Full squad practice begins
It was the kind of morning that makes you tilt your face to the sun, take a long deep breath and give silent thanks to whatever cosmic forces conspired to allow you one more trip to spring training.
At 9:30 a.m., Bruce Bochy stood in the middle of the Giants’ Scottsdale packed clubhouse and welcomed 58 players to the team’s first day of full-squad workouts.
After congratulating the guys participating in their first big-league spring camp, Bochy acknowledged the losses suffered by several Giants during the off-season – in particular, Bengie Molina’s father and Barry Zito’s mother. Then he delivered a brief tribute to Ted Uhlaender, a former major-league player and valued Giants scout, who died of a heart attack last week at the age of 68. Brian Sabean and other Giants representatives flew to Denver for this afternoon’s memorial service.
Bochy asked for a moment of silence, and before he finished the sentence, every player in the clubhouse had his cap off.
“He was a good baseball man,” Bochy said of Uhlaender.
In that room, there could be no higher compliment.
One after another, players stepped into the batting cage for the first time in 2009 and murdered pitches from coaches. Other coaches hit grounders to the infielders. Barely a word passed among them. It was all cracks and pops – the background music of spring.
The players will take live batting practice tomorrow, Bochy said in his meeting with the beat writers in the dugout after practice. Today, he wanted to get them acclimated, “get some swings in.”
Out on the field, Brian Wilson was doing an interview with a TV station. Henry Schulman asked Bochy about a game last season in which Wilson threw nothing but sliders. Bochy looked over at Wilson – with his standing-straight-up hair that Bochy compares to a quail – and smiled.
“Sometimes you wonder if he’s playing another game inside our game,” he said.
You won’t be seeing any all-black bats in the major leagues this year. On every handle -of which will be natural wood — you’ll see a black-ink, hand-made line. And on many of the knobs, you’ll see a date etched into the wood – indicating the exact day the bat was manufactured.
With the spate of broken bats in recent seasons – and several injuries — MLB analyzed 2,232 bats that broke during games last season. MLB and the Players Union then agreed on new rules for this season, many having to do with something called “slope of grain.” Slope of grain refers to how straight the grain on the wood is.
This list of rules ran in The New York Times:
# All manufacturers must place an ink dot on the tangential face of the sugar maple and yellow birch bats before finishing. This enables the slope of grain to be viewed easily.
# The orientation of the hitting surface on sugar maple and maple bats should be rotated 90 degrees. To facilitate the change, all manufacturers must rotate the logo they placed on bats by 90 degrees.
# The handles of sugar maple and yellow birch bats must be natural or clear to allow for the inspection of the slope of grain in the handle.
# Manufacturers must track each bat they supply.
# Officials from each manufacturer must participate in an M.L.B.-sponsored workshop on engineering properties and grading practices of wood.
# M.L.B. will visit manufacturers regularly to audit each company’s manufacturing processes.
# Random audits of bats will be conducted by M.L.B. at ballparks.
# A third-party bat certification and quality control program should be established to certify new suppliers, approve new species of wood, provide training and education to manufacturers and address non-compliance issues.