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Eckstein leaving for new opportunity at Kentucky

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Eckstein leaving for new opportunity at Kentucky

ARLINGTON -- Rick Eckstein was enjoying his role as the Angels' player-information coach, and he wanted to see the season through. But in his mind, the opportunity to be the head assistant coach at the University of Kentucky was too good to pass up.

"Those guys were fantastic to me, and that's the hard part, because college and pro, they don't run on the same time schedule," Eckstein said in a phone conversation. "When this was going down, I struggled with that, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of my family. Talking with Jerry [Dipoto, the general manager], he felt like from a commitment standpoint moving forward, there really wasn't much he could say to commit to me. But that didn't make my decision; my decision was made because of the way I want to take my career."

Eckstein, brother of former Angels shortstop David Eckstein, was hired by the Angels to a new, hybrid coaching role in November, one that would see him aggregate and relay statistical information to the coaching staff pregame and then spend the in-game portion as somewhat of an advanced scout.

A couple weeks ago, though, Eckstein was contacted by Kentucky Wildcats head coach Gary Henderson, who coached him at the University of Florida in the mid-1990s, and Dipoto gave him his good graces. Eckstein, who will run the defense and hitting, wants to be a head baseball coach at the collegiate level and saw the move as a stepping stone.

Former first baseman Rico Brogna, hired over the offseason as a special assistant to Dipoto, will assume Eckstein's role the rest of the season.

"You want to see this through," said Eckstein, the Nationals' hitting coach for five years before joining the Angels. "I mean, we're the second-winningest team in baseball, we're on pace to do some really special stuff. But I'm there in spirit. I told each one of them that. I'm there in spirit, moving forward. I'll be watching."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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