By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
“Twice as Nice” is now on Mondays! With the first week of the new season underway, we are back to our normal seasonal schedule.
As you know by now, Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers to the following question. This is so they can offer a wide range of perspective, which you also should know.
So, let’s check out the question ahead for our writers.
What has been the most pleasant surprise for you in regards to this new Tiger team?
I was fortunate enough to be able to get down to Lakeland for a couple of games once again this season and as is my habit, I like to go right in when the gates open so I can watch practice and warm-up drills.
The Tigers have been very old-school in their training and conditioning – performing exercises we did decades ago as school children. Half-hearted toe-touching, sit-ups and the like – all done on the grass and without any accessories such as weighted balls or stretch bands.
But this time was different and I had to blink multiple times to ensure I wasn’t seeing a mirage. Dozens of players were now performing what other MLB teams adopted years ago. Exercises meant to increase flexibility and build stronger cores – planks, crunches, hip abductor stretches and the like – using balance balls and resistance bands.
Sidling over to one of Lakeland’s long-time security “helpers”, he told me that the change in how the team gets in shape came from Matt Boyd. I later learned that Boyd works out with a top performance coach on the West Coast who helped him build his core and lower his fat ratio while building 15 pounds of muscle – all while wearing a bracelet that reports his performance, sleep and nutrition stats back to his coach.
Boyd’s suggestion to Kevin Rand, who now heads up the entire Tigers’ training and conditioning programs was taken up, in part, this season. The Tigers are getting younger and the increasing number of them have supported the adoption of standards that are now mainstream in MLB.
Now, if they can only get Jim Leyland to refrain from smoking on the field…
During spring training, the Tigers seemed more disciplined at the plate, and to tell you the truth, after hearing about how Lloyd McClendon had been working with JaCoby Jones, I started looking for some crow to eat.
McClendon is one person I have been wanting to be wrong about and now that we have moved into the regular season, the surprises have continued.
There are steps to becoming better hitters fundamentally and Lloyd’s strategy with Jones and also Jake Rogers stressed how all hitters are different and you don’t give blanket direction.
However, patience at the plate is stressed across the board. In the spring, McClendon concentrated on better pitch selection and now he is shifting the attention to a more difficult step.
Lloyd has stressed that aggressiveness coupled with waiting for your pitch is the toughest of combinations and the rash of strikeouts in Toronto is just a growing pain when it comes to becoming better and more aggressive hitters. Even though the strikeouts were tough to watch, it appears that when it comes to being more aggressive at the plate, the players are listening.
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