We’re talk­ing about prac­tice?

PawSox man­ager Boles said team is spend­ing more time hit­ting in­side

Woonsocket Call - - SPORTS - bm­c­gair@paw­tuck­et­times.com By BREN­DAN McGAIR

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.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­works.com

Be­cause the Red Sox are do­ing more bat­ting prac­tice in cages, the PawSox are fol­low­ing suit and stay­ing in­side more.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­works.com

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.

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