It’s hard to know whether Bengie Molina will be an asset to the Cardinals as assistant hitting coach or whether he got the role mostly as a favor to his younger brother, catcher Yadier Molina.
In researching the big-league playing career of Benjamin Jose Molina, two items stood out: (1) he was a free swinger; (2) he accomplished a couple of amazing hitting feats.
Molina, 38, told radio interviewers on Dec. 14, 2012, he had accepted the Cardinals’ offer to be assistant hitting coach on manager Mike Matheny’s staff. John Mabry was promoted from assistant to hitting coach, replacing Mark McGwire, who departed for a job with the Dodgers.
In 13 seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants and Rangers, Bengie Molina had 1,317 hits and a .274 batting average. His career on-base percentage of .307 is far below what generally is considered to be a quality standard (.340). He totaled 208 walks, an average of 25 per season. By comparison, Yadier Molina has walked 298 times in nine years, an average of 45 per season.
But Bengie Molina could hit _ and do it with flair.
On May 7, 2007, he matched a feat last achieved by a Giants legend when he hit two home runs in an inning against the Mets at San Francisco.
In the fifth inning, with one on and no out, Molina hit a drive off starter Oliver Perez that a spectator in the first row of seats in left-center attempted to catch. It appeared the ball went through the fans outstreched arms, hit the top of the wall and bounced onto the field. Despite the Mets’ protests, umpire Mark Wegner granted Molina a home run, ruling that the ball had hit the fan and would have cleared the wall without such contact.
After the Giants had scored six times in the inning, Molina came up again, this time against reliever Lino Urdaneta (making the third and final appearance of his big-league career), and drilled a three-run home run, capping the Giants’ nine-run inning. Boxscore
Molina became the first Giants player to hit two home runs in an inning since Willie McCovey did it 30 years earlier on June 27, 1977, against the Reds at Cincinnati. Boxscore
“I’m not a home run hitter,” Molina said to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: “Bengie is a good hitter. He uses the whole field and he has power … This guy knows what he’s doing with a bat.”
Three years later, while with the Rangers, Molina performed another hitting feat that was just as unexpected. On July 16, 2010, Molina hit for the cycle at Boston. What made the achievement so unusual was the heavy-footed catcher legged out a triple in his final at-bat.
After he had singled in the second, doubled in the fourth and homerd (a grand slam) in the fifth, Molina came up in the eighth against reliever Ramon Ramirez. He drove a pitch to center field. As center fielder Eric Patterson raced to the warning track, he reached up for the ball. It tipped his glove and darted into the deepest part of the Fenway Park outfield. Molina, who said he thought Patterson would catch the ball, saw it carom away from the outfielder and decided then to try for the triple.
“It makes you happy for the guy who’s probably the slowest guy in the world, who’s been criticized for speed his whole career,” Molina said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Boxscore
Molina became the first opposing player to hit for the cycle at Fenway Park since Andre Thornton of the Indians did it on April 22, 1978. Boxscore Molina was the first major-league catcher to achieve the cycle since Chad Moeller of the Brewers did it on April 27, 2004, against the Reds at Milwaukee. Boxscore
Molina also was the eighth big-league player to hit a grand slam while achieving the cycle.
“I know people like to make jokes about Bengie’s lack of speed,” Rangers third baseman Michael Young told the Star-Telegram. “I just don’t think that’s fair sometimes … He is a really good big-league player.”