It's not like Seattle Mariners hitting coach Alan Cockrell lies awake at night trying to reinvent ways to help hitters do what they do best - although he''s been known to do just that.
But he's always kept his eyes and mind open to new ideas, and this winter he found one.
"I was in California and saw a coach using one of those plastic fetch-it contraptions, the one people use to throw the ball for their dogs," Cockrell said. "I watched what he did and thought, 'I can use that with this guy ...'"
Dog owners use the device like a skeet thrower, only they put a tennis ball on the end and fling it, leafving the dog to do most of the work.
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What Cockrell is doing is simple. The hitter loads the fetch-it apparatus, and holds it in his back hand as he takes his batting stance. Then he tries to throw the ball up the middle, mimicking his swing.
"If he blocks himself off, the ball shoots way off line in one direction," Cockrell said. "If he's too quick, he pulls it in the other. The idea is to throw it to the back of the batting cage."
Cockrell thinks the drill works best with players who throw from one side and hit from the other - players like outfielder Michael Saunders, who throws right-handed and hits left-handed.
"That front hand can be dominant at the plate, and pull the bat through too quickly," Cockrell said. "The fetch-it drill gets them working on staying up the middle."
Will it help?
"Alan does a remarkable job with our hitters, and he's a very inventive guy," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He keeps players engaged, and they know he's trying to help them for them, not for him."