We’re talking about practice?
PawSox manager Boles said team is spending more time hitting inside
PAWTUCKET – For the first time this month, the Pawtucket Red Sox took on-field batting practice in advance of Thursday and Friday’s games against Syracuse.
With a travel schedule that during the first week of July featured games in three different cities and overnight bus trips, plus temperatures that soared above 90 degrees by mid-afternoon, a conscious decision was made to take those pregame cuts indoors. Piggybacking off a recent article on WEEI.com entitled “Is MLB Batting Practice on its way out?,” PawSox manager Kevin Boles and hitting coach Rich Gedman were asked if a similar trend is starting to take shape at the Triple-A level.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a dying art, but hitting on the field, there’s mixed reviews about it,” Boles said. “I know there’s been a bit of a transition. Our major-league club has done a lot more cage work than in the past so we’re going to follow suit.”
Said Gedman, “For me, I’m old school. I want to hit every day on the field. In this day in age, you’re conscious about weather, what to eat, the travel schedule, etc. Now you’re making sure they’re in the best possible position to succeed. It used to be that more was better. Now you’re looking to be more economical, but I’m still learning that way.”
Boles said the decision the PawSox made to scrap on-field batting practice over a 10day stretch leading into the recent three-day All-Star break started to take shape in early May following a home-and-home series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where each team hosted a pair.
“We planned this a long time in advance as far as, ‘This is how we’re going to attack that period.’ Through experience and doing this long enough, there are certain parts of the schedule where you have to make an adjustment. It’s just planning ahead but also being confident in your own skin to not worry about what other people think,” Boles said. “As far as our concern, we needed to get to that All-Star break in one piece. That was accomplished. It was good, but we were still getting our work done as far as in the cage.
“The big thing is getting them off their feet but also understanding where you’re at in the schedule. You have to be flexible, be able to adapt, and be able to read the signs that your club is telling you,” Boles added. “It was pretty much making sure we kept guys healthy and have guys available for the major-league club. You’ve just got to be creative and use your head a little bit and make sure you save enough for the games.”
The major leagues might be going the a la carte road with some players hitting outdoors while others preferring to remain inside, yet the minors doesn’t appear to be in a rush to travel down a similar path. When the PawSox or other Triple-A clubs hit before games at McCoy Stadium, the flock is traveling in unison. There’s no one wandering off for the sake of personal preference.
That said, the PawSox aren’t going to venture outside just because pregame batting practice is seen as one of baseball’s time-honored rituals that needs to be done for the sake of preserving tradition.
“You don’t want to hit outside and get guys out on their feet just to say you hit outside. There comes a point in time where you have to pay attention to the health of your club. You’re in constant communication with the strength & conditioning guys and the training staff. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of this stuff,” Boles said. “Just to say, ‘We’re going to take batting practice outside,’ there had better be a good reason, but the same applies to hitting inside as well. You’re doing what’s right for the club and what’s right for the Red Sox. The work is still being done.”
There are some PawSox players who prefer to hit outside because the game isn’t played within the tight quarters of a hitting tunnel. They need to see the distances down the lines and feel the sun glaring down on them. For others, syncing up their periphery vision with the great outdoors isn’t high up on the priority list.
Gedman did list one benefit to hitting outdoors on those hot summer days.
“If you’re in the heat a lot, your body will adapt. When you’re not, and then you step outside about being in air conditioning, you’re like, ‘Holy smokes.’ Then it takes a while to get used to,” Gedman said.
Because the Red Sox are doing more batting practice in cages, the PawSox are following suit and staying inside more.
Taking its lead from the Red Sox, Cole Sturgeon (above) and the PawSox aren’t taking on-field battling practice very much this season. The team now does batting practice inside.