Former Marlins coach determined to get back in the game

John Mallee’s team is doing all right, thank you.

“We went to Wisconsin Dells for a (Father’s Day weekend) tournament,” Mallee said of the NWI Shockers youth baseball program he founded. “Four out of our six teams came back with championships.”

Mallee’s other team — or former team — is in a bit of a quagmire. But don’t blame Mallee, at least not anymore.

“We ran into a stretch where we weren’t driving in runners from scoring positions,” said Mallee, who was the Florida Marlins’ hitting coach until the wake of a 3-2, 10-inning loss against Atlanta on June 8.

“You see it happen so often in this business,” Mallee said of the midnight meeting with the general manager where he was given the proverbial “we need to go in another direction” exit interview.

“But I was stunned,” Mallee said. “I couldn’t believe I was without a job. It took a couple of days before it finally set in.”

Mallee’s departure didn’t sit well with some Marlins players. Starting left fielder Logan Morrison, all-star first baseman Gaby Sanchez and 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan — players Mallee had worked with since they were minor league prospects — all expressed remonstrance when he was let go.

The shakeup hasn’t yielded positive results. Beforehand, the Marlins were above .500 and in playoff contention. Afterwards, they won just three more games for the rest of June while the offense got worse. They now find themselves at the bottom of the National League East with an 80-year-old interim manager — Jack McKeon — after Edwin Rodriguez resigned several weeks after Mallee’s dismissal.

Mallee and Rodriguez were both promoted to their respective positions on an interim basis during another shakeup the previous June. Mallee, who had worked as the Marlins’ minor league hitting coordinator, had the interim tag removed after the 2010 season.

“I remember my first game in majors … it was at Camden Yards,” said Mallee, who was minor league middle infielder with the Philadelphia Phillies organization. “It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of. The ability out there was amazing.

“I was (with the Marlins) for a whole season … from last June to this June. I know I did the best that I could do. I know that from all the teams that have expressed interest in me, and from the players who still support me.”

The Schererville resident is determined to get back to the majors.

“I love what I do, I love to teach, but being a major league hitting coach may be the hardest job in baseball,” he said of putting in 10 to 12-hours of preparation a day before the national anthem.

Mallee had been with the Marlins organization for 11 years. In 2004, he was named the organization’s “Man of the Year.” Former colleagues still keep in touch and were hoping to see him again during the Marlins’ four-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

But Mallee may take in some other games.

“For the first time, I can watch my sons (Johnny, 12, and Austin, 7) play baseball during the summer,” Mallee said. “To finally be able to spend more time with them has put things in perspective.”