PEORIA, Ariz. – It’s a schedule that any company would be wise to emulate.
8:30 a.m. – Extra work.
9:10 – Staff meeting.
9:30 – Stretch and throw.
The work schedule covers the next three hours and is precise to the minute. Only by reading the list of duties does it become apparent this isn’t an ordinary office preparing its staff for the day.
It’s the Seattle Mariners, who run through their daily workout with precision of a marching band as they move from field to field and drill to drill at their spring training complex.
Besides bats and balls, the most useful tools during each workout are the daily schedule on the coaches’ clipboards and the watches on their wrists.
Today, when infielders and outfielders join the pitchers and catchers who have been in camp for five days, there will be 59 players dodging each other and the hundreds of baseballs being hit and thrown.
It takes communication and coordination to avoid chaos.
“When you get 59 players in the same spot and you’re moving guys around every 20 minutes, they’d better be briefed and they’d better know where they’re going for things to go smoothly,” manager Bob Melvin said.
The Mariners’ workouts are the end result of considerable planning.
The structure for today’s workout and those the rest of spring training has been weeks in the making. Melvin, his coaches and members of the front office held meetings to determine which drills are necessary and bench coach Rene Lachemann fits them into the day’s plan.
Lachemann, who organizes spring training, writes up each day’s schedule on his laptop computer, prints it out and posts it on the clubhouse bulletin boards a day in advance.
“I’ve always been a guy who likes organization, and when Bob asked me to do this, I looked forward to it,” Lachemann said. “The most important thing is keeping organized and making sure the coaching staff is wherever he wants it.
“This is Bob’s camp. I will throw certain ideas out, but he tells me things that he wants me to put down, and I’ll go and tell the people where he wants them to be.”
On Wednesday, pitchers rotated through three stations – throwing in the bullpen, fielding ground balls on Field 1, backing up bases and fielding bunts on Field 2, and rundown and pickoff moves on the half-field.
After the pitchers finished their work and went back to Field 2 for conditioning, the catchers took batting practice in two groups. After batting practice, Lachemann and coaches Orlando Gomez and Roger Hansen drilled the catchers on throws to bases.
When the catchers finished their conditioning about 12:45, they could relax for the first time in more than three hours.
“You want to stay away from a lot of standing around,” Melvin said. “That’s why you shuffle guys from field to field.”
It’ll become more complicated today when infielders and outfielders join the workouts. Every field will be full of players.
“Everything has to go on time,” Melvin said.
Most of the time, the workout unfolds just as the schedule says. And sometimes it rains.
That happened on Monday (and might again this weekend), but Lachemann is ready.
“When that happens, I go to my ‘Rainy Day Schedule,’” he said.
When the practice fields are too wet to use, all of the work moves under cover.
On Monday, pitchers and catchers did their stretching in a multi-purpose room near the clubhouse. In the covered area where the batting cages are located, netting was pushed out of the way to clear room for pitchers’ fielding drills.
In the bullpen, where there is a cover over the mounds and another over the catchers, pitchers did their throwing six at a time. The moment one group of pitchers finished throwing, the grounds crew smoothed out the mounds before the next group arrived.
Everyone seems to know exactly where to go when it’s time to rotate to another drill.
“You’ll get one or two guys who might not know where they’re at,” Lachemann said. “But as long as the staff supplies them with the correct information, it’s easy to tell them where to go.”
Lachemann says little details in the planning can make a big difference. For example, he must be sure there are enough coaches available to throw batting practice each day.
“Every morning I’ll talk to the guys and see who’s able to throw,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll make a mistake and have a guy throw two or three days in a row.”
When the practice ends, Lachemann returns to his desk in the coaches’ room to finish the next workout schedule. He’s typically one of the first to arrive at the training complex and one of the last to leave, and he spends more time at his computer than he does on the field.
“I guess it means that it takes me longer to do my stuff than a normal person. It’s a learning process for me with the computer,” Lachemann said. “But that’s how things are now. Before, we used to write things down on a piece of paper and put it up.
“It doesn’t take any computer scientist to do this thing.”
It does take an immense amount of organization.