Sophomore left fielder adds serious attitude to team

Sophomore left fielder Jason Coats walks out right as the chorus of Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow” begins, but neither Coats nor the crowd ever hear the end of it. Every time, the scoreboard operator has to cut the music short as Coats steps in to the batter’s box.

In his defense Coats doesn’t really hear it, or at least doesn’t make any deep connection to it. It’s just something to entertain the fans as he goes to work. And make no mistake; hitting a baseball is not a game for Coats.

“I can honestly tell you I don’t remember [Coats] ever joking,” said Kendall Clark, Coats’ coach at Plano West High School. “When he walked in the park or into practice, he was serious about hitting. Dead serious.”

Together, the pair won a Texas 5A State Title for the Plano West Wolves in 2008, Coats’ senior year. Their relationship is one of mutual respect, but despite the time they spent around each other, it doesn’t stretch over in to their personal lives. Clark said he doesn’t know what Coats does in his free time, nor do they talk at length about Coats’ family – their relationship is more professional than that.

And it’s little surprise to Clark that Coats is quickly making a name for himself in his chosen profession.

“[Jason] knew hitting,” Clark said. “He’s always been very advanced, as far as the mechanics of hitting. He knew what had gone wrong, and he knows how to fix it. Quickly.”

His ability to adapt has led to a .407 average this season along with 28 runs scored and 26 RBIs in only 21 games. The sophomore has provided a huge lift to the No. 13 Horned Frogs lineup.

Chris Edelstein, Coats’ hitting coach since he was 14 years old, said the biggest change he has seen in Coats since coming to TCU is his maturity.

“(He’s) able to handle if he doesn’t have a very good at bat, he doesn’t let it affect his next at bat,” Edelstein said. “The biggest strides that he’s made aren’t mechanically anything that he’s doing as much as it’s that he’s got a better approach and he’s able to handle different situations better.”

Clark said he first heard about Coats before the latter was in the ninth grade, and he saw a player beyond his years. He broke into an extremely competitive lineup as a sophomore at Plano West and never batted in a position worse than second in his high school career.

Clark said Coats was an all-around player when he came to his team, but Clark and Edelstein agree his batting is what makes him a special player.

“I train quite a few college and pro (players),” Edelstein said. “The one thing they all have in common is how good their hands are. That’s what I saw when (Coats) was younger…He’s just one of those guys who has a knack for barreling the ball up.”

Earlier this month, Coats was barreling it up better than he had his entire career. The left fielder had a career-best 18-game hit streak broken Mar. 22 at Dallas Baptist University.

“It was good, it was fun, I mean 18 games is a lot,” Coats said. “I hit the ball hard at DBU, but there’s just nothing you can do when you hit it right at them.”

It’s easier said than done, but Clark said he has seen the kind of effort Coats puts into his craft.

“Jason is driven not just to be great, but to be exceptionally great,” Clark said.