August 6, 2017
Well, unless you have been living "under a rock" for the last few years, you might have noticed the new changes associated with Batting Practice! In the age of SABERMETRICS, STAT CAST, ETC., the baseball game is changing, and so is BP in my humble opinion.
As teams seek to gain a competitive advantage against the next team in their division, or league, they are valuing the health and well being of their high priced athletes more, and more! Teams are guarding, and shielding their players from undo, and unneccessary strain, or mental anguish if at all possible throughout the season. What does that mean; it means that teams are trying to keep players from over exerting themselves during the season, while playing or taking too much practice in any form, be it batting practice, or throwing too much long toss, so they can keep their players' strength up, and have that player fresh, and ready to perform for a playoff run.
Chicago Cubs Manager, Joe Maddon, has made this a high priority the last few years, first with his Tampa Bay Rays teams, and now with the Chicago Cubs. Coach Maddon has been a trend setting coach for a while now, employing the shift, sabermetrics, extreme rest for players, NO BP, etc. Coach Maddon went so far as to BAR players from the clubhouse last year until 6pm in the evening, so that they could not lift weights, hit in the underground cages, or take batting practice, or long toss of any type at the training facility at the ball park! He called his strategy: playing "AMERICAN LEGION BALL", where the Major League players would think of coming to the ball park as just a "regular guy", and play ball for that day as a bunch of friends would play on the local ball field for a pick up game...this way his players would get more "time off', and stay "fresh" (be more rested) for the games in the second half of the season for the play-off push! If you haven't heard of this before, look it up. It also keeps fans away from the players, driving them crazy for autographs and baseballs during BP!
Guess what, the Chicago Cubs won the WORLD SERIES with this strategy! So, "Monkey See, Monkey Do"! That means other teams, and coaches will, and are employing this type of training practice into their practice routines/regiments for their players. If you haven't been watching a lot of baseball games, like I do on TV, then you might not have been paying attention to how the New York Yankees have *NOT* been taking batting practice on the road this season! Not every game, but a bunch of times. I was watching Sunday Night Baseball, and they were mentioning it on TV. When they, the N.Y. Yankees came here to Cincinnati, they didn't take BP both days that they were here! I believe that they are trying to copy some of what the Cubs did the year before. Other teams will be following suit in the near future too, I believe.
I have noticed also, that the players are not as friendly this year, and are not throwing up as many toss ups balls to anybody, little kids, grown ups, etc. I have noticed in our ball park here in Cincinnati, that the ushers all know what the kids are doing too...going for baseballs! One security guard that works on the field, saw me looking for "Easter Eggs", and asked me if I was "in that club"! I said what "Club"? He said; the "Club" that tries to get as many balls as they can. I didn't want to lie to him, so I said, yeah, I'm in "that club". There are so many kids now running down the aisles at the dugouts, trying to snag a 3rd Out ball, it's insane! The players can see the surge of kids with gloves now too. The players have noticed the kids swapping gear, and all, and now don't know who are the teams' true fans! I have already wrote about how the teams have moved the players in off the warning track during BP, and also during long toss in the inning breaks during the games.
Teams during the hot summer days, have been sending the star players to the clubhouse early during BP, and leaving just the coaches on the field to shag baseballs. Forget seeing a star pitcher or closer during BP!!! The teams are guarding star closers like "GOLD BARS at FT. KNOX"!
I have also noticed that the visiting teams are NOT signing as many autographs as in years past. The autograph collectors have been complaining about this too!
So, what does this mean for us Ball Hawks? Well, the first thing is you have to be aware of these new trends, and find ways to combat them! You as a squared away ball hawk, will have to do more prep work before a team comes rolling into your town. Like, see if the team played a late Sunday Night baseball game, or had an extra inning game right before coming to your town. Or, you are going to have to be like a coach, and see who's on the DL, what star player is going to get a day off. You as a ball hawk will have to pick good weather days to go ball hawking, to make sure that there might be BP. You might have to skip the Cubs and the Yankee games, even if they have known "Power Hitters"!
We as a group of baseball collectors will have to collectively figure out ways to maximize our ball hawking experience. And share what has been working for you with the rest of the community!
Well, let me know what you think. Drop me some comments. As always, "Go have a ball"...I will!
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.