Kevin Long will not return as the Nationals hitting coach, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Washington on Saturday.
Long’s departure comes amid a full remake of the Nationals’ coaching staff following the team’s flop in 2020. Pitching coach Paul Menhart and third base coach/bench coach Chip Hale will also not be back next season.
Long was hired shortly after Davey Martinez in November of 2017. He worked for three years with veterans and the Nationals’ young players, in particular Juan Soto, while hovering throughout the day in the batting cages. Long typically dressed in a red t-shirt and baseball pants before spending all day in the batting cages or on the field.
His work with Soto in particular was often mentioned by the Nationals’ young star. This spring, Soto said he thought Long was the best hitting coach in Major League Baseball (the caveat being Long is the only one the 21-year-old Soto has known).
When Soto was in a relative slump in August of 2019, he went to Long to fix it. They employed a harness which helped Soto retrain his balance at the plate after pitchers began throwing him off-speed pitchers over and over. A relationship with Soto would seem to be a key one when considering who the Nationals hitting coach should be.
There is no natural in-house replacement. Joe Dillon, the assistant hitting coach in 2018 under Long, was hired last offseason by Philadehlpia to be its hitting coach. Pat Roessler was the team’s assistant hitting coach in 2019 and 2020.