PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates joined the growing list of Major League teams searching for a new hitting coach on Wednesday, when Gregg Ritchie officially became the new head coach at George Washington University.The Washington D.C.-based school, Ritchie's alma mater, formally announced a development that had been an open secret for weeks. Ritchie, 48, was a seven-year member of the Pittsburgh organization and the big league club's hitting coach the past two seasons under manager Clint Hurdle. In the week since the end of the regular season, numerous clubs have dismissed their hitting coaches: Seattle (Chris Chambliss), Kansas City (Kevin Seitzer), Colorado (Carney Lansford) and Philadelphia (Greg Gross). "Coming back to George Washington brings my career full circle, as in many ways this is where it all started for me," Ritchie said in a statement released by George Washington University. "I met my wife [Kelly] here at GW, and we both made a lifetime of extraordinary memories going to school and competing in the heart of the nation's capital. To have this opportunity to coach at my alma mater and play our home games in the premier facility in the conference at Barcroft Park is extremely special." Ritchie had agreed to take the GWU job near the end of a strange season for him, as well as for the Pittsburgh hitters under his care. He came under intense criticism as the Bucs were going through the first two months of the campaign batting .218 as a team. The criticism died out in June and July, when Pittsburgh led all of the Majors in scoring and the National League in home runs, but it resurfaced during the tailspin to the wire.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.