Ah, the art of hitting a baseball. It’s something we can talk about till we’re blue in the face. I suppose players and fans do that in regard to all aspects of the sport, ’cause, ya know, that’s what baseball people do. They talk, and then talk some more. If there’s anything in baseball that warrants all that chatter, it is hitting a baseball. Is it the toughest thing to do in sports as many people proclaim? The answer, my friends, is not in this post – hope you weren’t expecting it. ‘Donnie Baseball,’ otherwise known as Don Mattingly joined Joe Torre with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their Hitting Coach in 2008. The career pin-striper looks odd wearing the blue and white. Mattingly joined Darren Smith on XX Sports Radio to discuss what he teaches his players, what it means to have ‘a good at bat,’ and why teams don’t have captains a la the New YorK Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
On what he tells his young players:
“The biggest thing I stress is the importance of each at bat. We gotta take this guy on, no matter who it is, we can’t be afraid to get deep in the count with certain guys ’cause if they make a good pitch, you don’t wanna necessarily swing early in the count. Obviously, you wanna put the ball in play and cut strikeouts down, you really want guys to have quality at bats where they’re getting something to hit, something they can hit hard and not always giving in to what this guy can do.”
His thoughts on hitting elite pitchers:
“If we go up there and battle and battle… Try and hit quality strikes, not that one that’s nipping the corner early in the count. You’re not gonna be able to do much with him, we gotta get more to the middle of the plate and get him to throw strikes. Those guys are gonna make mistakes – I don’t care how good they are, they’re gonna make some mistakes and we just gotta force them to do it.”
On why most teams don’t have captains:
“You don’t just have a guy to have one. I think you gotta have the right guy, a guy that you feel is like a leader on your ball club, a guys who is a leader on the field and off, and someone that you feel like is gonna be there, be part of your organization. You hate to make a guy a captain and you trade him the next year – it’s just not one of those things. You want it to be somebody you feel’s gonna lead your club and someone you can build around. That helps kinda set the tone for your whole clubhouse – what kinda team are you gonna be? How we gonna approach our work? Day in, day out, process. Baseball is one of those games you have to play every day. And, over the course of the season you gotta win ‘x’ games. You gotta have a team that kinda grinds things out. It’s kinda the thing you talk about in baseball but you actually gotta have concentration day in and day out, can’t get down or up. And, you gotta have a guy that kinda leads in that way.”