In Part 1 of the interview with Rod Carew
yesterday, the Hall of Famer shared his thoughts on his playing career. He has been a hitting coach in the big leagues with the Angels and also with the Milwaukee Brewers. Now he is a special instructor for the Minnesota Twins during spring training. In his retirement he makes appearances for the Twins throughout the year. In Part 2 today, Carew was asked questions about coaching, minor leaguers and his thoughts on big league ballplayers today.
He was asked what he tells young players and minor leaguers when he gets the opportunity to address them. He said, "With the young players, I tell them, you work hard at the minor league level and you have to keep working hard because no one is going to give you anything to get to the big leagues.
Asked about some of the Twins top prospects, he said, “I spent some time with (Byron) Buxton in spring training, spent some time with (Miguel) Sano in spring training. They’ve got some good young kids that I expect to be here in the next year or two. Buxton is on the fast track. When you get young players like that who go out and enjoy the game, and enjoy learning, which I think is the most important thing, they’re going to do well.”
He also talked about his role when he goes to spring training where he can often be seen in the batting cages. “I work with the hitters, spend a lot of time with the hitters in the cage. I sit on the bench, and I talk to them about what pitchers might try to do in certain situations. I work with them on bunting because it’s such an important part of the game and a lost art in the game. Just try to get into their heads to see what they’re thinking.”
As important as those physical things is the mental side of the game. “We talk so much about the five tools of running, hitting, fielding, power, good arm, but they forget about the mental part, which is the most important part. But if you can understand how to get through the struggles, and be mentally tough, that shows me that you’re going to do well. But if you don’t, and you start worrying about everything, you’re going to struggle.”
He was also asked about the differences he sees in today’s players compared to the players when he played. “The major difference I know in the young players is that a lot of them don’t play the game with instincts. They’re always looking for the coaches. Running the bases, they’re looking at coaches. You have to play the game with instinct. I don’t think that players today, in my opinion, know how to play the game as well as when I played the game. Because we were taught how to play the game, we were taught how to play in situations. We were ready for situations.”
He continued, “They make a lot of bad base running mistakes. They swing at a lot of bad pitches, and they’re all trying to hit home runs. That’s why they strike out so much. They don’t care if they strike out. It was an embarrassment for us to strike out. To them, it doesn’t matter.”
But back to his message for the young players, be it in the minor leagues or the little leagues. "You have to learn the game, understand the game, know who you are, know what you’re capable of doing and stay in the realm of that. Sometimes I think young players think that you have to hit the ball out of the park to get to the big leagues. I try to tell them, if you can square the ball up every time you take a swing and be consistent, that’s what the organization is looking for."
And, if it were me, and Rod Carew was telling me about how to play the game (or specifically how to hit), I think I would listen.
Tomorrow, we'll finish this interview with Carew by writing about his thoughts on several other topics.
Feel free to comment below or ask any other questions you may have.
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