What is a Bench Coach in Baseball? A-Z Guide

Michael Claunch

Coaching is a fundamental part of every sport, essential both for the continued player development and for good performance of the squad in competitive games. A baseball team employs a large group of professionals in coaching positions to ensure that all relevant aspects of club operations are handled well, on the sports side as well as on the business side. One of the most important positions that get little attention from the media is the bench coach, who takes care of numerous duties away from the public eye and contributes to the winning culture of the club in many subtle ways.

Since new baseball fans may not fully understand the coaching hierarchy within a team, shedding some light on the demands of this coaching position can be instrumental in their appreciation of this role. To this end, we will try to outline what a bench coach does in baseball and discuss the career prospects for individuals working in this capacity or aspiring to it.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Bench Coach?

The bench coach is the main assistant to the manager of a baseball team, so he basically acts as a second-in-command when it comes to the daily operation of the team. As the title implies, he is present in the dugout during the game and may assist the manager with tactical decisions while also communicating with the players individually. Bench coach duties may also include passing information between the scouting department and the players in preparation for the next game, working on skill development with players, and suggesting possible improvements to the lineup to the manager.

Perhaps most importantly, a bench coach must remain ready at all times to take control of the team if the manager is prevented from doing his job. This often occurs when a manager is thrown out of a game by an umpire, but there are other scenarios when a bench coach assumes command (i.e., personal emergency, suspension, etc.). Unlike their bosses, bench coaches don’t normally have to talk to the media, but in the absence of the manager, this might fall under their game-day responsibilities as well.

What Are the Most Important Skills for a Good Bench Coach?

It’s difficult to pinpoint what is a bench coach profile that would be ideal since different personalities might have their own approach to the job. Deep knowledge of the game, a passion for teaching, and an ability to connect with individuals at different levels of the organization are undoubtedly necessary preconditions for success in this role. However, these skills also need to be complemented with an understanding of the competitive environment typical for a baseball club, particularly for coaches working at the highest professional level.

At the same time, a bench coach needs to keep his ego in check and follow the vision of the team manager, even if he disagrees with the current direction of the team. A good MLB bench coach needs to be a pillar of stability for the players and can’t be caught up in corporate politics or distracted by personal rivalries. Doing the dirty work in the shadows and never complaining can be hard, but it is requisite for winning, and a truly dedicated bench coach can greatly contribute to it. Staying humble and preparing for all possibilities is the best mindset a bench coach could have, as the demands of the job could change from one day to another with little warning.

Is a Bench Coach Likely to Advance Further in His Career?

As the second most important member of the coaching staff, a bench coach has excellent upward mobility if he performs well consistently. In fact, this position is often regarded as a tryout for the team manager job, and younger coaches are often placed there to be groomed as designated successors. The opposite is also true, as managers that lost top jobs often work as bench coaches for a different franchise in an attempt to build up their credentials again. With this in mind, bench coach is a coveted position that can represent a key career stepping stone.

On the other hand, staying too long in this position can be detrimental to a coach’s ambition. This is a comfortable place to hide from criticism, as all the attention is directed toward the manager. Teams don’t care all that much about what a bench coach does under someone else’s tutelage, so it can be hard to make the jump and get the first opportunity to lead a team. That’s why it’s so important for a bench coach to produce great results whenever he is given the responsibility to replace the manager on a temporary basis.

Are Bench Coaches in the MLB Well-Paid?

While bench coaches don’t make anything close to top manager salaries, they still earn enough to live comfortably. They are paid more than specialist coaches, such as first or third-base coaches but are in the same class as other assistants, such as hitting or batting coaches or bullpen coaches. MLB bench coach salary can reach up to $250,000 per year, which is not considered huge money by professional baseball standards but is sufficient for some level of security.

Naturally, a bench coach in the minor leagues or college won’t make that much and might even have to hold a ‘day job’ at times. Like many other jobs in sports, this is not a career choice that’s pursued purely for financial reasons. Only people who genuinely enjoy being around the game all day long can withstand years of selfless work for modest compensation until they reach the big leagues. It’s impossible to predict what is a bench coach’s road to success going to look like and which break might open the doors to high-level jobs. On the flip side, bench coaches that make it to MLB get a chance to work with some of the most talented players in the world and be a part of legendary baseball dynasties.

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