And Cody's Corner would like to wish a speedy return to a very special friend of ours. This past month, long time Left Field Bleacher Usher, Jim Reis, was involved in a car accident. After being brought back from the "other" side by rescue workers at the scene, Jim woke up in the hospital with a broken back. We're happy to report that surgery to the back was successful and Jim has started the rehab process on the long road back. He stated this past week that he plans on walking into Busch Stadium for the Series in October. Good Luck Jimbo.
This past week, Cody returned to the lineup for the Springfield Cardinals after sitting out with a hyper-extended knee. Friday night, Cody was back in the starting lineup as the DH and drove in 2 runs in a losing cause to the Wichita Wranglers (7-6). On the night, Cody went 2 for 4, doubled and scored a run. The five game series with Wichita runs through Tuesday and then the Cards head home to face the Tulsa Drillers on Wednesday.
Now to the mailbag:
Question of the Week from Bill Lechner - First, how do you like Springfield and Lanphier Park? I grew up in that city and have seen a few games there. Been a while though. From your perspective what are the top five fielding things a coach should work on with younger kids in practice? Hope your progress on the knee continues.
Thanks for the e-mail, Bill. The field in Springfield is now called Hammons Field. By far the best place I have ever played in. If you get a chance you should come down and see a game. It truly is something worth seeing in real life. But, what makes the stadium even better is the fans. Being in Springfield, Missouri they are all Cardinal fans. Which makes it even more special. Believe me when I say it, these fans actually have a respect for the game. They understand and appreciate all the little things in a well played game, not just the home runs.
I would have to say the most important thing when it comes to fielding is never taking your eye off the ball. Sometimes in the outfield you have to look away for a quick second to see where you are, but other than that, always watch the ball. In the outfield you have to see where it's going and in the infield you have to read all the different bounces. Next, I would have to say "playing catch". You could make a million dollar play but it does not do much if you cannot complete the play with a good, strong throw. While playing catch, always have them concentrate on hitting the chest of the other player. Even now I still play games while warming up. 3 points if the throw would hit the head, 2 for the chest, and 1 for below the belt. You play until you reach 20 points. It's just a fun way for me to concentrate on hitting the target every time.
For outfielders and fly balls, I would have to say two hands is a good idea but, more importantly, to get under and behind every ball. A good way to describe this would be if you were to head a soccer ball. When the fly ball is hit have the player catch it right above his/her head coming forward, just as if they were to head the ball in soccer.
For infielders, making a triangle while fielding is the way I was always taught. The player creates a triangle with his two feet and the glove extended on the ground. The player should always field the ball out in front of his body. If you see the button on top of his hat, that means he's not watching it all the way in.
Finally, having fun is a huge part of baseball. If you're not having fun, there is no reason to play. I hope this helped, Bill, and have fun coaching this season!
John Gordanier - Can you tell us something about the transition process when you switch levels in the minor leagues? What do you notice about pitchers at each level? Is it different getting promoted in the season versus the off-season?
First of all thanks for the e-mail, John. Switching levels in the minor leagues is always a great thing - as long as you're going up! At the higher level the pitching gets better and is more consistent. I remember in Spring Training a few years back one of the pitching coaches was talking about the difference of pitching in each level. I remember hearing that in rookie ball, to move up to the next level, all the pitcher had to do was be able to throw strikes with his fastball and be able to pitch on the outer half of the plate.
In Low A - the pitcher had to be able to throw an off-speed pitch for a strike as well as locate away. In High A - a pitcher had to be able to locate his fastball for a strike, both inside and outside, and have an off-speed pitch to go along with that. In AA, I have noticed that the pitchers can do all the above, whenever and wherever, they want. They also tend to pitch backwards. When a pitcher pitches backwards that means he throws off-speed pitches in breaking ball counts. Now I have to be ready to hit a 2-0 changeup rather than a fastball.
As for your other question, I think it is a lot harder to join a new team in the middle of the season rather than in Spring Training. Coming out of Spring Training your team would all be getting its feet wet at the same time. Everyone would be going through the normal struggles at the same time together. When you join a new club in the middle of the season, you have to get your feet wet all by yourself and you have to play catch up with your other teammates.
Leonda Markee - First, thanks so much for taking the time to do this column. It's very much appreciated. I post as UConnCard on Scout and am a (new) moderator there. For The Birdhouse I daily compile links to newspaper articles on the previous day's Cardinals games (both Major and Minor League) plus do weekly Minor League report. In the course of doing that I came across a situation which prompts my question/request. I recently read an article about a minor league position player with another organization. His team requested that he change to another position (not pitching) and the article said that, after consultation with his agent, the player declined the team's request. Would you please comment on what you feel the role a player's agent should have in his professional development. Also, is it common for minor leaguers to have agents involved in skill decisions (vs. financial or contractual decisions)?
Thanks for the question Leonda. I cannot recall an agent ever getting involved in such a matter. When I was changed from a third basemen to an outfielder, my agent was upset, but he made me look at it as a positive. From my experiences so far in pro ball, an organization is trying everything possible to get you prepared for the big leagues. If it were only going to help your quest to get to the big leagues, than why wouldn't you go for it?
Of all the teams I've been on, and all the players I have met, I have only heard of agents doing financial, contractual, and endorsement decisions. Thanks again, Leonda!
Brent Schade - Prior to being drafted, how many teams were scouting you? I also had a question about how the scouting works. Did they contact you for a private workout or did you go to some mass scouting clinic? Also, it seems like you have been stealing more bases this year than in years past. Is that your decision and do you consider that a big part of your game? Last question...If you don't mind telling me, who has been your favorite teammate thus far in the Cardinal organization? Thanks again!
The whole draft process was a very stressful, but at the same time, an awesome time in my life and in my family's life. Every workout that I went to was by invite only. There were a limited amount of players at each. Also, each team had me at different positions. That made it even more of a challenge. I had to bring every glove I ever owned to each workout!
I had a workout at Dodger Stadium as a second basemen. Then, with the Yankees I was a catcher. The Twins, Reds, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and a few other teams had me at third. Prior to the draft I felt that if anyone drafted me, it would either be the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Yankees.
Part of the draft process that people may or may not know about is the in-home visits. Here the scout comes to your house and meets your family and discusses what kind of money you are looking for and to determine your signability. Sometimes they even give you a written personality test to see what kind of person you are. I even found out later, after I signed, that some of the teams even contacted my teachers at school.
I love to steal bases; the main reason I love to steal bases is because the other teams do not think that I can. In Palm Beach I was hitting 3rd in the lineup and most teams do not really consider the #3 hitter as a base stealing threat. So it was a little easier to catch teams off guard. This year I also got the "green light". That means I could run when I wanted to rather than getting a signal to steal. The more I can do to help my team win by hitting runners in and getting myself into scoring positions by stealing bases, the more it will help me become a better player.
HARD question as to whom my favorite teammate is so far - because they've all been great! For six months out of the year these guys become your family. We go through all the highs and lows in the season together. Since I've been playing my roommates have always been the same. In Johnson City, it was Calvin Hayes, Andrew Davie, and Kyle McClellan. In Peoria, it was Calvin and Kyle. In Palm Beach, it was just Calvin. I now I live with Chris Lambert in Springfield. There are all great guys and I would go to battle on the field with them any day of the week.
I also miss Daric Barton (traded to the Oakland A's as part of the Mark Mulder trade) because he was an awesome guy as well. And, if you have a Brendan Ryan on your team, you always know your going to have a great player on your side, as well as one who's a lot of fun. Terry Evans, Tyler Parker, and Matt Dryer are also class acts and great players. Thanks for the e-mail Brent!
Kelson Hughes - Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you spent most of last season with the Chiefs. Do you, or any of the guys who played in Peoria last year, remember an attraction the Chiefs had on the weekends - an eight man cappella group called the Ballpark Franks? If you do, try to remember the one guy who was a lot shorter than the rest, because that was me.
Kelson, of course I remember the Ballpark Franks. I can not quite picture you, but I do remember you guys singing at the games and doing a good job.
If you have questions that you would like Cody to answer next week, you can send them to Codyscorner@hotmail.com. If your question is selected as the "Question of the Week" at Cody's Corner, your name will be entered into the drawing October 2nd for a free one year-premium subscription to the Birdhouse.
Cody's Corner is weekly column appearing only at the Birdhouse at www.thestlcardinals.com.
HAVE A FUN AND SAFE 4TH OF JULY!