Interview: Storm hitting coach Tom Tornicasa

The Lake Elsinore Storm featured some bright young stars, including the likes of Chase Headley, Sean Kazmar, Yordany Ramirez, Nick Hundley, Peter Ciofrone, and Tim Brown. We caught up with hitting coach Tom Tornicasa to gain insight on these players and more.

Chase Headley began the year slow but really turned it on after the first month of the season. Was that mental for him because he essentially skipped a league?

Tom Tornicasa: He did skip a league and it does make a difference. He actually worked hard on his swing from the start. He wasn't expected to hit here. He has done a good job and has swung the bat well.

How hard is it to keep the left-handed and right-handed strokes the same?

Tom Tornicasa: It is harder for the right-handed side because he is not seeing left-handed pitching as much. He is getting more swings left-handed. When he comes out for early work, we work on both sides. We try and keep them both going. We try and work on that right-handed swing a little more because he is not getting many repetitions. Even in BP, he is hitting mostly left-handed.

Sean Kazmar hit the ball extremely well down the stretch after facing some struggles early on. Where there any mechanical changes you worked with him on?

Tom Tornicasa: It was some of the stuff we have been working on all year and he just understood it then and knows what he needs to do and is doing it. He had a high leg kick early in the year and we tried to leave it alone to see how he would work with it but over time we saw it wasn't working for him. We cut that down and he is staying back on the ball better. He doesn't have as much movement in his approach as he did earlier in the year. It started to show up in the last month. He was swinging the bat real well.

The big question coming into the year was how Yordany Ramirez would handle the bat. It has been the one part of his game that was lacking.

Tom Tornicasa: He was actually under .100 for the first month and a half. Then he started coming on and got hurt – he hurt his back – and has fought through injuries – tendonitis in the back of his knee. For me, he has come a long way with the bat. He has a much better idea of what he is doing at the plate.

Always keep it simple. The simpler you can make it the easier for them. The more you can cut down on movement and head movement and make the approach shorter, the easier it is to make adjustments as you go on.

What has been the impression of Nick Hundley after being in Lake Elsinore from his Fort Wayne call-up?

Tom Tornicasa: He is actually swinging the bat real well. He is another guy we made a few little adjustments on and he has taken it from there. You just keep an eye on him and keep doing what you are doing, stick with the plan of what we are trying to do and he will get better and better. He started to get a feel for what is going on.

Peter Ciofrone hit well all year long – what was the secret to his success?

Tom Tornicasa: He can hit. I had him in Fort Wayne and he hit. Everywhere he has been he has hit. With Pete, I don't do very much with him. I just keep him slow – make sure his approach is short and slow. That is about it. Let him go about his business most of the time.

Does the same hold true for Tim Brown – perhaps the most consistent hitter for much of the year?

Tom Tornicasa: From what I understand, this is the best Brownie has hit in organized baseball. He was more of a line drive hitter and he still is but showing occasional power, which is good, especially for the position he plays. With Brownie we made just a few little adjustments. Robbie, Rob Deer, when he was here, he came in and made a few adjustments and he has taken it from there.

Do you continue to toy with things as the season comes to a close each season or how does the approach change?

Tom Tornicasa: At the end of the year you are just trying to keep them on track. All the hard work is over with. When you are fighting for a playoff spot you just keep them where they are at.

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