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Best of the Sky Sox: Best Hitter

Alan Cockrell's consistency over five seasons
March 27, 2012
Being considered a great hitter is not something that is accomplished with a good week or a good month, a hitter displays their greatness with what they can do over an extended period of time. In the course of 24 seasons of baseball here in Colorado Springs, many hitters have shown their significance through sustained excellence at the plate.

Prolific hitters are littered throughout the history of the Sky Sox franchise. There have been players who excelled at hitting for average like Garrett Atkins and Neifi Perez, who hold the team records for batting average and hits in a season respectively, as well as power hitters like Luis Medina and Joe Koshansky who displayed their hitting prowess at Security Service Field with league leading performances in home runs or RBI.

Countless hitters could be considered the best in team history, but consulting with Sky Sox Director of Broadcasting Dan Karcher, the voice of Sky Sox baseball for 23 years, as well as Team Historian Chris Moyer, who has kept record of team statistics for 24 years, one hitter embodies the quality of a hitter that is most critical: consistency. That hitter is Sky Sox Hall of Famer Alan Cockrell.

Alan Cockrell is the career leader in many offensive categories in Colorado Springs history, including his 478 hits and 776 total bases, mainly due to the fact he played nearly 500 games in a Sky Sox uniform. In his 494 career games Cockrell accumulated 1,594 at-bats, and with that many at-bats Cockrell still was able to post a career .300 batting average for the Sky Sox.

"When you talk about the body of work he put together while he was here, you would be hard pressed to find another player who could put up those kind of numbers over that long of a period. Ace combined hitting for average and for power and had some of the best individual offensive performances at the plate that we have ever seen in Colorado Springs. But what is most telling for him as a hitter is that he was able to keep producing over his many years with the Sky Sox," Dan Karcher said. "There have been some better seasons for players that were here for only a brief time, but Alan Cockrell was as consistent of a hitter as we have seen here. He did it every single year."

Cockrell hit for .300 or better in four of the five seasons in Colorado Springs, making him the only Sky Sox player to post four seasons of .300 or better with more than 80 games played in each season. In addition, Cockrell is the only player in team history to hit double-digit homers in four seasons as well as being one of only three players to amass at least 100 hits in a season three times, along with Clint Barmes and Trenidad Hubbard.

"Were there better hitters for average? Probably. Were there better power hitters? Yeah I can name a few. But nobody had that combination better than Alan Cockrell. They always talk about players as being the most complete player, but Alan Cockrell is the most complete hitter in Sky Sox history," Karcher said. "The fact that he was able to put up good enough numbers to stay right on the cusp of a major league call-up is nothing to overlook. There are players who probably would not have had lasted that long because they were not be able to sustain the production he was able to deliver year in and year out."

Cockrell is the Colorado Springs career leader in RBI, totaling at least 58 in four of his five seasons. Cockrell ranks in the top two in runs scored, singles, doubles, home runs and extra-base hits, as well as ranking in the top 20 in both slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Three of the five seasons Cockrell was a member of the Sky Sox the teams rank in the top ten in average.

"The intangibles are a huge part of the game, and I think Alan had that winning mentality, and it shows because he was definitely a huge part of some of the best hitting teams we have had in franchise history. He was a guy who you could put anywhere in the lineup and expect production, and he did in fact bat in nearly every spot in the order," Karcher said. "People might say that he only put together these numbers because of the amount of years he was here in Colorado Springs, but what they don't realize is being at this level for that amount of time and not getting the call to the big leagues is extremely tough mentally. For him to produce at the plate while all that was probably going through his head was one of the most impressive aspects of his game."

Cockrell is the only player in Sky Sox history that was on the roster of both the 1992 and 1995 Pacific Coast League Championship teams, and only played on one losing team in his five seasons with the Sky Sox. After retiring in 1996, Cockrell became the first former Sky Sox player to become a coach for the team, as the team's hitting coach from 2003-2006. Those teams batted an accumulative .291, including the 2004 team's record setting average of .307.

"Nobody has broken down the art of hitting, in my experience in baseball, as a player more than Alan Cockrell, he broke it down to a science and it definitely paid dividends. He has tells me that he did not figure out hitting until it was too late for him, but he was still an incredible hitter," Karcher said. "He has made a huge impact in the art of hitting after his playing career was over with the many stops he has made as a hitting coach or coordinator for Major League ball clubs. That shows that his ideas and philosophy toward hitting are pretty much cutting edge."