The Very Best of Cardinals Spring Training Exercises
Two weeks of Spring Training in the Mike Matheny era has shown us that the new Cardinals manager welcomes legacy talent around his camp nearly as much as Tony La Russa. Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Jim Edmonds have all been extended invites to training camp this Spring. With John Mabry also aboard the Cardinals coaching staff, it’s like an alumni board meeting in Jupiter, Florida.
Perhaps the biggest different between the Matheny guest lists and his predecessor’s is that the current roster can be put to work. Matheny has the old gang on the field, leading workouts and specialized drills. While watching Bruce Hornsby hit pop flies with La Russa would be extremely entertaining, it’s nice to see the former cast participating in the action.
To prepare you for copious photographs surrounding these critical (and sometimes odd) events, we present the seven best Spring Training exercises.
#7 – Television Interviews
There’s nothing better than Spring Training interviews and media time. Why? Because players come to training camp with a renewed optimism. This includes a positive outlook on the upcoming season as well as a minimized tendency to shove a fork through any given media guy that asks the same question over and over. And over. Yes, I’ve prepared well this off-season. Yes, I’m excited to be here. And yes, I like our team’s chances this season.
Spring Training is the time to get choice quotes and beaming smiles to use throughout the season, because the majority of athletes will tire from media boredom by the middle of April.
#6 – Parachute Running
Normal running is for corporate drones at the YMCA. Professional athletes push it to the limit in Spring Training via a parachute apparatus attached to their belt.
The parachute creates wind resistance and prepares the body for a long season. Loafing it down the first base line isn’t a big deal in April, but it’s nice to prepare for that mid-day game in July when dogging out a double play ball could cause a hammy strain.
#5 – Catcher Blocking
The catcher’s blocking drill rates very high on our list because it’s a barometer for the season’s pitching staff. Easy workouts with plenty of framing on the outside corners of the plate? Cool. This year’s pitching staff is all business; a lot of gas.
Treacherous sessions full of blocking spitballs in the dirt? Sweet, this year’s pitching staff would struggle on the Wiffle Ball circuit and it’s all about working the count. That will be loads of fun during the third game of a St. Louis summer series.
#4 – Lounging
There’s nothing professional athletes enjoy more than asserting dominance over the rest of us minions. This is especially true during Spring Training, when fans pay money to watch them artfully disguise lounging around for stretching. It’s not considered sun-tanning if you grab your foot and pretend to stretch your quad every 15-minutes or so.
Spring Training tourists love when their beloved heroes lounge/stretch because there’s limited movement and it’s an easy photo opportunity. Sort of like the polar bears at the zoo. Sure, feeding time is exciting, but sleeping animals are easier to capture for that postcard-worthy Facebook photo upload.
#3 – Pitcher Fielding
Fielding drills for pitchers have always existed, but many teams have upgraded their regimens. In recent years, the Cardinals have enjoyed ushering their pitchers through a line-drive firing range. Step in, try to get some leather on a few missiles, step out and get your ass back into line. Main objective: don’t take one in the beanbag.
The giant screen behind the pitchers is an interesting decision. An obvious backdrop doesn’t exactly promote progress or motivation. Head out to the parking lot and make those pitchers field some grounders on asphalt. You miss it, you chase it.
Keep watching it, son. It’s just going to roll farther. Hurry back, it’s our only ball.
#2 -Bare-handed Catching
We can’t remember the last time a Major League baseball player took the field and played an entire inning without his glove, but that doesn’t stop Spring Training camps from preparing for this event. We suppose this is a conditioning mechanism. If you can catch a can-of-corn without some rawhide on your paw, then an actual game situation is going to seem much easier. Then again, you don’t see David Freese trying to take outside fastballs to the opposite field with a broomstick.
And why is Matt Holliday working on his hands? He’s actually pretty good with his glove, when he uses it. He only has problems when he tries to catch the ball with his groin.
#1 – Simulated Sliding
Baseball players slide once or twice a year, usually after blowing through a third-base coach’s stop sign. For those instances, you want to be prepared, which is why Major League teams spend crucial hours of Spring Training practicing the art of sliding.
Besides, there is right way to slide….and a wrong way to slide. The right way ensures safety for that fresh tin of tobacco in your pocket, while giving the appearance that you’re trying. Fans will always cheer if you slide, even if you’re gunned out by 10-feet. At least, in St. Louis they will.