Pujols like Mays; Wilson simplifies; fly-catchers excel

Monday, Sept. 20

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Some people will do anything to squeeze a workout into their schedule.

Baseball’s best player apparently is one of these healthy fanatics.

Monday night at a local health club, a trainer shifted my focus from the free weights to a weighty presence performing
cardiovascular exercise in the corner of the room. “That’s Albert Pujols,” the trainer said.

Maybe the Angels, who train in neighboring Tempe, don’t have the fitness machines Pujols likes at their facility.  Maybe he simply felt compelled to hit the gym. Regardless, the man obviously is dedicated.

Seeing Pujols work out among common folks reminded me of something I was told by one of his predecessors as baseball’s best.

A few years ago I asked Willie Mays, “How did you stay in such great shape?” Mays straightened up in his chair, puffed
out his chest ever so slightly and proudly replied, “I never got out of shape.” It was a sphinx-like answer. And it made perfect sense.

*****

Brian Wilson was all business as he spoke with reporters. No dry humor. No clever one-liners. Simply straight talk
about his arm, elbow and pitching.

“I’m just going to put the analogies in the back pocket for today,” Wilson said.

*****

The Arizona sky late Monday morning was dotted with clouds and relatively windless — luckily for the Giants catchers.

Bullpen catcher Bill Hayes, who drills the catchers in big league camp on various skills necessary to master their
position, conducted pop-up practice. It’s an ever-entertaining sight. Hayes feeds balls into a pitching machine aimed
skyward; Buster Posey and his counterparts track the towering pop-ups. What’s remarkable is how rarely these guys drop or misjudge a ball.

The task was mildly simplified by the clouds, eliminating the “high sky” that can blind players at any position to
pop-ups; the still air, which straightened each fly’s path; and the decision to stage the drill in the outfield on one
of the auxiliary diamonds, rather than at Scottsdale Stadium. There, Hayes explained, players might risk tripping down
the dugout stairs. Exposing any player to this danger, particularly Posey, would have been unwise.

The best part of this drill is the grand finale, when Hayes produces a second pop-up while a player is in the middle of settling under the first. Again, you’d marvel at how often the catchers make both grabs.

Chris Haft

6 Comments

I am so happy Haft is back at it again with more entertaining blogs. Keep it up my man! I cannot wait until Opening Day…

I haven’t blogged much lately. I better get my butt in gear!

Just as Willie Mays played stickball with kids in NYC, when he moved to S.F. he was known to occasionally come by the local playground (Julius Kahn, just inside the Presidio @ Spruce or Locust Sts.) where I and other kids played sandlot ball virtually all day everyday in summer. He’d chat with us, answer questions, give us tips; a couple times he came to the park with other Giants! Willie is just a regular guy who has a phenomenal gift for sharing his love of baseball. It sure made better ballplayers of us, it certainly made us Giants fans for life.

Wow — what great memories! Things were different then.

When I was in about 4th grade, Willi Mays made an appearance at a shopping center opening. My Mom and Dad both worked, so a neighbor took me. I was too late to get an autograph, but I do have a picture of me, in my Giants cap, with Willie patting me on the back. My Mom enlarged it for my birthday a few years back. How can a kid of that era, in the Bay Area NOT look up to Willie Mays? (Ironically, I never saw him hit a homer at the ‘Stick.)

Darned right. Willie was a universal icon.

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