Spring Training-Part I

Spring Training: A look behind the scenes-Part I

By: Charlie Lisk-November 6, 2006

When I went to my first spring training with the White Sox in 2002, I didn’t know what to expect. I learned quickly that I was in a whole new world. I thought that I would have a good feel after the month that I spent in Bristol with the White Sox rookie ball affiliate of what I might be getting into…I was wrong. 

While I was in high school I was a pretty good player and I thought that I worked my butt off. I was always the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave, whether it was for early blocking drills or late swings. I soon learned that as hard as I thought I worked, I was only middle of the pack at best. Our day would officially start at 9:00 a.m. when there would be orientation with the whole organization. I showed up for the first day of workouts at 8:00 a.m. and I was about the 30th player in the locker room. Guys had already finished their weightlifting for the day and were dressed and ready to stretch. I soon realized that I had to step up my preparation when I saw that guys were staying in the weight room for upwards of two hours.

I used to be that guy that got in there and got after it.  I found out that my "hard" workout was just a warm up for most of the guys that I played with. I had to step up my game. First, it showed coaches and managers, as well as the front office guys that held my career in the palm of their hands, that I wanted to work hard and wanted to be there. Second, I had to work that hard just to keep up with the guy beside me that was trying to take my job. Lastly, it is a really, really long season and it takes an enormous amount of work to make your body last throughout the season without breaking down.

I used to day dream in class about what was going to happen in the game or at practice that night. As I got into the swing of things at spring training, I realized that to be successful in this game, the day dreams needed to turn into conscience thoughts. Even when I was not at the field, I needed to think about the game.

Being a catcher, I had so much to learn that I turned into a sponge. I talked baseball almost every waking moment. I was talking to anybody from a rookie pitcher to a veteran hot corner man to any coach that was at the team hotel. I realized that there were so many more aspects to the game that I didn’t know about. Such as: your own pitchers strengths and weaknesses, the opposing teams hitter’s strengths and weaknesses and whether or not our pitchers matched up with their hitters. I had to know who was available in our bullpen for that day’s game. I had to study the lineup for the other team and see who was playing and who were the bench players for that day. I had to know which of the bench players was the best pinch hitter. I had to know which players on the other team were the base-stealers and on which count they like to run. I had to learn the opposing manager and know if he had any tendencies…okay, now I am getting on to a lot of advanced thoughts that I can get into in another article. I just want to get across how many things that I had to learn and re-learn about this game. 

If you are serious about continuing to play, then you have to become a mentally tough and smart player. You can’t just show up and expect your talent to take you to the big leagues. Okay, of course there are some players that show up once in a blue moon that can just strap ’em on and get there. But, that is not the majority of players. You have to put in the time, as in any job, to make yourself better and be the guy that a manager looks at and says, "I want that guy on my team!" 

I will be back with another article about what happens once spring training gets going. This one will include the breakdown of a typical day, what happens when games start and the necessary evil that everybody hates…getting released. Hope you guys like this one and there will be more to come.

About the author: Charlie Lisk signed with the University of South Carolina before being drafted in the ninth round out Fort Mill High School by the Chicago White Sox. He spent five years in their organization before spending last year playing independent ball in the Frontier League. Lisk has a spring training invite with the San Diego Padres in 2007 and will report in February.