First off I have to apologize for not giving any kind of update for the last couple of weeks, between the travel and our hotel internet it has been a struggle. That said, it’s time to catch you all up on what is going on down here.
I’ll backtrack a little here. Padres Mini Camp began on February 22 with our report day. My first Spring Training experience began 5 days earlier when my mom, gramma and I set out on one of the most epic 5 day trips across the continent, leaving Toronto, crossing an international border and passing through (or stopping) in 10 states. We saw a few really amazing country bands in Nashville, Tennessee, ate at a 4 time World Champion Barbeque restaurant in Horn Lake, Mississippi and encountered snow in, of all places, Arizona. We put 3,600 plus miles on my Jeep but it was a very cool experience to see what we did, and visit places I had previously only known from country songs. We arrived Thursday night in Peoria, Arizona ahead of my Friday report date.
I called up my buddy Max Fried, who like me was eager enough to get started that he arrived the night before as well. We met up and went to a cool sports bar called Santisi Brothers to meet a few of the guys we knew who were here for Major League camp. We had wings and garlic knots, thanks to Austin Hedges recommendation. It was awesome to get back with the guys and have the older guys to get a little feedback from on how this whole thing works.
Friday was our report day and we figured we would just throw our stuff into our lockers and head to the team hotel. We were wrong. We ran into a group of pitchers and hitters and just like that we were right into the thick of things. Max took off and went to throw and run with the pitchers and I split off with the hitters and spent the morning in the cage doing our usual tee work and front toss. Again, it was great to be back with the boys and sharing in our favorite activity, batting practice. I was happy to find Varo, our Dominican Summer League Coordinator in the cages with us because he was extremely helpful last year during my time in Arizona during Instructional League. After our morning of work we checked into the hotel and I went back to the hotel my mom and gramma were at to have dinner with them.
Saturday was our first official workout. Now in the interest of saving you all from a post that could cover 11 days and probably take 3 weeks to read I’ll go through Saturday in detail and then you can sort of project the other 10 days since they are all very similar. We met on Field 5 at just before 10 am for our opening meeting with all the coaches and staff. The meeting took forever, as they always do but it seemed to not bother anyone as we were all just excited to be back together on a baseball field (I’m sure this was less of a factor for some of the southern guys who probably had access to fields all winter, but for someone leaving a snowstorm behind it was AWESOME!)
We stretched, doing a completely new routine of exercises put together by our new strength and conditioning staff. When we finished, the pitchers went to Field 4 to warm up their arms and we played pepper to loosen up our arms, swings and get a bit of time to chat it up and get to know the guys we didn’t know from last summer. We then threw and got loose, I partnered up with Stephen Carmon who was the SS in Eugene last summer. When we finished we broke into our IPS, a fancy way for us to sound really professional about doing our Individual Position Defense. Jonesy, Eas and Deano took the infielders and we did an easy round of ground balls. In the days since then we’ve covered everything from double plays to forehands and backhands to slow rollers and choppers. Jonesy always keeps us doing different things so that when each situation presents itself in a game we are confident in our preparation. After IPS we broke into our BP rotation groups and I was grouped with Travis Jankowski (my CF from Stony Brook), Cory Spangenberg and Luis Domoromo, a group we would later refer to as the Long Name Lefties. We started on Field 5 at “Bark’s School of Bunting” with Glen Barker, then headed to the cage to get loose. Next was live bp on the field, followed by live defense (we go to our positions and play the batted ball from the live hitting group) and then base running.
Each day the routine is the same, but the drills and topics we cover change. For example, each day we do base running at a different base. We cover our lead offs, situational reads of when to run and when not to, our angles coming around the bags etc. Our cage work changes from tee rounds to soft toss, from working on opposite field hitting to driving the ball into our pull gap. We have been extremely lucky to get these couple of weeks to get really advanced coaching from our staff and to get the time to work 1 on 1 with guys who have played for 10 plus years in the big leagues. One of the cool things that we have been tasked with doing every morning is for a group of players to give a quick presentation of a specific coach so we all get to know their playing background. Each morning before stretch 3-5 players will get up and talk about one coach and discuss the coach’s stats in the big leagues, memorable baseball moments, favorite teammates etc.
It has so far been an awesome experience getting back into the swing of things and getting ready for this season. I am enjoying every day, and trying to get as much as I can from everything we work on. As Eas (Damion Easley) told me the other day “If you have something you can do in your sleep that’s great, but you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone every day and get better at those things you aren’t as confident in.” I have taken that to heart, and am using every day as an opportunity to get closer to my ultimate goal. It may seem routine, and it may seem like Opening Day is still weeks away, but there will come a time when something I worked on down here will happen in a game and it will be the difference between a win and a loss. I’m looking forward to those nights when my teammates and I can look back and say with 100% confidence that the work we put in in Arizona was the reason for our success.
I’ll be posting more regularly now that things have settled down a little and I know where the Starbucks closest to our complex is and I can get some quality internet access. Keep swinging, keep throwing and stay hungry!