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  • Rod Carew Interview: Part 2 (Working with Young Players)

    In Part 1 of the interview with Rod Carew yesterday, the Hall of Famer shared his thoughts on his playing career. He has been a hitting coach in the big leagues with the Angels and also with the Milwaukee Brewers. Now he is a special instructor for the Minnesota Twins during spring training. In his retirement he makes appearances for the Twins throughout the year. In Part 2 today, Carew was asked questions about coaching, minor leaguers and his thoughts on big league ballplayers today.


    He was asked what he tells young players and minor leaguers when he gets the opportunity to address them. He said, "With the young players, I tell them, you work hard at the minor league level and you have to keep working hard because no one is going to give you anything to get to the big leagues.


    Asked about some of the Twins top prospects, he said, “I spent some time with (Byron) Buxton in spring training, spent some time with (Miguel) Sano in spring training. They’ve got some good young kids that I expect to be here in the next year or two. Buxton is on the fast track. When you get young players like that who go out and enjoy the game, and enjoy learning, which I think is the most important thing, they’re going to do well.”


    He also talked about his role when he goes to spring training where he can often be seen in the batting cages. “I work with the hitters, spend a lot of time with the hitters in the cage. I sit on the bench, and I talk to them about what pitchers might try to do in certain situations. I work with them on bunting because it’s such an important part of the game and a lost art in the game. Just try to get into their heads to see what they’re thinking.”


    As important as those physical things is the mental side of the game. “We talk so much about the five tools of running, hitting, fielding, power, good arm, but they forget about the mental part, which is the most important part. But if you can understand how to get through the struggles, and be mentally tough, that shows me that you’re going to do well. But if you don’t, and you start worrying about everything, you’re going to struggle.”


    He was also asked about the differences he sees in today’s players compared to the players when he played. “The major difference I know in the young players is that a lot of them don’t play the game with instincts. They’re always looking for the coaches. Running the bases, they’re looking at coaches. You have to play the game with instinct. I don’t think that players today, in my opinion, know how to play the game as well as when I played the game. Because we were taught how to play the game, we were taught how to play in situations. We were ready for situations.”




    He continued, “They make a lot of bad base running mistakes. They swing at a lot of bad pitches, and they’re all trying to hit home runs. That’s why they strike out so much. They don’t care if they strike out. It was an embarrassment for us to strike out. To them, it doesn’t matter.”


    But back to his message for the young players, be it in the minor leagues or the little leagues. "You have to learn the game, understand the game, know who you are, know what you’re capable of doing and stay in the realm of that. Sometimes I think young players think that you have to hit the ball out of the park to get to the big leagues. I try to tell them, if you can square the ball up every time you take a swing and be consistent, that’s what the organization is looking for."


    And, if it were me, and Rod Carew was telling me about how to play the game (or specifically how to hit), I think I would listen.


    Tomorrow, we'll finish this interview with Carew by writing about his thoughts on several other topics.


    Feel free to comment below or ask any other questions you may have.
    Twins beat the Royals on Tuesday so on Wednesday you can get a half price large or extra-large pizza at PapaJohns.com when using the promo code 'TWINSWIN'.
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      I hate the powder blue uniforms, but I still love those batting helmets. I had one of the fake ones back in the day - those cheap helmets were always breaking, but that particular one took a beating and lasted a couple of years. I think it was held together by the #29 taped on the back (or possibly by the Charlie's Angels stickers on the inside.)
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article. Thanks, Seth.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I love the powder blue uniforms!!
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      The first year they were gone was 1987 - I always thought the new uniforms were worth at least 5 wins. They were horrendous on the road that year, though, so maybe the powder blues weren't the issue. I just had always associated them with losing and ditching them with winning. Also, powder blue always looked much better on the Royals.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Interesting article, Seth. Thanks. (And I believe powder blue is for babies not grown men).

      I was curious about his comment about "playing with instincts" and relying on coaches. How much, if any, of this goes back to kids getting a lot of coaching even in little league, high school, etc.?

      When Carew was growing up, did they learn more "on their own" just by dealing with situations without anyone telling them what to do? Did it give them more of a chance to develop their baseball instincts? Did they learn something just by playing ball for fun rather than in structured situations?
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post

      I was curious about his comment about "playing with instincts" and relying on coaches. How much, if any, of this goes back to kids getting a lot of coaching even in little league, high school, etc.?

      When Carew was growing up, did they learn more "on their own" just by dealing with situations without anyone telling them what to do? Did it give them more of a chance to develop their baseball instincts? Did they learn something just by playing ball for fun rather than in structured situations?
      I think Carew might not be recognizing the fact that he acquired a high level of confidence as a baserunner early in his career that those he is referring to may not have acquired yet. It's hard to believe runners are taught different today, namely, if the play is in front of you, you decide. If there is any doubt, listen to the coach.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Interesting article, Seth. Thanks. (And I believe powder blue is for babies not grown men).

      I was curious about his comment about "playing with instincts" and relying on coaches. How much, if any, of this goes back to kids getting a lot of coaching even in little league, high school, etc.?

      When Carew was growing up, did they learn more "on their own" just by dealing with situations without anyone telling them what to do? Did it give them more of a chance to develop their baseball instincts? Did they learn something just by playing ball for fun rather than in structured situations?
      It's an interesting question, for sure. I think you make a good point. I think I was more of an instinctual player (way back when) in part because we (8-12 neighbor kids) played all day all summer, whether it was baseball or wiffle ball. There wasn't coaching, and you just played. Had to develop the instincts.

      Structured ball is also a good thing though too because there should be some formal instruction. But even so, through playing a ton, those instincts should come (whether formal or informal).
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