The next chapter in Anthony Iapoce’s baseball journey is about to begin.
The 1991 Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, graduate was recently named the hitting coach of the Chicago Cubs. The 45-year-old takes over for Chili Davis after spending the past three seasons as the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers.
Iapoce returns to familiar territory, as he served as the special assistant to the general manager and minor-league hitting coordinator for the Cubs from 2013-2015. He said he’s eager to work again with Cubs manager Joe Maddon as well as talented hitters Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr.
“It’s the first job that I’ve had where I’m actually going back to something familiar,” he said. “Everybody is excited to be together and get to work.”
Iapoce’s athletic career began in the schoolyard of St. Joseph’s parish, Astoria, where he starred on Catholic Youth Organization baseball and basketball teams that won numerous diocesan championships. He said that’s where he learned how to hit, a skill that has guided him along a career of over 25 years in professional baseball.
From there, he was the center fielder on McClancy’s baseball team and point guard for the basketball team – both roles allowing him to display his leadership qualities. He won four city championships in high school across both sports, setting a McClancy record.
He also won five different M.V.P. awards, All-City honors in both sports as a senior and McClancy’s senior student-athlete award. As a 23-year-old, he was a member of McClancy’s inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1996.
Iapoce’s baseball career continued with a scholarship to Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas. In 1994, the Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 33rd round of the MLB draft.
He went on to play nine professional seasons in the minor leagues for the Brewers and Florida (now Miami) Marlins, sporting a respectable .273 batting average in 845 games. He reached Triple-A for both clubs four different times and then spent his final two seasons playing independent ball.
When his playing career ended in 2005, Iapoce spent four seasons as a minor-league hitting coach for the Marlins. For the next three years, he was the roving minor-league hitting coordinator for the Toronto Blue Jays before being hired for his first stint with the Cubs, which included spending time with the team’s minor-league affiliates throughout the country.
The past three years in Texas – a franchise known for its hitting prowess – marked Iapoce’s first full-time job in the Major Leagues, and he certainly did not disappoint. In those three seasons, the Rangers ranked fifth in the American League in runs scored and fourth in home runs.
In 2017 under Iapoce’s watch, the club set a new MLB record by becoming the first team in history to have nine players hit at least 17 home runs. One of those payers was veteran third baseman Adrián Beltré, who currently ranks 17th all-time among right-handed hitters with 462 career home runs.
“He (Beltré) impacted me from the first day I met him,” Iapoce said. “You know exactly what he’s about: he’s about winning, he’s about teammates, he’s about working hard but working with direction. You can understand why he’s played so long. This guy truly loves what he does.”
New Chapter in Chicago
Iapoce will be the Cubs’ third hitting coach in three seasons, following John Mallee (2015-2017) and Davis (2018). The team won 95 games last year and made the playoffs for a franchise record fourth-straight season, but an inconsistent offense led to the team’s downfall late in the year.
Chicago dropped the National League Central Division tiebreaker game to the Milwaukee Brewers before losing a heartbreaking 13-inning contest to the Colorado Rockies in the Wild Card game. In those 22 playoff innings, the Cubs scored just two runs.
After finishing 11th in the National League in home runs last year, the Cubs turn to Iapoce to increase those power numbers. He plans to let his hitters be themselves rather than trying to implement a single hitting philosophy for the entire team.
“Even though they’re young, this is a group of guys that have been through a lot,” he said. “They’ve seen a lot; they understand what it takes to win games. They have the guys on this roster that can go out and win a World Series.”
Since winning the World Series two years ago, the Cubs have had heightened expectations the past few seasons, and that’s already the case for 2019. With a few months to go until Spring Training, Iapoce plans to continue meeting with front office staff to get up to speed for the start of the regular season.
The Cubbies have the makings of a balanced offensive attack that could very well lead the team to another deep postseason run, and with hitting guru Iapoce on board, the rest of the National League better beware of this young, talented roster.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.