CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Major league baseball teams spend a lot of time working with their prospects on hitting and throwing, on throwing to the cutoff man and which base to cover on the wheel play.
But there’s more to it than that.
There’s who gets a tip on road trips. Where the rookies should sit on the team plane. And please think twice before sending that picture out on Twitter.
“It’s all the stuff you don’t really think about but you need to know,” said infielder Sean Coyle, a 22-year-old Red Sox prospect who spent last year with Double-A Portland. “It’s what really goes on when you get called up to the big leagues. You think it’s a magical experience, but it takes hard work.”
To learn all this, the Red Sox sent their prospects to Harvard for the week — not to sit in a classroom, but because the school has a bubble at its century-old football stadium where they could work out. Players ran sprints, played long toss and stretched out under the inflated dome that protected them from the Boston winter.
They also got a chance to hear from Red Sox manager John Farrell and other members of the coaching staff, and to learn what would be expected of them if they get the call. There were also presentations from general manager Ben Cherington and team chief operating officer Sam Kennedy; from members of the medical and media relations staff; from the clubhouse attendants and traveling secretary; and from veteran players.
Left-hander Brian Johnson said much of the advice he received was common sense, but it was helpful to hear a reminder from those who had been through it. Among the things that stood out for him was listening to former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek describe how he would prepare for games.
Johnson, who was 13-3 in Single- and Double-A last year, said the players were told to think of themselves as the CEO of their own company.
“I represent myself, my parents, my family,” he said. “You can ruin it all by just hitting the send button.”
The program included two baseball workouts a day but also visits to the Jimmy Fund, a cancer charity long-affiliated with the Red Sox, and to a local school to paint murals. Ten players took part in the camp, including 27-year-old Rusney Castillo, who joined the organization from Cuba and played 10 games with the Red Sox last September, and rookie phenom Mookie Betts.
Ben Crockett, the Red Sox director of player development, said even the players who have already made their major league debuts could benefit from the talks.
“Maybe there’s something they saw and didn’t ask because they were a rookie,” he said. “This is a safe environment for that.”
Crockett said the goal is to help players “focus as much as they can on the things they can control on the field.”
“There’s different things to be aware of,” he said. “The general things didn’t change.”
The team has held such sessions for the past 10 years, and it has only become more important as social media proliferates — and with it the opportunities to find trouble. Other teams hold similar camps, often patterned on an offseason program started by Major League Baseball.
Blake Swihart, 22, spent most of last season in Double-A and has been rated the No. 1 prospect in the Red Sox system. He said players were reminded that being a member of the team carries a responsibility.
“Everywhere you go in the city, people are going to know you,” he said. “Everyone knows what’s right and wrong. Be professional.”
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