Quite often in life, the little things prove to be the most important.
The baseball diamond proves no different as you must cultivate talent with care in order to reap the rewards of a player’s potential.
This past week, I had the pleasure of watching several of the Padres’ top prospects work out on the back fields of Peoria.
Music blared throughout the far back complex, which included several baseball diamonds, bullpens, and other baseball-related areas.
On one of the fields, the pitchers were working out with trainers and, of course, they were doing a lot of running. Mackenzie Gore and Michel Baez highlighted this group, which consisted many of the lower-leveled minor leaguers.
A bullpen session could be spotted right next to this field where as many as four hurlers were tossing at the same time to catchers. Henry Henry, Luis Patino, Ronald Bolanos, and other young hurlers were witnessed working on their craft there. Several Padres’ coaches were present and interacting with the young players.
Here is some video of Henry Henry as he gets loose in the bullpen. Expect big things from this young man in 2018.
— James E. Clark (@EVT_JClark) March 3, 2018
On another field, even more pitchers were working on a set of drills. This field could be categorized as the diamond utilized for baseball activities. The team was working on pickoffs and proper footwork in throwing over to each base. Basic fundamental stuff, but drills like this are at the core of a team that is successful. Austin Smith, Andres Munoz, Gerardo Reyes, and others were seen working at the mound on this field.
Directly next to this field, the crack of the bat lured me to a baseball drill/game that was about to start. The Padres’ position players were working on cut-offs home when I stumbled upon the drill. I was heading out for the day, but ended up staying an extra 45 minutes as the lure of the game was too much to overcome.
Here is some video of a drill. Even though I failed to get much usable video of batting practice, the experience was great.
— James E. Clark (@EVT_JClark) March 1, 2018
After fielding practice, Chris Kemp coordinated a drill in which the Padres’ International Scouting Director chose three captains to lead a hitting competition. Each captain selected fellow minor league players and the teams were made up of five or six position players. Mason House, Juan Fernandez, and Jordy Barley were selected as captains by Kemp on this day.
Team one consisted of Juan Fernandez, Eguy Rosario, Tirso Ornelas, Blake Hunt, and Brad Zunica. There were screens set up in four different positions around the field from left field to right field. The goal of this exercise was to try to pick what screen you hit the ball at. If you correctly identify the screen and hit it before the pitch you earn points for your team. Home runs and doubles in the gaps still counted for points, but the purpose and most points awarded were for hitting the specific target/screen.
The players were intermingling and having fun with this drill, but at the same time working on some very important tasks. Directional hitting is a lost art and could be utilized in this day and age of dramatic shifts. Utilizing techniques like this and teaching them to the youngsters will only make them better players in the long run. I witnessed Zunica power several balls over the fence as he utilized the whole field well. Hunt was impressive, and he reported to me his shoulder is feeling great after feeling sore in 2017. Ornelas is a real special talent with the bat. I rather enjoyed his BP session. It is amazing that he is still only 18 as he sprays the ball all over the field and has the size and strength to go yard.
The whole experience was awesome as the guys were very approachable and more than willing to talk about their craft. Sam Geaney and I even had a great conversation about the team as I was wrapping up my visit there. I enjoyed my time in the back fields and will be there again very soon. I highly recommend you give some love to the minor leaguers next time you are in Peoria. It will be well worth your time.