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Bunt one for the Gipper: The coach's focus for minor league teams

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The game has been tight with the pitchers on both sides dominating. In the eighth inning, your team managed to get two runners on base. Is it a sign that the pitcher is tiring? The guy on second base is that fleet footed center fielder. With his speed, a solid hit to the outfield and the home team will take the lead. As the anticipation builds, you watch the runner on second taunt the pitcher. The guy on first is the catcher. He is not as quick around the bases. It will take a long ball, probably a home run for him to score.

At the plate, is the third baseman recognized as the best defensive corner in the organization. He watches the third base coach go through the signs then puts the bat between his knees and both hands on his batting helmet. The third base coach goes through the signs again, claps his hands and points to the batter as he steps back into the box. The pitcher, who does not typically throw a first pitch fastball, winds and delivers. The batter squares as he faces the pitch and lays down a bunt. The hit is not a soft sacrifice bunt. It is a sharply struck bunt toward the second baseman playing at double-play depth.

Why bunt?

The batter is a minor league player and is still learning his craft. He may have an excellent arm and amazing mechanics on the field, but his batting is barely average. The player must see the ball better and recognize the pitch in order to advance to the majors. The coach is making him bunt so that he has to watch the ball all the way into the plate. The minor league coach is more concerned with player development than wins.

I'm certain that all minor league coaches like winning. The fans need to remember it is the minor league coach's responsibility to identify the skills that need to be strengthened, teach those players who will learn and weed out those players that refuse to be taught.

Like all professions, when the player makes it to the majors, everyone from the fan to the owner expects them to produce wins. There is no on the job training in the majors. The school of the minor leagues is over.

By the way, for those fans still railing against the coach who ordered the bunt, bases are loaded, the defense must draw in the infielders and the slowest base runner is now at second base. Almost any ball in play that does not go right at an infielder will score the go ahead run.



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