04/15/12 10:09 PM ET
Blue Jays coaches share wisdom at clinic
By Alexis Brudnicki / Special to MLB.com
That was the message from Toronto Blue Jays third-base coach Brian Butterfield as he took his turn with the microphone Sunday evening at Rogers Centre.
After the conclusion of the weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles, Butterfield, along with the rest of the Blue Jays coaching staff and a few Blue Jays alumni, extended an already-long day to take some time out for the amateur game, offering their wisdom in the form of a coaching clinic on the field for a few hours.
The audience could not possibly have been more captivated by each speaker. The interest was written over each of the 170 coaches' faces in the audience. When heads weren't down and eyes weren't focused on note-taking, they were glued to the man talking in the moment. Everyone leaned forward in their seats, intent on taking in as much as possible.
"They're the best coaching staff in baseball," Buck Martinez said during his introductions, as the master of ceremonies for the evening. "I think you're in good hands."
Not only were the amateur coaches in capable hands, they were in extremely willing ones as well. Butterfield asked, "How much time do I have?" and then said, "I wish I had more time," after taking the right-field stage for well over his allotted slot of time to discuss infielding.
First base coach Torey Lovullo came ready for his turn with notes in hand as he discussed outfielding, though he had to speed through after his time was cut short by his third-base coaching counterpart.
Toronto manager John Farrell was the first to silence the audience, with his focus on talking through the formation of lineups and how they should be assembled. His biggest message however, was that every set of players is different, and knowing those players is the most important thing.
"There's a human side to this, rather than some sabermetric approach to it," Farrell said. "But players, ultimately, they're people. They have to know that you have trust in them, they have to know that you have their back ... they're going to appreciate it, and hopefully that comes back to you. At some point, you've got to decide with your head instead of your heart."
The Blue Jays skipper was excited to host the clinic to help the sport locally, and is also currently assisting in the completion of a 16-page instructional manual that teaches the 'Blue Jays way' of baseball. The manual is written with input from not only Farrell but also Butterfield, Roberto Alomar, Duane Ward, Homer Bush and representatives from Baseball Canada.
"Anytime that you can spread the game and teach the game, whether it's in a setting like this or having kids come into the camps that were here during the wintertime, I think it's just great for the game and it's great for spreading the grass roots of baseball," Farrell said.
Pitching coach Bruce Walton and Ward followed Farrell, to speak about dealing with hurlers. The biggest message they had was to get pitchers to stay on line, something that Walton has been working on with Sunday's starter Kyle Drabek throughout the entire offseason.
"If you saw Kyle today, you very seldom see him fly off the first-base side anymore," Walton said. "His direction is straight to the catcher, which allows him to get on top of the ball and drive it downhill, and stay within that little box that we're trying to hit."
Pat Tabler and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy were next in line for the coaching spotlight, to talk about hitting. And what coach wouldn't want to hear about hitting from the man that turned Jose Bautista into baseball's home run king?
"Do you know how tough it is to hit that round baseball, without anybody even telling you what to do?" Murphy asked. "It is probably the toughest thing in sports. So, piece of advice to everybody, when they're out there hitting, let 'em hit."
If the advice is good enough for the man who led the league in numerous offensive categories last season -- and set a new franchise record with 54 home runs in 2010 -- what coach wouldn't be intent on writing down every word?
The man behind the improvements in J.P. Arencibia's game, bench coach Don Wakamatsu, came in to talk about catching. After noting that the biggest adjustment for Arencibia this season has been switching gloves, the former Major League catcher continued his emphasis on keeping things simple.
"You always want to crawl, walk, run, that type of thing," Wakamatsu said. "And there's one rule. I go to Spring Training, I've got 12 kids lined up from A ball all the way to the big leagues, and I tell them I've got one rule -- catch the baseball. It's that simple."
Each speaker placed great importance on continued learning, and as they keep broadening their knowledge, they hope amateur coaches around the country will do the same. Sunday's clinic was just the beginning, as the Blue Jays hope to expand to a weekend-long event next year, and the coaches look to offer even more.
"I told you before the start of this clinic that we had the best coaching staff in baseball," Martinez concluded. "And I think now you believe me, because these guys all have a passion for what they do."
Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.