For many baseball players, the winter months are spent taking extra hacks in the batting cages, extra lifts on the barbells, and long looks out the window waiting for spring. There was plenty of time for those first two at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Winter Development Program this past week, as the team held workouts for 27 invitees on the big league baseball diamond. But, as reported by Dodger Insider’s Jon Weisman, the team’s new front office also spent time during the program to focus on the mental side of the game.
Leading the charge was new Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler, who I’ve profiled in this space before. Kapler is a former ballplayer who does a great job of merging old school values with new school smarts. For anyone who doesn’t own a dog-eared copy of Moneyball, the battle between old and new school in baseball is a cultural proxy war in the vein of similar battles over global warming and race, for example. These are, in general, conflicts that represent an inherent clash between traditionalism and progressivism. But rather than taking a polemic approach in support of fWAR, VORP, and other esoteric statistics (as well as Parks & Recreation easter eggs), Kapler places his focus on communicating new ideas in a manner easily understood by those raised in the old school. He also strives to run his minor league system in a manner which promotes character and mental toughness on top of in-game skills and savvy:
“Kapler’s level of commitment to progressive thinking and communication, to mental and physical fitness, is beyond unmistakable — it’s practically evangelistic. Far from being a preacher who can simply platitude a good game, Kapler engineered a program with concrete examples to back up his emphasis on using a stronger mental approach to improve the physical product — the quality of play on the field. The ideals are cloud-nine lofty, but the means to achieve them are laid out in the nitty-gritty details.”
It remains to be seen whether this marriage between mental fitness, progressive thinking, evaluative understanding, and organizational harmony will lead to more wins for the big league ballclub/ What’s for sure is that the Dodgers are taking a Moneyball approach in placing a major focus on the above elements — elements that may be undervalued by other organizations.
For example, it was recently announced that Kapler had hired extra coaches throughout the minor leagues so that every team has at least one coach who speaks Spanish. With the sheer number of Latino ballplayers playing pro ball across North America, that’s the sort of thing you’d assume would already be the norm. Apparently not. This move is one of many examples of organizational polishing that serves to make the minor league machine run as smooth as possible.
To learn more about Kapler and the Dodgers, check out the link below.
Read more at Dodger Insider
Photo credit: David Lee / Shutterstock
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