One thing about veteran managers and coaches – every spring, they go about the process of spring training professionally and inevitably get done what must be done.
None of them particularly love the six weeks of daily drills, then games in which minor leaguers play the last three innings. Yes, they evaluate young players. Yes, they serve up reminders on the fundamentals of the game.
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And yes, they don't really get pumped until the final few days of camp.
It has been true with Dick Williams, Lou Piniella and Mike Hargrove. It was true of Gene Mauch and Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.
It's not the case for Don Wakamatsu and his all-new staff with the Seattle Mariners this spring. These guys can't wait to get started on Saturday, the first day pitchers and catchers work out.
Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burklro, who will run spring training, have laid out detailed plans – and left room each day for one-on-one early coaching.
"Every coach will be in charge of his group. Lee Tinsley will have the outfielders, I'll have the catchers and so on," Wakamatsu said. "And every coach will have the time scheduled for early work on whatever they want to stress."
That might be a bit of batting practice in the cages of Peoria, work on turning two among infielders or discussions on how to call a game.
Wakamatsu said there will be large doses of 'cage time and classroom time.' He intends to talk to players not just about what they're expected to do, but why. And if someone doesn't understand, one coach or another will be there to go over it again.
As Van Burkleo said, if the Mariners explain in February why they might run more against a pitcher who's a bit slow to the plate, no player will be surprised when the 'steal' sign is flashed come April.
It goes well beyond that, of course. Fundamentals will all get covered, as they do in every camp for every team.
Wakamatsu wants the '09 Mariners to bond in spring training. To become a team in all senses of the word. If that necessarily includes a bit of instruction on how to be a professional, he's up for that, too.
One of the intriguing stories of the spring will be whether Wakamatsu's enthusiasm – and that of his staff – has the impact he's looking for. A young Jim Lefebvre, for instance, lost his team in the first month of his initial spring.
Precisely what kind of manager Wakamatsu is will be determined in the months and years to come.
He is not Jim Lefebvre. And the Mariners will be better for that.
For more detail on what Wakamatsu and his staff have in mind this spring, read the full story here.