Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training 2012 – Day 7 “So You Want to be a Catcher?”

     So you want to be a catcher?  Today, and for most of the early spring, I have the opportunity to spend time with the catchers and catching coordinator Marv Foley. To put the gear on and be the so called quarterback of the team is full of responsibility. Catchers must understand and get to know every pitcher’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. Leading on the field, calling a game, directing the defense, receiving, blocking and yes blocking home plate during plays at the plate are some of the fundamentals catchers work on constantly. Today, we worked on blocking home plate. With a machine firing balls from shallow left field, catchers get in a set position with feet moving in an athletic position to receive the ball, block the plate and apply the tag. One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the play at the plate. It brings a fan to the edge of your seat when you see the play develop, runner rounding third and the throw coming home. Every aspect of this play from how hard the ball is hit, to how the outfielder fields the ball, to how strong the throw is, then in a split second you have to read the hop of the throw while the runner is bearing down on you, is very detailed in order to execute the play. We also worked on the fundamental “with bases loaded force play at the plate.” Catchers worked on setting up to receive the ball and clearing out of the way to throw to first. Batting practice for the catchers followed.
     The Pitchers had their wheel of eight stations. The position players who arrived early also did their workout.
    Until tomorrow, take time to help someone today, don’t take any day for granted!!!
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training- Day 6 Pitchers & Catchers

     Today marked the actual first day of Spring training for the Colorado Rockies minor league pitchers and catchers. The day started with a meeting of introductions of staff and going over organization rules. The pitchers have an organized workout labled “The Wheel”. For one hour, the pitchers have eight groups for eight stations. The groups are split two ways. Throwing groups and non-throwing groups. In the throwing group, the stations are as followed: Bullpen 35 pitches, covering 1st base, comebackers and a balance drill. The non-throwing group had a bunting station, rag smash (soft balls hit hard to work on fielding practice), tee work and soft toss. Each station was 15 minutes.
   There are now approximately 40 position players here early and also had a workout similar to the other days including defensive workouts and batting practice. The catchers had their defensive work, caught bullpens, worked on bunt plays in front of the plate and pop ups along with getting to know each other. Catchers then took batting practice followed by conditioning for all pitchers and catchers.
   That’s it for now. Take time out to help someone and don’t take any day for granted.
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training – Day 5

     Every spring training we coordinate a special invite tryout camp. Today we had 25 individuals that went through a workout/tryout supervised by a host of our coaching staff and a handful of scouts and front office personnel. We do the basic 60 yd dash time, grade out arm strength and then we run them through a batting practice session and the pitchers face live hitters. Very seldom do we sign an individual out of these camps but the personal connection we have with scouts and players around the country, you just never know when you can find someone that has been overlooked and could help out in the system.
     Another day of optional workouts saw a larger number today. You can tell it is getting closer to real spring training workouts when the volume of players around is doubled from yesterday. The hitting groups are now at 6 and 7 each and it is difficult to use another field because of all the activity that is going on. There has been some quality work that has taken place and we believe the players are getting enough work in to get ready.
    After our workout and lunch, we all went over to watch the Rockies intrasquad game. Mostly all of the younger players were in action. It was good to see all the players that have come up through the system getting an opportunity to showcase their skills. Jason Giambi and Todd Helton were the respective managers on each squad. Giambi’s club won 6-0.
   Well tomorrow (or today,since you will read this today) is actually the first pitchers and catchers workout for the minor leagues. We also will be continuing the optional workout schedule for the position players that are here early. I am looking forward to the games.
Until then, Take time out to help someone today and don’t take any day for granted!!!
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training – Day 4

       Another day of early optional work. We started to implement a few different variations during defensive work. For example, the infielders plan was to start working on more double play turns at second base. The outfielders worked on charging ground balls and getting themselves in a position to throw the runner out at home. The little detailed items that we are starting to cover may change the way a game is played in August. This is the time when you work on getting timing down in the batting cage, during batting practice and fielding practice. Baseball is a game of repetitions, a game of hand eye coordination. We train the mind to work with the body to perform a fundamental at a high level in intense moments. It seems as if we all were in a dark room during the off season and now we all share the light and are getting accustomed to it.
     Once again after our workout, we had more meetings, this time in our very spacious and luxurious theatre room. This area seats 100 people and has sound capabilities of 7.1 Dolby surround sound. But in here today, there were no movies. Today we discussed the administration responsibilities and regulations regarding the organization. We covered anywhere from hotel policy, per diem money, spring training and regular season tickets, expense reports, etc. We also discussed the progression of a player from the time we draft the player until he develops to be a big league player. Physical, fundamental and mental are the three areas in which the player must work on as he develops. In the early stages, the player must recognize the physical aspects of conditioning, then the fine tuning of fundamentals with constant routines and work ethic. Finally, when the mental side of the game is in order, the player is now on his way.
    To finish off the meeting we had a group discussion with certain staff presenting team fundamentals. We covered bunt defense, first and third defense, cut offs and relays, yours truly presented the pop up priorities, catchers pick offs, pitchers pick offs. It is always a healthy review for everyone to get on the same page when we perform these drills during camp. 
   That is it for today. Take time to help someone today. Don’t take any day for granted!!!
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training – Day 3

The third day saw a few more early arrivals. I heard today that there is a house where seven players are living there together. It may not be a bad idea when you are in the minor leagues and are trying to save money. If you think about it, and if you are dedicated to your job, all you really need is a place to sleep. Most of your time is spent at the ballpark.
    Another beautiful day saw about the identical workout that we had yesterday. Stretch, throwing program, defensive work, then batting practice. All is going well and the players that are in camp early look solid.
   After our workout the staff meetings began. Assistant GM Bill Gievett opened the session with the state of where we were, where we are at, and where we are headed. The emphasis on ways we can improve are being more aware with not only our task at hand but the people around us as well. We all have a responsibility to make sure we dig into any issues as soon as possible and correct them so they don’t linger on. Also be more precise on getting to know the players/teammates background. The message has been sent to our big league team and it is our duty to carry that out to the players coming up through the system. In 2007, we ventured into the playoffs and earned the right to play in the World Series. In 2009 another playoff run but fell short. Last season, hopes were high during the spring but dreams fizzled quick with injuries and underachievment. More leaders are needed to step up thoughout the system and that is our goal. Play as a team and strive to help and correct any issue.
    All coordinators in their respective area followed up. We covered pitching w/former Asheville Tourists pitching coach Doug Linton, Outfield/Baserunning w/former Tourists player Trenidad Hubbard, Infield w/former Tourists hitting coach Dave Hajek, Hitting w/Jimmy Johnson, Catching w/Marv Foley, Athletic trainers goals w/Scott Muryama, Strength and Conditioning w/Gabe Bauer and Mental Skills w/Ron Svetich. All rovers went over the basic goals and fundamentals in their field just to review and update any changes.
     Until tomorrow, take time to help someone today and don’t take any day for granted.
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training Day Two!

     It always seems to be the day while you are laying on a training table with electro E.K.G. wires hooked up to you, when you see a co worker that you haven’t seen since last instructional league or even since last spring. “Hey how are you?” “How’s the family?” “What have you been up to?” “You’re looking good” and the most common line for today was “how was your off season”? Yes today was physicals for the remaining minor league staff that are not involved in big league camp. Its the old ritual of blood samples, blood pressure check, orthopedic examine, a more thorough examination of the ears, eyes, throat and you get the picture. Our Athletic trainers and the doctors on board do an amazing job of running a vast number of people in and out with little confusion. Just pay attention to where they send you and poof, the physical is over. Oh and one thing to remember, no news is good news.
     After physicals we do get to eat breakfast which is much anticipated because the night before physicals you really don’t eat too late or as much. I recall one spring eating a huge steak and a couple of beers at around 9:30ish and that didn’t go over to well with the cholesterol check. Needless to say I had to retake my blood work and everything was good.
     Today we had an optional workout with some of the early arrivals. Pitchers and Catchers did their bullpen work and defensive work. The Outfielders and Infielders took fly balls and ground balls just to knock some rust off and get their feet wet. Batting practice followed each group of four hitters had five rounds of five swings. Conditioning followed and the day ended with lunch, we like to eat!!!
     If you are aware of the early arrivals. The players that come early are on their own dime. Meaning, they pay for room and food until their reporting date. It is a much different setting versus the past. I recall as a player, there were no early optional workouts for any players. If you came early, you could use the field but it was later in the day with no coach available to throw batting practice or hit fungos (fly balls/ground balls). We organize early optional work for all players and they do get a head start on the season. March 2nd is the reporting date for all Minor League Pitchers and Catchers. March 9th is the reporting date for the remainder of Position Players. First full squad workout is March 10th. First Minor League game is March 14th. So it is very important for these players to show up in shape and be ready to play. Any injury could be detrimental to making a full season team.
     Well that’s it for today. Take time to help someone today/Don’t take any day for granted!!!
May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!
-Joe Mikulik

Rockpile Rumblings Spring Training 2012 – Day One

And so it begins…28 years ago, I ventured into a world unknown to many. I entered an environment that many would love to experience. I choose this life because it is what we do. In the next 6 months, we have 14 scheduled days off with 4 of those days being travel days. A tough grueling schedule but part of the sacrifice that we sign up for. As the season of spring approaches, little kids around the country find a joy that has been a part of mankind for decades. Baseball… as James Earl Jones would say is one constant that will be around forever. Today I pack my bags once more, to go and search for that certain something that I have been trekking for, for some time. In the next month, I will post a blog of my daily routine during spring training. This is an inside opportunity for the outside to look in and gain a little knowledge of what does take place during the long days in a spring training schedule. So as you read this, vision in your mind, the smell of the grass, the feel of sun on your face, the crack of the bat, the sound of leather popping when players play catch. These are traditional sounds and feels of the greatest game of all time. And so it begins…my 28th spring training, a time when we gather together, create relationships and come together to form a strong bond with one common goal in mind, to win the World Series. Only one team will earn this reward, only one team will really accomplish their goal. I am truly looking forward to sharing this time with each and every one of you all. Take time to help someone today; don’t take any day for granted. May God Bless and Never Surrender!!!

 

-Joe Mikulik