February 2009

Back in the clubhouse for another spring

This is my 12th Major League Spring Training, and every year it’s different. Each of us is a slightly different player from what we were last year. We know more, or we’re in better shape, or maybe we’ve aged a little. The combination of players is slightly, or significantly, changed.

What stays the same is you’re always excited. You’re always optimistic. But sometimes you feel something a little extra. This is one of those springs.

TimLincecum.jpgFor one, what’s better for a catcher than having three Cy Young Award winners in the starting rotation, plus an All-Star closer? And the young guys are one year more experienced and seasoned.

The feeling I get in this clubhouse is that we feel we can win. There’s a feeling among ourselves that we can do this, no matter what anyone OUTSIDE the clubhouse says. We’re the only ones who know what this team is capable of. What you can’t see in the statistics is how much these guys want to win and how hard everyone worked in the offseason. Every single player showed up in shape. That says something about the team’s desire and dedication.

OK, we’re only a week into Spring Training. I know. And there are some questions that probably won’t be answered until close to the season begins. But if you could see how, even this early, everyone is carrying himself, how loose everyone is, how happy we were to see everyone again.

I spent the first part of the week catching for the pitchers — we show up earlier than the rest of the team, as you know. I’ve learned over the years just to leave the pitchers alone for the first week. They need to do their own thing to get ready. They don’t need to hear anything from me.

By tomorrow or Sunday, I’ll sit down with each pitcher. We’ll talk about their goals for the season, what they might be working on during Spring Training, what they want the ball to do, how they’re feeling, whether they want anything different from me. I keep a little notebook where I write down anything that might be new.

I also leave my hitting alone early in Spring Training. I give my mind a rest until the games start. In batting practice, I’m just trying to get the rust off, get my bat ready for swings. I’m not working on anything specifically — just getting loose.

We all work a lot on conditioning during the spring, building a solid foundation for the rest of the season. This team’s trainers do such a great job building us up gradually, understanding that a baseball season is a marathon not a sprint. They keep working with us through the year, so by October we’re still fresh.

I worked in particular during the offseason on my legs. I increased the weights and built strength. As you get older, you have to keep working harder so you don’t fall behind.

There’s not much news to report during Spring Training, at least until the games start. But I’ll try to post as often as I can.

Thanks for reading. And thanks especially for all the lovely notes about my father’s passing and for sharing your own stories with me.