Monday, January 23, 2012

Dear diary, I bought a fungo bat today

While spending the weekend at the Mohegan Sun World Baseball Coaches Convention, mostly to sharpen my skills as an AAU baseball coach, it began to feel like a Fisher Cats reunion. Manager Sal Fasano was there, along with ex-skipper Bill Masse (now a Seattle scout), former outfielder Todd Donovan (Arizona scout), Blue Jays bullpen coach Pete Walker and roving hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce. Toronto minor leaguer George Carroll also popped up and helped out during a clinic run by Iapoce, who brought great energy and knowledge of the game.

I caught up with Iapoce and asked him what Toronto is looking for from its young hitters. "We're looking for guys we can rely on, guys who are going to give you grinding, quality at-bats and know the strike zone. Once you get to Toronto, it's about helping the team win the World Series. When John Farrell puts you in the lineup, you've got to understand your role and be productive."

What are some of the qualities you look for while developing well-rounded players? "Young players get an opportunity based on their talent and skill, but it's the passion and mental makeup and the love of helping a team win that overrides a lot," Iapoce said. "You've got the five tools a player get drafted by, but we also have three more: Mind, heart and backbone. How tough are you when it comes to the rigors of being away from home? How is a kid going to respond to the buses, the failure, the grind?. Those are things you don't know when drafting a kid."

New fungo, Nikes and swag. I mean, really, how cool is this stuff?

Do you think Travis d'Arnaud has proven he's ready for a shot at the big leagues? "I don't know if you ever really prove it. Guys can get called up because everyone thinks they're ready, and they struggle. Some guys get called up to fill in, and they end up staying for 10 or 11 years in the major leagues. All we want him to do is stay healthy and consistent. He's shown good leadership behind the plate. I wish him luck. He's an exciting player."

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