MLBI Coaching Development - Oakland Athletics. Jonathan Southey. Part Two
After a fantastic first day, it was an early rise at 5:30am to be at the ball park by 6:30am to get ready for the day ahead, where temperatures were forecast to be in the high 30’s, so sunscreen was essential.
As soon as I arrive, I enter through the ‘Players Entrance’ as everyone in the front office doesn’t arrive until 9am and the schedule for the day is pinned to the wall of the Coaches locker room to ensure all the staff are informed of their duties for the day and more importantly…on time.
I am scheduled to work with the pitchers on Rag Ball Hot Shots and hit Fungo at BP (Batting Practice).
Another reason to check the schedule is to find out whether the game in the afternoon is Home or Away. This decides what colour pants you wear for the day…
Home game – White Pants.
Away Game – Grey Pants.
The last thing you would want to do, is walk into the coaches meeting with the wrong colour pants on!!! Hahaha.
To start things off we discussed the previous days game verses the Giants…What we did well...What we didn’t do so well.
At this level, I have noticed the coaches really emphasise attention to detail. The smallest things can make the biggest difference on a game and ultimately it can determine whether you win or lose.
But the main topic of the meeting was the Jonathan Papelbon/Bryce Harper incident the night before. The coaches decided it would be a great topic to discuss with the players about ‘policing’ team protocols and playing baseball ‘the right way’… It was decided this topic would be presented to the players the next day.
Once the meeting had commenced, we hustled to the Conference Room to review yesterday’s game with the players.
The main points discussed were:
Way to hang in the game to come from 0-5 down to take the lead 6-5 bottom of the 8th inning.
A few mental errors stopped us from winning the game… Mistakes running the bases stopped us from scoring and enabled the Giants to score a run and tie the game (6-6) top of the 9th inning.
We need to be prepared both mentally and physically to be able to perform day in day out.
As soon as the meeting had finished, we broke into our ‘Early Work’ groups.
I had the pleasure of hitting rag balls at the pitchers (close range) to simulate fielding and making a good throw to the correct base.
Not only can these kids pitch in the 90mph range, but they also have cat like reflexes when it comes to making the play in the field, but the highlight of my day came in BP session
It was my turn to hit fungo to the 2nd baseman and short stop while each group took turns to hit.
I was raking the ball as hard as I could and these kids are like vacuums… Sucking up every baseball that was coming their way.
There was plenty of friendly banter going on with the coaches and the players as I was trying to see how many balls I could hit past them during each fungo session…I can’t say I was that successful!!!
After lunch we all piled into the vans and drove to Scottsdale for our game against the Giants.
It was awesome to see the World Series Champion signs on their fences and buildings around the facility and I can imagine the likes of Barry Bonds, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner playing on the same diamonds as 20 years olds during their time in Scottsdale.
This game was a totally different story from the previous day.
We took an early 4-0 lead after the 1st inning from a Grand Slam shot from Jhonny Rodríguez, a player from the Dominican Republic… You should’ve seen this ball fly!!!
The pitching from our young prospects was more consistent than the day before, with a higher percentage of first pitch strikes which lead to a favourable count and more strike outs.
Again the defensive play by both teams was impressive. Outfield assists, base runners getting picked off stealing 2nd base and turning double plays on the regular.
What constantly amazes me, is how effortless these players make the game look… It’s awesome to watch.
The Giants rallied late in the 7th inning to try and make the score close, but we were deserved winners today 9-5.
I am proud to say I am still unbeaten as an A’s coach!!! Hahaha.
Day Three is scheduled as a ‘Camp Day’…Apparently everything is pretty relaxed on these days.
We will see…
Day Three was what the Organisation called a ‘Camp Day’.
The day would consist of drills and workouts in the morning, with an Intersquad game in the afternoon.
The level of intensity was significantly different and more relaxed than the previous two days, which was a welcome relief to the players as they had been working hard over the past week.
Again we began the day with a Coaches Meeting to discuss yesterday’s game vs the Giants and also the line ups for the Intersquad game and it was decided that this game will be more ‘Situational’ than ‘Performance’, especially for the pitchers.
The pitchers would get 15x pitches as normal, then 15x pitches with runners on base to simulate different situations.
The game would also serve a purpose to get AB’s (At Bats) for the players who have been injured and have been given approval from the team doctor to come off the DL (Disabled List) and they would also focus on ‘moving runners’, while the defence would be ‘corners in/middle back’.
Once the Coaches Meeting had wrapped up, everyone made their way to the Conference Room to discuss the topic for the morning – Policing Team Protocols.
It was discussed that good teams ‘police’ each other, they do not rely on the Manager to lay down the law all the time and each player should be accountable to their Manager and Teammates.
Separate yourself by performing like a winner EVERY PLAY, regardless of the score or the position on the table and always decide to be the best player you can be. Effort is a variable that you can control.
Coaches see it. Teammates see it. Opposing teams see it. And the habits you create now are habits you will take with you throughout your career.
After lunch the Intrasquad game commenced and as stated above this game was to serve more of a training exercise for the coaches to give an ‘In Game’ situation and how the players can adapt.
Once again the skills and talent these players have was on show with baseballs being crushed, gloves on show and fastballs in excess of 90mph.
These guys have game.
I arrived at Fitch Park at 6:30am to get dressed into our uniform and ready for the coaches meeting scheduled at 7am and I have quickly come to realise everything runs to time as there is a lot of content to get through each day.
Time management is key to any successful organisation and Aaron Nieckula aka Nuke (Field Coordinator) is charged with the task of maximising every single minute of this Instruct camp.
It amazed me how fluid each session was run and the effect this had on the coaching staff and players… Always something to do… Always somewhere to be……..Nuke is a master of his craft.
During the meeting the topic of Justine Siegel was discussed. The Athletics had agreed to let Justine attend the Instructs for the next two weeks and this was becoming big news in the United States.
“First Female Coach Hired in the MLB” was one of the main headlines in the press.
Keith Lieppman, (Director of Player Development and head of the A’s development program) gave us all a run down on how to handle ourselves in a professional manner if approached by the press. It was quite a funny exercise, but necessary at the same time.
We were all looking forward to meeting Justine to gain a fresh baseball perspective in a male dominated industry.
Next on the schedule was a hitting meeting with Hitting Coach Greg Sparks (Sparky).
Sparky has been with the A’s organisation for a while now and has extensive experience in the area of swinging a bat and the topic of the meeting was ‘The 2K Approach – How To Be A Professional Hitter’.
Sparky had setup a power point presentation and involved Mental Health Coach Marc Strickland quite a lot as the philosophy within the A’s is being a successful hitter is associated with a successful mindset.
To be a good 2K hitter, you have to be ready for any pitch. Foul off any tough pitch. Battle at the plate. Know the umpires strike zone. Don’t leave the 3rd strike in their hands. Have an attacking mentality… Be dangerous… Get ready to do damage… Don’t become defensive.
It takes a mental approach to become a 2K hitter – It’s not a talent based skill and you need to be focused, be patient and have discipline… You are never out of an AB with 2K.
The more pitches you see, the better hitter you will become.
2K hitting is an uncomfortable position to be in. Focus on the aspects you can control (mechanics, mindset & attitude). This will help ease your stress levels. SEE the game, don’t just WATCH it.
Once the meeting had commenced, the players had their allocated warm up and stretch stations to get ready for the tough day ahead.
Todays scheduled consisted of the Batting Cage, Infield and Outfield work for the Position players.
Catchers and Pitchers had a separate schedule to attend to, which included a Throwing Program, Shadows and Hats. These boys put in work like I’ve never seen!!!
We had lunch onsite at 11am to ensure we were dressed and ready for the game vs the Kansas City Royals at midday.
It was a tough fought game with both teams putting up runs in the first 4 innings.
We had the lead 4-3 until the Royals went on a 6 run tear top of the 8th inning, which we were unable to come back from. A tough loss, but valuable lessons learnt, which is the main reason for the Instructional League.
Back to improving and getting better tomorrow.