy sharing some of my experiences," said Lum, a member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.