Thursday, July 12, 2007

Science?? of Hitting

The New York Mets have named Rickey Henderson to their coaching staff. He will work with their batters, although he may not be formally named the hitting coach. It's probably a bad idea to think of Henderson being "formally" anything.

What kind of hitting instructor will history's greatest leadoff man be? Well, it's safe to say he won't resemble Walt Hriniak. Nor will the videotape room be where Henderson does his work. He'll tend to the Mets' metaphysical needs in the batter's box.

For once, I can speak with authority. I've seen Henderson the hitting mentor in action/

It was the summer of 2002, right after the All-Star break, in fact, and the Red Sox were in Toronto. Henderson, you may recall, spend that forgettable season on the Boston roster. As I came up the tunnel off the Skydome field before the game, headed for the press box, two players popped in front of me, on their way to the Sox clubhouse from the indoor batting cage. One was Rickey, the other Manny Ramirez, who'd been slumping. They were chatting hitting.

Naturally, I eavesdropped with all my might, trying to pretend I hadn't seen them two feet in front of me. Two surefire Hall of Famers discussing their craft! This was going to be great. And it was.

In the fifty feat or so we walked together, here's what I heard. Imagine it spoken as Manny nods seriously, the very picture of a dutiful apprentice.

"Look," Henderson said firmly, "when you're going bad, that's when everybody wants to get thinking up there. And when you start thinking, that's when you're REALLY fucked up."


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