05/03/2013 8:29 AM
As tryouts and spring training for the 2013 season begin this weekend, T-Bones manager Kenny Hook has been providing weekly thoughts on a variety of topics. In the second of two installments this week, Hook talks about Spring Training and his expectations for the T-Bones’ exhibition season, which begins on Monday, May 6, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. This Kenny’s Korner was told to Matt Fulks.
As we approach tryouts today and then the first official day of practice on Saturday, things are definitely less stressful this year than last because I’m familiar with the process. Being in this position a year later, I feel like I’m on schedule and certainly more prepared than last year. The comfort level allows me to focus on what seems to be the more exciting aspect of starting a new season.
Initially, going into this weekend, I’m hoping for all of the guys to travel to the Kansas City area safely and smoothly. Once they get here, I want the players to be comfortable as possible as quickly as possible with everything from getting to know their teammates to getting comfortable with me to getting settled in their living arrangements.
Report day was May 1, but the guys started arriving earlier in the week. For instance, I’ve spent some time with Ray Sadler this week. He wanted to get here and start getting ready. By now, though, unless they communicated with me otherwise, all of the guys are here. Thursday and today the focus is more on the logistics: getting squared away with their host families, having physicals, getting situated in the clubhouse and meeting and greeting their teammates. We want all of that behind us when we hit the field for the first time as a team.
My job at this point, besides making sure we’re ready to start practice on Saturday, is making sure the guys — especially the new ones — understand that I’m available for them and that we’re doing everything in their best interest.
This is an exciting time, almost like the first few days of school. It’s always great to see guys for the first time after the offseason. Even if you’re good friends and stay in touch with e-mail or text messages or whatever, there’s a lot of catching up to do, face to face. Just like at school, you have your friends that you might not have seen much, and then you’re meeting new guys, also. Regardless of whether you knew them before or not, these are the guys you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with for the next four months.
Obviously when you have 28 men from different places and backgrounds, there are different variables involved in becoming a team. The common thread is baseball and winning. But there’s a feeling out period that really goes on through camp. I can’t force those things as a manager or try to make guys mesh. I have to hope that it comes through in my message and hope that everyone is on the same page. If you’ve been on a team before, you know you aren’t going to like everyone in that clubhouse, but we’re all on the same team and we should respect each other. Becoming a team and winning baseball games isn’t a popularity contest. We’re all out there to do a job. Once you see how the other guys go about their daily routine and how they approach the game, you develop respect. Again, you might not like them or have the same off-field hobbies, but you respect each other as baseball players.
One exciting thing about this year’s club is that we have a great core of veterans who’ve played the game for a long time for a lot of different managers and organizations. They have an idea of what type of atmosphere we need in order to be successful. The older guys set the tone. They make the manager’s job a lot easier. Heck, they’re a manager’s best friend.
On the flip side, a lot of the 2013 T-Bones haven’t played for me. So, besides me getting a better idea of how they approach things and get along with their teammates, they have to get a better feel for me. It goes back to my approach during the next several days. How accessible am I? How accessible are the other coaches? How do we do things on and off the field? How do we break down our daily work schedules? Baseball players are such creatures of habit, they just want to get their daily routines started. The quicker we can put that in place for them and get them comfortable with their routine and expectations, guys will come together and blend better.
Of course there’s no telling what’s going to happen once we hit the field for our first exhibition game next week. But, as I’ve stated in previous Kenny’s Korners, I’m excited about the club we’ve put together. I have a good feeling about this season. I’m definitely ready to get it started!