Coaches Combating COVID During Shutdown
Image courtesy of Billy Boyer - Twitter.comA month ago, Swanson was acclimating himself to pinstripes in Tampa. Then, days later he was back at home in Seattle, battling the global pandemic from the indoors during the extended rainy Northwest spring. Now with the season on hold, he began fielding questions from fellow coaches who were interested in his guidance. He would set up a Zoom session and talk shop, educating others on how he had pushed player development from a catching standpoint.
“I found myself over the course of a week doing a lot of one-on-one interactions and I figured there would be a more efficient way to do this,” says Swanson. “I also saw there was an opportunity to contribute to the greater cause.”
Swanson rallied some personal friends, contacting Kainoa Correa with the San Francisco Giants and former colleague and current Twins’ minor league infield and baserunning coordinator, Billy Boyer.
“We’re both on the Twitter world so we get asked questions quite often,” says Boyer, “and Swanny had the idea that if we are going to share some information, use this time to fundraise for a good cause and use our platform to do that.”
The concept is to amass a collection of coaches willing to share their insights to their audience in exchange for donations to aid in COVID-19 research. Coaches like Swanson and Boyer will be hosting weekly Zoom webinars that will focus on professional development for coaches looking to expand their knowledge. Swanson says the list of participating coaches is growing by the day. The experience will be fairly organic, giving attendees access to the minds of coaches at the forefront of their specialties.
“We’re pitching it as a unique opportunity to speak specifically about our position expertise,” Swanson envisions. “Billy and Kai are going to do something on infield play. I’m going to offer a weekly, 30-minute session on catching development. Really just a Q&A, open-format, just to facilitate some dialogue and answer some questions and be available to help amatuer coaches as needed.”
Swanson will be focusing on his strength -- catching. He’s received his share of national notoriety for helping Mitch Garver improve his defense in 2019 and now hopes in doing the same with the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez.
“Whether you are a coach or just an avid fan, there’s a lot of curiosities about these recent trends in catcher development,” Swanson admits. He welcomes non-coaches to participate, either through donations or the webinar. The new catching philosophies have made people ask a lot of questions, such as how can they block or throw out runners from that position. “All questions will be fair,” he says.
Similarly, Boyer doesn’t foresee his interaction time to be limited to just those who are career coaches. He wants to reach all kinds of coaches -- from those working with prospects to little leaguers.
“It doesn’t have to be baseball,” Boyer says. “It could be fast pitch. It could be other coaches. We’re just trying to get some information and maybe the art of coaching and be able to share as much as we can at a time where everybody is hungry but now that we’re fighting COVID and everybody is at home, it’s a good opportunity to share and learn for personal growth reasons.”
Boyer has been at the forefront of the infield development for the Minnesota Twins, an area of the game that has potentially lagged behind other areas when it comes to improvement through analytics or altering techniques. This past January, Boyer spent time in Minnesota and presented at the MN BAT Summit, educating local high school and college coaches on the on-going evolution of the infield landscape. Boyer points to Swanson’s time with the team and his data-driven approach to catching that changed the entire philosophy of that position and he sees a future where infield play undergoes a similar revolutionary transition.
“We’re trying to use analytics to enhance our ability to defend but we’re also trying to advance our techniques to take advantage of analytics,” Boyer said this spring.
The online seminars will be free, with links being tweeting out by Swanson and Boyer, respectively, but donations to the Seattle-based research hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, are encouraged. Both coaches, who call Seattle home in the offseason, have a personal connection to that cause (Boyer’s wife lost her father to melanoma skin cancer at a young age and Swanson’s sister passed in 2018 after a battle with breast cancer) while the center’s research on COVID-19 has been groundbreaking.
“It’s a large organization out here in the Northwest and doing some really important work,” Swanson says.
“It’s something that is really close to both of us,” adds Boyer. “We’re trying to give back, especially in a time of need. We just felt that anything we could do to make some money for them and help the fight was a worthy cause.”
Anyone can donate to the COACHES VS COVID cause while those interested in attending the webinars should follow Swanson and Boyer on Twitter for updates and join them this Saturday to learn more about the game.
One hundred percent of the donations will go to the Fred Hutchinson Research Center.
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