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2007 Erie Seawolves Diary/Blog

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Since it is almost time for the players to report, I figured I would start off the 1st of the minor league blogs/diaries.

http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070205/BASEBALL01/702050367

'Wolves' Giarratano expected to be ready for spring

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: February 05. 2007 6:00AM

Erie SeaWolves shortstop Tony Giarratano is expected to be ready for spring training after undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee.

Giarratano, 24, had the surgery in July in Vail, Colo., and continued his rehabilitation there until December. He is now rehabbing in Florida.

"It appears he should be competing once spring training begins," said Glenn Ezell, the Tigers' director of player development. "At this point, the first place I would look for him to be is at Triple-A."

Giarratano, the Tigers' third-round pick in the 2003 draft, suffered the injury July 3 while sliding into second base on an attempted steal against the Reading Phillies. The injury occurred five days after he came off a two-week stay on the disabled list because of a right wrist injury.

Last season was Giarratano's second with Erie. He was hitting .283 with no homers and 19 RBIs in 67 games when he was hurt.

Giarratano's 2005 season ended in August when he broke the hamate bone in his right hand. His 2004 season at Class A Lakeland ended after he injured his left shoulder, which required surgery.

# Ezell doesn't know where outfielder Brent Clevlen, a member of the Tigers' 40-man roster, will begin the season, but he does know what the young slugger needs to exhibit this year.

"He has to be aggressive, hit in the strike zone, stay on top of his game and show total concentration all the time," Ezell said.

After struggling most of 2006 with the SeaWolves in his first season at Double-A, Clevlen, 23, received a major-league promotion to the Tigers on July 31 and performed well.

He was reassigned to Erie in late August for the team's final eight-game homestand, then rejoined the Tigers as a September call-up.

# The Tigers did not re-sign free-agent pitchers Mark Woodyard and Mike Nannini, free-agent second baseman Juan Francia and free-agent catcher Danilo Sanchez.

# Former major leaguer Bobby Jones, 34, a left-hander who split the 2006 season as a starter and reliever with the SeaWolves, has retired.

# Tigers roving minor-league pitching instructor Jon Matlack said the organization plans to keep right-hander Preston Larrison in the bullpen.

Larrison, a member of the Tigers' 40-man roster, split last season between Erie and Class AAA Toledo. Larrison, 26, was moved to the Erie bullpen from the staring rotation in July.

"For my money, he's done what he needs to do in Erie," Matlack said. "That doesn't mean he won't end up in Erie. I think he has a shot at making the Triple-A situation. He may be out of options, in which case we may not be able to get him back to the minor leagues. He might get claimed on waivers if they tried to take him off the big-league roster to bring him down."

[Prescient comment]

Larrison said he did not feel he had a consistent third pitch to remain a starter, but Matlack said the move was based as much on his belief that Larrison possesses more of a reliever's mentality.

"He doesn't have a starter's mentality," Matlack said. "He's more of a sprinter than a marathoner and his personality will lend itself more readily to short bursts on a regular basis as opposed to a long haul once in a while. He's adjusting well to the change. His numbers have not been phenomenal, but they have not been bad either."

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Thanks for the information on the Erie Roster its always great reading when we talk about new players, and where the last year players are going to play.

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It will be interesting to see how the roster develops. Lots of holes to fill. Will they move playes up, down or sideways to fill them? By July, Maybin, Miller and Holliman should be the stars of the team.

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I thought that it was announced yesterday that Larrison has been let go.

Nate I think Hollimon starts out in Erie at 2B.

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I thought that it was announced yesterday that Larrison has been let go.

Nate I think Hollimon starts out in Erie at 2B.

I think so, too! It will just take a few months to establish himself as the star of the team. :happy:

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I thought that it was announced yesterday that Larrison has been let go.

Nate I think Hollimon starts out in Erie at 2B.

The report was from the 5th, prior to yesterday's actions.

Larrison was DFA'ed. He could well be in Toledo IF he clears waivers.

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I thought that it was announced yesterday that Larrison has been let go.

Nate I think Hollimon starts out in Erie at 2B.

Larrison is in Lakeland as of today.

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Larrison is in Lakeland as of today.

Well, the Tigers have 10 days to do something with him, and it takes three days to go through waivers.

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How do people think Erie will do this year?

How are Matt Walbeck & AJ Sager going to do coaching in AA? Can they make the jump from Low A to AA?

Will Mike Holliman (assuming he starts here) will do in hitter friendly Jerry Uht Park?

How 'bout Cam? Do you expect to see some more power once he makes the jump to AA?

What about the pitching?

The Duffy Dyer era was not a fun era in Erie for various reasons. Here's hoping that the coaching and talent make it more fun (funner!) in NW PA.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Another note from the Seawolves website:

http://seawolves.com/seawolves-news/2007/02/double-a-roster-rule-change

Major League Baseball recently passed a new rule making the roster limits at the Double-A level 24 players throughout the entire season instead of the old rules where the roster limits shifted from 24 players to 23 players and then back to 24 players.

Under the previous rule last season, rosters could remain at 24 players until the 30th day of the season. Following that day, the rosters would be cut to 23 players. Teams could add an extra player after August 9, bringing rosters back to 24 players.

SeaWolves Opening Day for the 2007 season is April 5 against the Altoona Curve, defending Wild Card Champions of the Southern Division. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.

========================================

I have not heard of anyone picking up Larrison on the waiver wire. My guess is he made it through.

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I hope Tony G bounces back well from his injury woes. He needs a solid season under his belt, which would be a huge confidence boost.

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I doubt he'll be in Erie doing his bouncing back.

I agree - nevertheless, he needs a solid spring and a solid season.

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Nice interview with new manager Matt Walbeck:

http://seawolves.com/seawolves.com/seawolves-news/2007/02/theres-a-new-skipper-in-town

Spring Training is just around the corner and the SeaWolves are getting ready to gear up for another sun splashed March in Lakeland, Florida. SeaWolves radio broadcaster Greg Gania recently caught up with new Manager Matt Walbeck to get his thoughts upon entering his first spring as a Double-A manager.

Greg Gania - What were your first impressions after your first visit to Jerry Uht Park?

Matt Walbeck - When I was with the Angels in 1998 we came to Erie to play an exhibition game at Jerry Uht Park. It was in good shape then and continues to get better. I like the clubhouse and the fact that we have a covered hitting tunnel.

GG - Do you have a different mindset going into spring training this season being the manager of the Double-A squad rather than a Single-A team?

MW - It will be a new challenge, but my main job is to get the most out of the players, staff and myself. The players will be more experienced, so in effect the game will be faster paced which I look forward to.

GG - One difference of managing a Double-A team is going to be dealing with veteran players instead of mainly young players, what, if any, type of adjustments do you have to make making that jump.

MW - Age and or experience makes no difference in how you treat people. Getting to know someone, finding out what makes them tick, that's the objective for me and the coaching staff.

GG - Staff continuity is always key, especially over the long season. Talk about the comfort level being able to bring your pitching coach with you from West Michigan and the addition of Glenn Adams, a veteran of the game.

MW - A.J. and I have a solid on and off the field relationship because we communicate so well, trust is big when it comes to molding a team. Glenn and I have spoken periodically throughout the off-season and have a lot of the same feelings about how the game should be played. It's going to be a huge help for our ball club and the Tigers organization in having Glenn work with our hitters this season. His playing, coaching, and managing experience speaks for itself.

GG - Talk about the familiarity you will have with players this season being that you managed many of them at the Class-A level.

MW - I think familiarity with the entire Tiger organization helps. Being part of the Tigers ongoing tradition and managing in West Michigan for three years has helped breed familiarity which can only help.

GG - What best describes your managerial style. Are you aggressive, conservative or does game situations dictate how you manage.

MW - Sometimes I'm aggressive, other times I'm conservative. The game seems to manage itself if we're prepared and have a good feel for the energy of our team. I'm still learning to get a feel each and every day of how guys feel.

GG - Is there any nervousness heading into this season because of the jump from “A” ball. Is there more pressure to succeed at this level because of your success in West Michigan?

MW - It's minor league baseball no matter if it's Rookie Ball or Triple-A. I'm going to prepare to win and do the best I can. Whatever happens, happens.

GG - Many managers say they enjoy the minor leagues while others say that the ultimate goal is to coach or manage in the big leagues. Where do you fit in to this?

MW - Again, I want to get the most out of myself, but the only way to do that is by playing one pitch at a time. I enjoy baseball, and wherever it takes me I'll be happy.

GG - Since you are a new face in the Erie community, what is an interesting fact about Matt Walbeck that the fans may not know by reading your bio.

MW - That I once played with the Doobie Brothers in Pontiac, MI. in front of 10,000 people. I came on stage and played a mandolin (that had no chord attached to it) and sang backup to "Listen To The Music".

GG - You mentioned previously your love for live music and even that you’d be bringing your guitar to Erie. Can you talk a little about your music appreciation.

MW - I took piano lessons as a kid. I also found out it's hard to travel with a piano so I started taking guitar lessons when I was 27. Practicing guitar gives me an outlet, and it's something I know that by the time I'm 60 I'll be really good at.

GG - What is your most memorable moment from your big league career?

MW - Probably catching Scott Erickson's no hitter at the Metrodome in 1994, my rookie year with the Twins.

Matt Walbeck spent 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Cubs, Twins, Angels, Phillies and Tigers. Walbeck made the transition from big league player to minor league manager in 2004 when he took over as the skipper for the Tigers Class-A Affiliate in West Michigan. He led the White Caps to a pair of Midwest League Championships (2004, 2006) and will be in his first season a Double-A manager with Erie in 2007.

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Not a good start for Giarratano. I read the other day that he had to see a doctor about soreness in his shoulder.

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Not a good start for Giarratano. I read the other day that he had to see a doctor about soreness in his shoulder.

He started out so well in 2004. I keep hoping he will have a couple healthy seasons and get back on track.

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http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070325/BASEBALL01/703250443

Oh, to be young again

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: March 25. 2007 6:00AM

Youth and inexperience at the Double-A level usually don't bode well.

The Erie SeaWolves learned that first-hand last season when they finished last in the Eastern League's Southern Division with a league-worst 60-81 record.

Erie's 2006 opening-day roster included 12 Double-A rookies, many coming off of sensational seasons at high Single-A Lakeland in 2005.

This year's team, under new manager Matt Walbeck, likely will showcase as much youth, if not more.

Final roster decisions will be made throughout the week before the SeaWolves break spring camp April 2 in Lakeland, Fla. Erie is scheduled to open its Eastern League season April 5 against the Altoona Curve at Jerry Uht Park.

# Some top position-player prospects who are expected to be with Erie are shortstop Brent Dlugach, second baseman Michael Hollimon, first baseman Jeff Larish and outfielder Clete Thomas.

Dlugach, who hit .256 with 52 runs batted in at Lakeland last season, has spent time this spring in the Tigers' big league camp. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he believes Dlugach has the defensive skills to play in the major leagues now.

Hollimon was the shortstop under Walbech at low Single-A West Michigan last season, but will play second base if he earns a spot on Erie's roster. In 128 games last season, he hit .278 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs.

Larish is projected to be Erie's starter at first base. He had 18 homers, 65 RBIs and a .258 average last season with Lakeland.

Thomas hit .257 with six homers and 40 RBIs at Lakeland in 2006.

# Right-handers Jair Jurrjens and Eulogio De La Cruz are expected to be the top returning pitching prospects.

Jurrjens, a native of Curacao, earned a mid-season promotion to Erie from Lakeland in 2006 and went 4-3 with a 3.36 earned-run average in 12 starts.

The Tigers are leaning toward keeping De La Cruz, a high-ceiling prospect who has showcased a triple-digit fastball, in the starting rotation.

After struggling as a reliever, De La Cruz seemed to find his niche when he was put in the starting rotation in mid-July last season. He went 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 38 games, including 12 starts.

# Erie fans will have to wait a while before they catch a glimpse of two of Detroit's hottest prospects - outfielder Cameron Maybin and left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller. Both will begin the season with Lakeland.

Maybin, the Tigers' 2005 No. 1 draft pick, flashed speed and power in major league camp, hitting .429 in 17 exhibition games. The Tigers returned Maybin, 19, to minor league camp Monday.

Miller, a first-round pick last year, made several relief appearances during a September call-up to the Tigers. Miller, a 6-foot 6-inch left-hander, helped lead North Carolina to the NCAA Division I finals last season and won the Roger Clemens Award, given to the nation's top college pitcher.

He is expected to make the jump to Erie once the weather warms.

# One big question mark is whether right-hander Kyle Sleeth, the Tigers' 2003 No. 1 draft pick, can make a successful comeback from ligament replacement surgery in 2005. He will open the season in Erie's bullpen on short pitch counts until he is ready to join the starting rotation.

Sleeth will be pitching in Double-A for the first time since 2004, which he split between Lakeland and Erie.

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SeaWolves Strike Out Trans Fats

March 23, 2007 | SeaWolves News

The Erie SeaWolves announced today that the team has committed to a healthy change at Jerry Uht Park for the 2007 season with the elimination of trans fats in their cooking oil.

The ‘Wolves will make a switch to a zero-trans fat cooking oil for Opening Day 2007. In addition, all foods prepared in the NEW Picnic and Beer Gardens in the right field addition at “The Uht” will be either grilled or baked.

“This is just one small step that we can do as an organization to make some of our food healthier for our fans.” – Ragen Walker, SeaWolves Director of Operations/Concessions

The new beer garden will also feature an assortment of finger foods and appetizers for fans this season in addition to traditional ballpark concession fares.

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Erie in top pick Miller's sights

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: March 27. 2007 6:00AM

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Left-hander Andrew Miller will start the season with Single-A Lakeland before an expected Double-A promotion to the SeaWolves.

The Tigers' No. 1 selection in the 2006 June draft, Miller started for the SeaWolves in Monday's 11-2 victory over the Akron Aeros and was impressive, allowing one unearned run over four innings.

The 6-foot 6-inch Miller struck out five, did not walk any and surrendered two singles.

You can probably characterize SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck as part teacher and part psychologist.

The SeaWolves' first-year manager likes to implement little confidence-boosting teaching techniques into his daily regimen.

At the end of infield drills Monday morning at the Tigers' minor league complex, Walbeck had all his players perform postgame high-fives and handshakes, as if they had just won a game.

"You better get used to it," he told his players. "Winning - that's all there is to it."

Walbeck also has a designated "home run handshake" he instructs players to use each day for their games.

"You have to put the idea of winning in someone's mind and you can just plant good seeds," Walbeck said. "We want to have a healthy environment with a winning attitude. You expect to win and you do things like that to put smiles on people's faces. When you're shaking hands like that, it automatically triggers a good response."

Walbeck, who was appointed Erie's manager in early November, said he likes to use a lot of those kinds of tactics on a spur of the moment.

"I help them visualize the things I tell them - to expect to win," he said. "I want them to feel the sense of champagne in their face."

Instead of having his catchers field throws at home plate from the outfield, Walbeck stood in front of second base Monday and hit lasers at them with a fungo bat.

Once he started, other players milling around home plate quickly took refuge behind a nearby hitting cage.

A short, early morning ceremony in the Tigers' minor league camp preceded the start of Monday's drills.

Tigers officials presented rings to six minor leaguers - third baseman Kody Kirkland, outfielder Brent Clevlen and pitchers Virgil Vasquez, Corey Hamman, Preston Larrison and Jordan Tata - who played together on the Arizona Fall League championship team.

West Michigan players who won the 2006 Midwest League championship were honored Monday afternoon before the start of the Tigers' home game against the Washington Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Whitecaps went 89-48 last season, winning the low Single-A Midwest League championship for the second time in three seasons under new Erie manager Matt Walbeck.

A name from the SeaWolves' past has resurfaced with the club.

Andres Torres, who played with Erie in 2001, signed a minor league contract with the Tigers in February and is currently with the SeaWolves in spring training. The Puerto Rico native has been splitting time in right field.

"I'm in Double-A and that's fine," said Torres, 29. "The Tigers gave me one more shot. I don't care where I'm at. I just want to play hard and try and do my job."

Torres was in the Chicago White Sox organization in 2004, the Texas Rangers organization in 2005 and the Minnesota Twins organization last season.

Torres got an opportunity to play with the Tigers on Monday and had an RBI grounder in Detroit's 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"I signed with Detroit pretty late, but they gave me a shot and I feel pretty good right now," Torres said. "I'm so happy to be with Detroit. It's like being home again."

http://goerie.com/baseball

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SeaWolves 11, Aeros 2

Published: March 27. 2007 6:00AM

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The SeaWolves improved their preseason record to 5-2-1 with a victory over the Akron Aeros on Monday at the Tigertown Complex.

Erie's roster was comprised mainly of players who were at low Single-A West Michigan and high Single-A Lakeland last season. Several SeaWolves spent Monday either with Triple-A Toledo or the Tigers.

First baseman Pedro Cotto drove in four runs, including a three-run homer in the second inning off Akron lefty David Huff, whom Baseball America ranks as the Indians' 10th-best prospect.

Cotto added a fourth-inning RBI double. Brent Dlugach, who is expected to open the season as Erie's starting shortstop, had a sixth-inning solo homer and made a diving, backhanded stab of a liner in the fifth inning to rob an Akron hitter of a single.

Erie left fielder Justin Justice also homered in the sixth inning.

Outfielder Cameron Maybin, the Tigers' No. 1 draft pick in 2005, was with the SeaWolves on Monday but did not play. He is expected to open the season with Single-A Lakeland.

The SeaWolves will play the Double-A Mississippi Braves today at 1 p.m. at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens is Erie's scheduled starter.

http://goerie.com/baseball

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First baseman Pedro Cotto drove in four runs, including a three-run homer in the second inning off Akron lefty David Huff, whom Baseball America ranks as the Indians' 10th-best prospect.

WOO HOO!! That's my AAT!! Melissa and Mr. Melissa will like this. :cool:

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Sager a natural on bench

SeaWolves' Walbeck had clear choice for his pitching coach

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: April 03. 2007 6:00AM

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A.J. Sager considers himself as an easy guy to play for.

All he asks of his players is that they show up every day at the ballpark eager to work and ready to learn. With those ethics, he's quite confident he will cultivate a good relationship.

"You let them know up front what to expect - and that's not asking too much, it's asking to go about things the right way - and then you try and create an environment and give them some freedom to do what they do," Sager said.

It's been Sager's philosophy ever since the former major league pitcher broke into the coaching ranks in 2002, when he began a five-year run as pitching coach at West Michigan, the Detroit Tigers' low Single-A Midwest League affiliate.

On his way up the Tigers' organizational coaching ladder, the 42-year-old Toledo native and former college quarterback is ready for his first Double-A coaching job as pitching coach of the Erie SeaWolves.

"He's a very good listener to his players and he isn't too mechanics-oriented," SeaWolves manager Mark Walbeck said. "He doesn't try to change the pitchers from what they have. He has a good relationship with them. He's able to make them laugh, yet they respect him tremendously. He has that intangible thing that coaches have that makes him really good."

West Michigan led the Midwest League with the lowest team ERA the past two seasons and was the league's only team in 2006 with an ERA under 3.00. The Whitecaps dominated the league with an 89-48 record last season and won their second Midwest League championship in three seasons.

Sager and Walbeck have maintained a winning relationship and friendship since their days as teammates with the Detroit Tigers in 1997, when Sager was a reliever and Walbeck a backup catcher.

Walbeck remembers the two sitting in the Tigers' bullpen one day in 1997, picking each other's brains on a variety of baseball issues. They liked to discuss sports and how to get maximum effort out of players.

That's when Walbeck promised Sager that if he ever became a manager, Sager would be his pitching coach.

"We each have tremendous trust for each other," said Walbeck, who was promoted to the SeaWolves in November after serving the past three seasons as West Michigan's manager. "The guy has great work habits and his record speaks for itself."

Sager grew up near Columbus, Ohio, and played football, basketball and baseball in high school.

He played quarterback at NCAA Division I Toledo from 1983-86, starting for the Rockets his final three seasons, and is a member of the Toledo Sports Hall of Fame. He still satisfies his football fix every fall as a color analyst on the Toledo football radio network, a job he's held the past seven seasons.

At Toledo, Sager pursued baseball simply to have something to do once football season ended.

"I didn't have any expectations about baseball that it would lead to anything," Sager said. "I was big enough and had enough arm strength and I think scouts were a little intrigued with the football background."

Sager was selected by San Diego in the 10th round of the 1988 draft.

"I was pushing the ball uphill as a player because I was 23 and didn't know a lot about what was going on," he said. "I didn't get to the big leagues until I was 29. It took me a while because I had to learn the game, but I think it's made me a better coach. I didn't know what was going on, so when the coaches and pitching coaches were talking, I was one of the guys who was really listening and paying attention to the little things."

Sager pitched professionally for 12 seasons (1988-99), including the big leagues with San Diego (1994), Colorado (1995) and Detroit (1996-98). In 123 major league appearances, he was 12-15 with a 5.36 ERA and five saves.

Sager said he wishes he had been more talented, but he feels the way he went about learning and pursuing baseball probably has made him a better coach.

Tigers reliever and former SeaWolves starter Joel Zumaya calls Sager "one of my top three pitching coaches I've had in my career."

Zumaya, in his sixth season of professional baseball, played at West Michigan in 2003 and credits Sager with helping him begin to make the transition from thrower to pitcher.

"When I got up there to West Michigan, I was just trying to blow everybody's doors off," Zumaya said. "He helped me with my off-speed stuff; he helped me how to get on top of my curve. He was a great guy to have as a pitching coach. He has a lot of wisdom and he's good with the guys. He likes to have fun and, at the same time, he's competitive."

At West Michigan, Sager worked with players in their first full season of minor league baseball.

Making the jump to Double-A means he'll now deal with an older, more mature group, but his developmental duties and philosophy, he believes, will not change much.

"You're still going to be talking about a lot of the same fundamentals," Sager said. "You probably will have a little more consistent player now, so you can start to ask them to do a little bit more. In the lower levels, at some point, you're just asking them to define what kind of player they are and get a comfort level for what kind of player they are, and then you start trying to put some baseball into that."

http://goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070403/BASEBALL01/704030386/-1/SPORTS

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