O's daily training routine hardly all fun in the sun

March 06, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Even if there were such a thing as a "typical" day in spring training, it wouldn't be what you might expect.

"Every day is different," said Jimmy Tyler, Orioles equipment manager, who is working the major-league spring training camp for the 16th straight year. "I've never come to the park two days in a row where everything has been the same."

The concept of baseball mixed in almost equal doses with sun, sand, surf and golf makes for a glamorous travelogue. It also might be considered somewhat therapeutic, especially during the blizzard season.

But the concept isn't based in reality. While most would consider six weeks in Florida a working vacation at the very least, there is a distinct premium on leisure time.

"I carried my golf clubs down here last year, and they stayed in the trunk of my car for six weeks," pitcher Ben McDonald said. "This year, I didn't even bother to pack them. The only thing I brought was my fishing pole."

Obviously, there are professions that demand much more arduous labor than what is required for spring training. But the notion that it's a daily three- or four-hour breeze in the sun begins and ends with the daily workouts that occupy the first two weeks.

Last week, the Orioles concluded the first phase of spring training here, then shifted operations to St. Petersburg, which will be their home base for the exhibition season. For the past 14 days they have conducted daily workouts, which started at 10 a.m. and extended beyond 2 p.m. only once -- because of a weather delay.

Don't get the idea, however, that four hours at the office constitutes an average day in spring training. That is merely the focal point that draws virtually all of the attention.

On the field, it's all pitching, hitting, fielding, throwing and running. But the day neither begins nor ends with those fundamental elements of the game.

Even on a routine day, activity is under way by dawn. And the training facility remains in use until long after dusk, when Tyler, his assistant, brother Fred, and their aide, Butch Burnett, turn out the lights and call it a night.

Diary of a 14-hour day

Here's a sample of what happens during a 14-hour day in spring training:

Jamie Rodriguez, the groundskeeper who has worked in some capacity for the Orioles during spring training for 35 years, generally opens the complex between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Trainers Richie Bancells and Jamie Reed, the Tylers and Burnett are on the scene shortly thereafter.

They are followed closely by manager Johnny Oates, the coaching staff and players, most of whom are on the site more than an hour before they have to be in uniform and on the field (10 a.m.). Oates methodically checks in at 7 o'clock, having stopped en route from the hotel for a cup of coffee and a morning newspaper.

"The first two hours I'll use to go over what is planned for that day," Oates said. "That's also a time when I'll do whatever special [media] interviews that have been requested. That often takes up most of the first hour.

"After that, I'll meet with [pitching coach] Dick Bosman and [third base coach] Jerry Narron to finalize everything we're going to do that day. Then the trainers usually give me a briefing on any injuries, and I'll check in with Roland [Hemond, general manager] to see if there's anything going on. I like to keep the last hour [before practice] open for anything special that might come up -- or if a player wants to talk about something.

"By 9:30, I like to have the docket clear for unexpected calls and a third cup of coffee."

Bancells and Reed complete about two hours of morning treatments, and most players, all of whom are on individual programs, have begun their conditioning before the workout begins.

"I've come in some mornings when Harold Baines is already riding the [exercise] bike," Oates said. "And a lot of times, Cal [Ripken] is doing his weight work when I leave."

Once the Orioles are on the field, any given day follows a set routine. Stretching exercises, fundamental drills, pitching, batting and fielding practice all flow together. Pitchers and hitters are divided into groups and move from one of four fields to another, to the batting cages for extra hitting or the clubhouse for a change of shirts almost in cadence.

Although there are slow periods for each group, every minute is precisely accounted for -- neither pitchers nor hitters exceed their allotted time during batting practice. As work on the field winds down at about 1 p.m., it begins to build for Bancells, Reed and the Tylers in the clubhouse.

This is the most hectic time, when everyone converges on the same area at the same time and working with his own agenda for that day.

Once field activities end, there is limited time for the ever-present autograph-seekers. Then, either before or after a light lunch, conditioning coach Tim Bishop takes over with one of two groups (they operate on alternate days) for strength work in the clubhouse.

Just a short break

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