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Ep. 65: Lets Talk Hitting With Kenny Graham | A Baseball Podcast Geoff Rottmayer
Let’s Talk Hitting with Kenny Graham
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast, where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development
Kenny Graham, Director of Player Development for the Detroit Tigers. Previously a hitting coordinator for the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays.
On this episode, Host Geoff Rottmayer sits down with Kenny Graham, Director of Player Development for the Detroit Tigers.
Show Notes: In this conversation, Kenny talks about:
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— Transcribe —
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:00 On today’s show, we have our Kenny Graham director of player development for Detroit tiger. We are talking baseball. We are talking, hitting.
Intro: 00:00:10 Welcome to another episode of the baseball awakening podcast where we dive into the raw unfiltered unsexy side of player development. Get ready for some knowledge bombs with your host Geoff Rottmayer
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:00:35 Welcome to the baseball awakening podcast. I’m Geoff Rottmayer and today sitting down with Kenny Graham, director of player development for the Detroit tigers. After he has spent three years, the hitting coordinator for the Milwaukee brewers and seven years with the Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to that, he was the hitting coach for independently independent league ball team. Also coaching at the college level. Kenny was also a speaker at the John Mallee major league hitting clinic. So Kenny. Good morning sir. How are you?
Kenny Graham: 00:01:07 Well Jeff, how are you?
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:01:08 I’m doing great. Well listen, I’m, you know, I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me and, and asked me if I could reach out to you to come on. So, uh, you were grateful enough to come on though. I appreciate you being here.
Kenny Graham: 00:01:23 No, I appreciate you having me on, man. I’m a listener and appreciate the time here. All right,
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:01:29 so let’s just kind of a, you know, from, from when I, when I understand about you as a, you were kind of a, you’re a player at Indiana university and then, uh, you got into the coaching side of things then and now you recently worked your way up into the director of player development for the Detroit tigers, which is awesome. Granulation by that. Um, so, uh, let’s just kinda, let’s just kinda talk about your journey of the coach and then, you know, after that kind of like talk about them hitting. So let’s just kind of thought with your, your out of any end of the university and you’re getting into coaching, talk about that whole journey in that process.
Kenny Graham: 00:02:07 Well, it’s, that’s what it’s been, Jeff. It’s been a journey. Uh, it’s been, it’s been a, a thin, a great one. And I wouldn’t have changed anything along the way. But, um, once I got finished playing at Indiana, I still had some school to finish. Um, so I, I stayed on for my fifth year there and, uh, with a student assistant. So once I finished school, um, you know, I got a bachelor’s in kinesiology, um, wanting to keep coach and I knew that baseball was, you know, my track and, and uh, so I got an opportunity to go to the university of Indianapolis, uh, division two there and, uh, got to be the hitting coach and was a graduate assistant. So I got my master’s degree, uh, through my, my position and was able to get that in curriculum and instruction. And then, uh, from there I moved on to the junior college.
Kenny Graham: 00:02:53 I went to all the central college and Southern Illinois, which is, uh, you know, ran by Dennis colony, a tremendous, tremendous baseball. Mine has been there when a lot of games for a lot of years. And uh, was there was a recruiting coordinator, did that for two years. And then I got a call and opportunity to coach independent baseball in Gary, Indiana. And, uh, at the time was the Northern league. Now they’re in the American association, but I did that for two years as well. And, um, just through some people and connections I met there, uh, ended up meeting Anthony. I oppose [inaudible] who’s now the hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs, but he brought me on board. Uh, he, with the blue Jays, he just got the job as the hitting coordinator there. And so I got on with the blue Jays was their full footstep for several, several years. He’s in a different roles, different capacities. And then, um, you know, got a hitting coordinator position. That was my last job there and that kind of led me to the brewers where I was there for three years of dating coordinator and then onto the tigers that this year would be my first year as a director of player development. So it has, it’s been a journey.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:03:58 Cool. I would love hearing about that because you learn different things from different people about different things along the way and the kind of shape who you become. So let’s get the real quick. Go back to the, uh, the kinesiology. So, you know, a lot of kids ask me, you know, they want to get into coating. They kinda, where are the game trending? Um, you know, our theology degree. That actually kind of a good way to go. So with, with that, uh, how did, how did you become interested in that? Did you kind of see that, that being a way to, um, help you other, other coach and, and doing what you’re doing now?
Kenny Graham: 00:04:39 Well, honestly, Jeff, I, I, I grew up in a family of teachers. My parents were, you know, we’re all teachers, grandparents, you know, were teachers. My brothers and sisters are teachers. It was kind of the path I knew. So I was either going to be a teacher or I was going to be a big league baseball player. One, it was going to be one of the two. Um, and, you know, obviously coaching is teaching. So, um, you know, when I was in school and going and, and you know, I, I had a very average collegiate year that hit her and, and, uh, once we got towards the end, I’d kinda write, realize that, uh, you know, Scouts weren’t really knocking down my door, so I’d get ready for the next step. So, you know, the next step was, you know, either teaching and coaching, high school baseball or you know, hopefully staying in the, in the college ranks.
Kenny Graham: 00:05:24 And so, you know, the, the best way I saw fit for me to, to be involved and engaged in, you know, athletic side of things, you know, at a school or at a university was, you know, being a physical education teacher, being in that, you know, kinesiology realm. So, uh, that was kind of how it started and how, and based out, and obviously, you know, as we get older and we learn how little we know, I wish I would have paid attention a little more in school. You know, I mean, I’m, I’m still paying for student loans the day and it’s like, man, I wish I would have just, you know, kept more books, kept more, some of the, uh, you know, physiology books, some of the, we can etiology books and I do have a few, but, um, answer your question. It was, it was more, you know, how can I stay engaged with, with the body and movement and athletics. And so that’s kind of the road that led me to, and again, in the long run I ended up, you know, really working out for me. Well, just especially where the, where the game is now. But, um, that was kind of how it started.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:06:27 Very, very cool man. I’m with you on that. You know, there’s a, we all wish we would’ve paid attention a little more now. We’ve become lifelong learners and it’s funny how things go around. So, uh, you know, let’s, let’s get into, let’s get into hitting, um, hitting the, one of my favorite topics. Um, w I mean, you know, if you go on the internet there’s a what we’ll start with the sling. You know, if we go on the internet, there are a ton of different theories out there, ton of different believe a ton of different and, and none of it drawn. But you know, uh, they’re just a moral thing where, what do you believe, you know, if I’m a young coach or if I’m a player, you know, what, how do I increase my chances of being able to go? It may have that game as much as I can. Um, what do you think, I mean, what are, what are your thoughts on, on the swing?
Kenny Graham: 00:07:24 Yeah, I mean, I, I would, I would say first off that there, like you said, there was a ton of information out there and, and I, I suggest all hitting coaches and you know, when I was a hitting coordinator and I’m going to do it as director of flare to Belmont, you know, I’m going to make it very strong suggestion that everybody get on Twitter and, and follow, you know, everybody they can because you know, there is substance to everything. You know, all the gurus, if you want to use that label that, you know, every, everything that the guys that are on Twitter and posting a lot of content, every everybody on there has got some substance to it. They, they, they do it. You can’t deny it. Right. Um, you, you know, I think at the end of the day that a lot of these guys, they run a business and they have to have a brand.
Kenny Graham: 00:08:11 We have a business and, and that’s important. And that’s not, you know, a judgment. That’s just the reality of things. And so, you know, they have to be in convicted in their brand. And the things that they do. So, um, you know, they’re going to push their, their, their, you know, styles or ways of doing things are to, to make it successful business and, and you know, have a, have a uh, uh, you know, fulfilled, fulfilled life financially. So, you know, it’s a matter of for all the hitting coaches, just kind of filtering through and ultimately, you know, human beings are just so different. Even as coaches, we’re all be coached differently. The players are different, they have different bodies, they have different minds, they’ve been raised differently. They’ve come from different backgrounds, from different, from different countries. I mean there’s, there’s so many different factors that go into a hitter that, you know, there is a lot of swing stuff on the internet, but there’s a lot of other stuff too.
Kenny Graham: 00:09:05 And that’s a matter of, you know, digging in and, and you do get down that rabbit hole on gay Twitter. We’ve all been there. But you know, like I said, you can find some substance out of everybody and it doesn’t just have to be the swing. There’s a lot of good content that’s on there. And, and then she’s a matter of filter and through, um, to learn little bits and pieces to add your, you know, into your Rolodex and, and whenever that one piece of, you know, small information, it may seem like to you, uh, it’s in the back of that Rolodex when a player needs it, you know, after having it for five years and you, you give it to them, it’s, that’s where, you know, it’s really hard. It’s really hard work and it takes time, but it’s, that’s the fulfilling job of, you know, being so detailed and being so researched at the coach.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:09:49 Yeah. What, uh, what are your thoughts on the, like the, the assessment, uh, the, the, the OnBase queue and all that and that type of things. Um, there are the, obviously a, a need and a place for it. I’m just curious your thoughts on it. Have you used it, you know, with, with your, your hitters and, uh, the, the brewers?
Kenny Graham: 00:10:14 Yeah, no, it’s, it’s, it’s super important. Um, just from the background I’ve came from and, and knowing the body a little bit and just knowing the importance of, you know, seeing the big picture of things. Um, there’s, you know, we’ve all been there. There’s, there’s hitters is, I’ve been with it, I’ve spent a ton of time on trying to correct a, a movement pattern and just been frustrated. You, you know, it can be a great kid, great worker, no does everything you ask and bust his tail but just never can correct a movement flaw. And you know, you go home frustrated at night, you can’t sleep and you’re thinking, what am I doing wrong? What am I doing wrong when the reality is he physically cannot do that move his body won’t allow it. And that’s been a big change in the last few years is the importance of, you know, all the different departments working together with medical and, you know, strength conditioning, athletic training, everybody being on the same page to work together to make sure you don’t have those moments where you can’t sleep and are banging your head against a wall because you know, that’s instead of doing this magic drill that’s going to stick the guy swing, he should have his tail in the weight room or in the training room, you know, improving his body and having those experts that are expert at what they do, take care of it.
Kenny Graham: 00:11:31 You know, that’s, that’s gonna make you a better coach. And that’s just using the resources around you.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:11:36 Yeah. So the uh, let’s say a guy, you know, does the, those, the staff, then in the end they don’t do really well on them, but a guy can really hit, you know, have you, have you seen, um, maybe a guy kinda cleaning from top up in the, in the weight room and maybe maybe hurt them in the sense of, you know, he would do. And what he would do and, and needed that.
Kenny Graham: 00:12:02 That’s, that’s a great question. And honestly, Jeff, I’ll give you the answer that if you asked me, you know, and these hypothetical’s I would tell you, it depends on the person and, and I, and by that I mean, you know, who are they? How, how, how well would they take it? Are they, you know, they had the mental fortitude to, to take the challenge of, Hey, you could be better, man. You know, you could, you could move better. You could have a, you know, a better swing. Um, there’s some players that just can’t handle that and then that’s okay. And that’s the, you know, good enters I found are just really, really stubborn people. When I first started coaching, I, I kind of considered them, uh, you know, tough to coach and, you know, they wouldn’t listen well just because I was at player. Uh, you know, I, and if you could tell, you can tell me to stay on my head and I would do it.
Kenny Graham: 00:12:50 If you’re a coach, you know, so those guys that are stubborn, you know, sometimes they, they need to just rely and do what they do. And, and, and I think what you said, you know, cause they can hit and they’re doing it and they’re doing it at a very high level, then I think to a certain extent you’ve got to let them have that success. Once you, once you started changing movement patterns and you know, a swing or a position, uh, you know, you know, you change a lot of things. You, you change. I’ve seen guys go and, and you know, guys who just have had successful big league careers and, and, and be, you know, really good hitters in the big leagues for years and then go make a swing adjustment in the off season. You know, for good or bad. They just didn’t feel great about it.
Kenny Graham: 00:13:32 They didn’t feel comfortable and they just, you know, they lost, they lost that confidence. It mentally affected them and it was hard for them to get back on track. So, you know, it’s definitely a, you know, a tough one to, to say completely. And you know, who knows what the right answer is. But, um, you know, for me, like I said, it just would depend on the person. I, I think, you know, the biggest thing is, is, you know, if that kid came here, if they are a good hair, then you know, it’s a matter of selling athleticism to them. I don’t think you can never go wrong with saying, Hey, we think you could be a better athlete because as important as hitting is you got to play defense, you gotta run basis, you got to do all the other things that make a complete ballplayer. And, you know, part of that is being a better athlete. So I think that’s a way to, a way to kind of work around it. And, you know, not necessarily lying to the kid, but you know, it’s true. If he’s got some restrictions movement wise with the swing, then there’s probably some other things you’re doing, running or feeling or you know, other things that, uh, you know, could probably be improved.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:14:31 Sure. Yeah. So what about, um, the, the, the technology out there, there, there’s a ton of them out there and, uh, some good, some bad. I mean, I really can’t say what’s right or what’s wrong. Um, so, you know, they’re there, like you said, their substance, everything. Um, and, and depending on how you use. So what, uh, what are some of your, kind of your favorite, you know, technology tools and what are your thoughts on the progression of them?
Kenny Graham: 00:15:05 Yeah, I think, I think that’s, you know, the technology piece. I think, you know, at least at the professional level, um, I think that’s something that’s, that’s kind of turned in the last two or three years where, you know, player fodder that first and, and you know, for, for long time player stopped the, you know, to a certain extent teams were using it against them, you know, and which is not the case. We, we, we all want to make players better. We all want to win baseball games and, you know, there’s 30 organizations trying to win a world series every single year. So, um, you know, we’re, we’re, there’s not as much, you know, as the on the evaluations I did the players, you know, we’re afraid of it first, that now they’re understanding, you know, there’s a lot of teams doing it very well, utilizing the technology to, you know, maximize players and maximize hitters.
Kenny Graham: 00:15:52 So, um, you know, to give you the, the, the, you know, rounded answer, um, you know, really it’s a matter of the technology is there to, you know, I, you know, Justin Stone would be lead hitting in Chicago. He talks about, you know, it’d been a piece of the puzzle. Well for me, it’s almost like a Rubik’s cube, you know, a hinders a Rubik’s cube. It’s so complicated. There’s so many inner workings and so many different things going on internally, externally. Um, you know, the technology pieces is really, you know, that’s, it’s just a piece of that Rubik’s cube and you’ve gotta be able to use that technology piece, whatever it is, you know, bad sensors or, you know, best that are measured, measuring different things. You know, I, like you said, I don’t think that any of them, not naming any brands or anything, I think that there’s a piece of it that can be utilized.
Kenny Graham: 00:16:45 I think there’s information you can pull from all of them. Um, just like, you know, I kind of stated with, with some of the guys that are online, I don’t think there’s one that’s a be all end all in it. That, you know, every player should be given every bit of information from a blast sensor or from, you know, a 40 motion best or, or you know, all the other different information out there. Only technology. But, um, you know, big definitely can’t help. And, and quite frankly, when it comes down to it, uh, the players are around that, you know, the, the, the generation, the, you know, the players were getting, you know, they’re there, 90% of them are playing video games every single day. And a lot of you, so you know, visually and, and you know, neurologically their brains are, are, you know, being built to learn that way from a screen, from an iPad, from an iPhone, from, you know, all these different technologies.
Kenny Graham: 00:17:39 That’s how they process the best. So my point being, um, the best thing that I found from, from all the technologies is, is basically their validation. So what we’ve been teaching for a long time, so, you know, we continue to teach, you know, solid mechanics the way we’ve, we’ve always taught him, but now how we teach them and how we, how we measure them and how we, you know, show the players. That’s the big thing that’s changed in the last few years. And, and the teams and the coaches that, that do that the best. And it kinda can, you know, not to, not to say get down to the players level, but you know, to just dig in the trenches that they know, which are, you know, these screens and these, these, you know, scoreboards. Now those are the coaches that maximize the technology and utilize it the best.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:18:28 Yeah. And so you mentioned the, uh, the blast and the 40, like if you were looking at the blast, what if I’m required? I’m looking at all the numbers and, uh, even a young coat, I’m looking at all the numbers and kind of getting overwhelmed. What, what would be, do I need to look at all of them or what, what would be like, man, this is the one I really need to pay attention to.
Kenny Graham: 00:18:53 Yeah, no, I, I think that, you know, again, it’s the old adage that, you know, you always want to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Um, so, you know, a blast is they’re just going to tell you what you do really well and, and you know, whether it’s blast or DK or whatever, but my senses are out there. You know, I think for, for you, you know, the, the younger listeners, the younger coaches, uh, you know, coaching some of the travel ball, uh, you know, whoever else, uh, at that younger age group, um, you know, bat speed is something that’s talked a lot about and that’s important. And I think that there’s different ways to train it and obviously that it’s a whole nother topic. But, uh, I’m just using that example of, you know, once we get to the professional ranks and get, get up to, you know, eating the collegiate level to a certain extent, everybody’s got some bat speed.
Kenny Graham: 00:19:39 And so, you know, they, that’s not as as important of a metric, you know, through a bat sensor as some of the other ones of, you know, and again, it’s, it’s, it’s figuring out what do I do really well? Okay. The, the sensor says, I do this really well. What am I really struggling at? And then how does that match up with where my holes are in the zone? Where do I really struggle hitting fastballs? Where do I really struggle hitting off speed? Um, you know, what, half the plate, you know, my better middle end and my better middle way. What, you know, why is that? That’s where you kind of start to put that Rumi’s cube together of, okay, well this is, uh, you know, a metric and blast. It says, I’m really below average at how does that correlate to my weaknesses in the zone? And then that’s where, you know, like the Rubik’s cube, that’s where it starts to come into effect. You start to, you know, put it all together and help the player, you know, put those, that those uh, those pieces aligned.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:20:42 Yeah. I like how you explained that because it sounds like, and I, and I think there’s some confusion out there, um, with people using that to teach, um, and through what happened to the elite from what you see is, okay, the backbeat got to go up. So we’re now kind of losing our swing to maximize the number and now we can hit and games. So there’s that fine line of trying to figure out, you know, how do you maximize the number to increase and improve your numbered without losing your swing and losing your, your game.
Kenny Graham: 00:21:27 Yeah, no, and I mean, you see that, you see that within game data and from, from, you know, from some of the best sensors that, you know, balls that you’re squaring up. Quite often, they’re below the bat speeds below what your averages and your work, you know, so it’s, it’s not like you blast the ball in the game. It’s like, Oh my gosh, you must, that must must’ve been 85 mile an hour bat speed at that ball went that far. No, you just, you got off a really good clean swing on probably a bad pitch from the pitcher that you squared up really well and you hit it out of the park. That’s what happened. You know, it’s not, well he’s, he’s swung so hard, he hit it that far. And that’s where players and young players, I mean, you know guys we do with it, you know, it’s professional level.
Kenny Graham: 00:22:13 You see him and it’s like, you know, they talk about taking all these, you know, monster hacks and you know, it’s like two Oh count of three one count and a player takes a monster hat and it’s like, Hey, great hack. And it’s like, no it’s not. That’s a terrible swing. Yeah. Your best being might’ve been, you know, above 80 but the chance of you making quality contact or very little because there was no barrel control. And so it’s a fine line and you got to have to play that dance. And that’s where I think there’s a, there’s a time to train bat speed. Uh, but when it comes to hitting, then I think that’s where you kind of have to draw the line up. Okay, now I’m going to be adjustable. Now I’m going to, you know, get to a good position to hit and, and, and use my entire body, my hands and my legs and you know, all of it. Just be athletic and get the barrel to the baseball, my training to, to improve my bat speed throughout the years, which takes time. You know, that’s when, you know, you’ve only got what you got, so you gotta maximize that, uh, those abilities. You know, if you have a ton of bat speed, great, now you just have to square the ball up. If you don’t have a lot of bat speed, you probably need to work your tail off on it to improve it and the cages. But once the game starts, you know, square the baseball up. Yeah.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:23:26 Very cool. So you mentioned a couple of name then, just for the listeners, maybe if we can define them just so that they understand, you said a, a clean swing. What, what are the clean swing mean?
Kenny Graham: 00:23:39 Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, for me it’s, it’s a clean swings. You know, you are your balance, your control, you’re controlling your center of mass room from the very get go. You know, I heard Doug lot on here and talking about this, you know, just, you know, stay in balance things centered and, and you know, I couldn’t agree with him more. Um, you know, a clean swings whenever you’re, you’re able to, you know, hold that balance, hold that center, get to a balanced hitting position and you know, the, the swing is clean through the zone. So you’re not fighting yourself. You’re not, you know, I, I don’t like the terminology hitch cause I think it’s been, you know, miss, I mean it gets mislabeled a lot. Um, but you know, there’s just, there’s something in the swing that that breaks down. Um, you know, so it’s, and again, it’s not a matter of a clean swing being a on time swing because I think, you know, being a good hitter is, is getting off clean swings when you’re off time.
Kenny Graham: 00:24:36 Uh, whether that’s being really early or being really late, uh, there’s still a possibility to, you know, get off a clean swing where, you know, direct to the baseball, uh, from a good Hagen position, from a good launch position with your hands, your barrel, and, and, uh, you know, again, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s what I kind of laughed and, uh, you know, cause it clean fling. It looks different. And, and for each guy, uh, you know, it’s, you know, the terminology that a swing by, you know, take your a swing. But that’s, I think there’s confusion in that as well. And I, and I’m honestly glad you asked this question just because you know, a swing, and I even thought this for years, it’s like one swing that I’m going to duplicate over and over and over again.
Kenny Graham: 00:25:21 Well, it’s not that simple as you know, pitch type, pitch, vocation, pitch speed, you know, all those things vary and differ so much. Even in flips, um, you know, or a team like, boy, you’re staying in the box. Well, things change so much, you know, it’s the perfect swing or acclaimed swing now that those are two different things. And, and for, for a while I thought in my head I was trying to get guys to, to execute that perfect swing, but I say clean swing, just, just, you know, basically in my head summing up like it’s a balanced aggressive swing that, that promotes athleticism, that adaptability. That’s, that’s a clean swing.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:25:59 Yeah. What are your thoughts on the, the batting P um, there’s, there’s conversation, the bow, you know, how there’s no place for it and maybe some guys don’t like it, but what, what are your thoughts on, on the PA and what would be the purpose of the T?
Kenny Graham: 00:26:18 Um, well I told you this was coming for you, but it depends on the guy. Generally speaking. Um, you know, just like in the dynamics of, of skill acquisition, you know, the stages of skill acquisition, you know, you go from, you know, the Congo cognitive stage to associated today. So autonomous station. So like the cognitive stage of skill acquisition. If someone’s truly learning a new skill, you know, that’s, that’s a time when they may need that team. They, you know, just, you know, could the cognitive stages, you know, using an analogy is like when you’re learning to walk, you’re having to think about, okay, left leg move now, right leg move. Now that’s that early stage. You’ve got to be very internal and very, you know, thoughtful with what your body’s doing. We start adding, you know, other influences, other variables in like the ball moving or spin or any of that other stuff, you know, it’s going to be hard for you to repeat that, that movement or, or uh, you know, improve that skill.
Kenny Graham: 00:27:18 So, and that around those early stages, you know, Hey, we’re going to give you a leg kick, but you know, you’ve been a just a foot foot down early guy. If that’s given a kid, a leg kick is happening, you might just want him to repeat that leg kick and feel stains center. Same feel staying balanced off the teeth just to start. Then you can move into the associate stage when you associate stages, you know, okay, now let’s do it with flips. European an off the tee, let’s repeat it with flips. Okay, now BP and then that autonomous stage, that final stage of, of skill acquisition. Okay. That’s the game where you’re just being primal. You’re just being reactionary and you’re just seeing the ball and hitting the ball. That’s, that’s all it comes down to. So it’s for a guy that’s, you know, that comes into us to the cage.
Kenny Graham: 00:28:06 You know, if I go and see our AA team or a triple a team and I see them hitting off the tee, there will be that time when I say, Hey, what are you working on? I say, Oh, I’m just getting loose, or I’m, you know, I’m working on this or that. It’s like, Oh, why don’t we just try it with the ball moving and why don’t we, you know, adjust your routine so that we’re, you know, I think we’re past that. I think, I think we can, I think you’re good enough since you’re in AA or AAA and it hit her, I think you can, um, you know, successfully prepare and get more out of this drill if you’re doing it with the ball moving. So that’s kind of how I view the tee. And, and, and, you know, again, I just, I had this conversation in my head, you know, every other day, whether I sit on the fence on things or not, it’s not whether I’m sitting on the fence. It’s just like I told you, it depends on the guy and I think you have to find that, that sweet spot to, you know, teach each individual guy on the different things.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:28:59 Yeah, no, I like your answer. Um, so with, with, with flips, um, side clip or front flip,
Kenny Graham: 00:29:10 both. I like the, I like this side split, um, to teach different things. I think the sides slip forces, uh, I think it forces contact points deep, which I know, uh, you know, obviously we want more damages done out in front of the plate. We want more contact out in front plate, but, um, you know, the, the side flip I think can, can help, um, without queuing play or getting a player to think about certain things. I think it can, can tighten up their swing just by, you know, um, especially for someone you’re doing the drill, that drill with, it’s a new drill for them, um, in the ball gets on it pretty quick and, and, and it’s from a different angle. So I think it’s forcing them to stay a little bit tighter with their swing. Some guys that, you know, kind of get around the ball or, or uh, you know, or just pull monsters.
Kenny Graham: 00:30:00 I think that’s a, that’s a good drill for them. And I, I think that’s, you know, it’s effective tool. I think with that side, flipped players do, they start diving in and you know, their head and their, their upper body gets to turn, uh, you know, they’re, they, they start to change their posture changes and, you know, you, you can create a lot of bad habits with it. But, you know, there, I, I do like it. I do use it a lot where the front lips, um, you know, I think that’s more, um, you know, head on straight on. Um, I, I prefer the short overhand, whether it’s seated or standing up. I prefer that over the underhand flips. But again, it depends on the guy and where they’re at, what they’re working on. There’s sometimes you just need a flip to a guy on her hand and make him feel good.
Kenny Graham: 00:30:45 You know, he may have been getting his tail kicked for the last week and a half, and he’s frustrated. And as a coach, you just have to remind him, Hey, you’re pre name good man, like you got here for a reason. Look, you know, look how much name as you’re doing. And um, you know, that’s, that’s something you need out of flips or you know, again, those, those stages of skill acquisition. If you’re med associates, you know, Sage, then, you know, underhand flips, let them repeat that new move, let them, you know, master that movement pattern with front slits, then move on.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:31:18 Very cool. So I know, uh, I know every guy is going to be different, but let’s take a, uh, maybe a fresh young kid going into pro ball. Um, maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t have his own routine. Um, you know, how do you, how do you work with a guy or I’m trying to figure out his process, figure out his routine, a bigger hour, what makes him go, um, how do you do that?
Kenny Graham: 00:31:54 Well, I, I think that that’s something that, um, I, I’m honestly been thinking about this for a couple of years now, but you know, I’m still, I still consider myself a young coach. And you know, when I first got into affiliated baseball, um, 10 years ago, you know, it was, we would talk about routines all the time instead. And we do, we as coaches, we talk about routines all the time. Well, 10 years ago as a hitting coach, a player’s routine was they would come to the field, you know, check the lineup, go to the cage, do T do flips, go stretch, throw tape, BP, maybe get some swings before you know the case before the, if you’re a home and play the game. Like that was the routine. Yeah. Now with, with, with all the technology and, and I mean, not even talking about fat sensors or, or, or, you know, 40 motion bass or any of these other things.
Kenny Graham: 00:32:57 There are so many other parts of the games, you know, in the professional ranks and even, you know, in college, you know, travel ball, high school, there’s so many different things with, with movement prep, with, you know, the strength conditioning coaches with medical. Um, you know, the, the idea of a routine has changed so much. Um, as coaches, we kind of talk about, Hey, what’s your routine? We’ll find your routine. And I think as coaches, we haven’t really thought about it as deep as we should. And I’m BA, I’m putting myself in this bucket as well. Sure. I still don’t think, you know, we’ve all done it as an industry. I don’t think we’ve done a great job of it. So, um, there’s so many things there. There’s, there’s only so much time in a day. Um, and you know, nevermind the fact that, you know, every single player at the professional level at least, uh, well I shouldn’t say that.
Kenny Graham: 00:33:49 You know, every player is trying to compete at their highest, they’re trying to have success, but if they’re mentally and physically beat up from all the different things they have to do throughout the day, uh, you know, I think we’re doing them a disservice to not have them be as fresh as possible. Yeah. If you’re unable or if you’re in, if you’re in a, you know, a JB team at a high school or even a high school player, like you’re gonna, you’re going to have to work, you’re gonna have to exhaust yourself a lot. And it may be on game day as well. But, um, you know, that’s where it’s, uh, you know, there is a difference between, you know, the [inaudible] professionally or, you know, the professional ranks we do, we play every single day. And, and that becomes, you know, it becomes exhausting for guys. And so, um, to answer your question, I know I kind of went around a little bit, but to answer your question, it’s, it’s a matter of taking the time to, you know, truly, uh, get those guys to understand, you know, this is why we do the movement prep.
Kenny Graham: 00:34:47 This is why we do your movement assessment in, you know, just go through step by step, all of those and you know, those early stages of a, of a kid’s career and professional baseball, um, you know, it’s going to be spent. Hey, just now, just go play the game. Do what you do, you know, not, not so much dating into, Hey, I saw five swings on video, or I saw five swings on a blast sensor, let’s go, you know, overhaul your swing. That’s not a big enough sample size. You know, the kid got there for a reason. You’ve got to give them a fair shot, uh, to do what he does. And he’s earned that. And that’s, you know, our Scouts solid. We, you know, our fun office paid them, you know, let’s, let’s see what he’s got because it’s not always exactly how we envision it or I had.
Kenny Graham: 00:35:32 And, and, uh, you know, I think to a certain extent, you know, that means that there are times of license when you can jump in pretty early. If it’s the right guy and he’s got the right attitude and aptitude, I think you can jump in early and say, Hey, let’s, let’s do this little tweak list. You know, let’s, let’s make this adjustment. Um, and they run with it. But, uh, you know, to a certain extent it’s just a matter of, yeah, like you said, like getting, getting them to understand why we do things for their routine and then, you know, as they progress, you know, you get, you get to a double a triple a, you know, in, in any, in the big leagues, you know, those levels kind of progress. Everybody’s routine is different there. You know, how they, how they do their movement prep, where are they? Do they own that prep? Um, what they do in the cage, what they do in the, in the bullpens and their sides. You know, it all evolves from there, but giving them that good baseline of this is why we do all this, then, you know, then they can adjust and find their own way.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:36:30 Yeah, yeah. No, I’m with you on that. That’s one of my favorite questions to ask because it is trying to, trying to figure out the balance of how do we help them develop that and get them to understand both. But I like how you answered that. Um, but you mentioned a couple of times, but just for the people that are listening, you said movement prep. Can you talk a little bit about what movement prep is?
Kenny Graham: 00:36:53 Yeah, so that’s [inaudible] and again, this is something that’s becoming more and more individualized from those movement assessments, but yet, you know, movement prep, uh, there you’re seeing less and less. Um, you know, guys on the line stretching, um, you know, jumping jacks, going old school there. But, uh, you know, it’s, it’s less and less. We’re, you know, strength coaches are out there just, you know, stretching the whole group generally. Um, movement prep is where guys are going to go in and, and that’s where it’s, you know, clubhouses are tough to get around sometimes because guys are doing band work. They’re doing, you know, their own foam rollers. They’re, you know, they’ve got a lacrosse ball. There’s, there’s different stuff going on all over the place and they’re huge. They’re maximizing the space as much as they can. And some of these small, you know, minor league club houses, uh, that’s part of their getting their body prepped.
Kenny Graham: 00:37:47 They’re getting, you know, with, with the brewers. Um, and, and I’m sure what the, with the tigers, you know, before you could start hitting before you can take a swing in the cage, you had to do even Google prep. You’ve got to get your body ready because just like we talked about earlier, you know, Hey, I’m going to work on my swing today. Well, have you worked on your body yet? Have you prepped your body to do this swing and to, you know, become a better mover. So, you know, that’s basically, you know, the movement prep is just different ways to, um, you know, deal with some of your mobility, stability issues. They shirt, your individual body may have a to help correct those and that’s, they call them corrected moving preps. That’s kind of the same idea.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:38:27 Yeah. Well, I mean, what the buy in on that, I mean it, I could see that being a man, I really got to do that. And I see my, but you know, once you get to that level, I w I would assume that they understand it more or am I, am I right or am I guessing?
Kenny Graham: 00:38:45 Yeah, no, I mean that’s, I mean the guys get older, they, they, they realize the, the grind of the game. And I know that’s a word that’s not a lot, but, uh, you know, it is, it’s, and, and you can, you know, getting to be in my position, I, one of my favorite things about my job as a, as a coordinator and a Rover is getting to see the different levels throughout the year. And so once, you know, one level that I really love going to is that, um, you know, the, the low weight level where you’re seeing guys go through their first full season for the first time. And so, you know, there’s guys that are in there, um, you know, three weeks into the season that are hitting 400 and then they think they’ve got the league league conquered. And then the other guy that’s sitting above 50, anything, he thinks he’s getting released and it’s just three weeks in the season and then you come back and you know, then those players have flip flop numbers and then you co, you know, at the halfway point you can kind of see it in their eyes or it’s like, Holy moly, we’re just halfway there.
Kenny Graham: 00:39:49 Uh, cause they’re, cause they’re used to playing a college season or you know, a short season. Right. Um, so, you know, once that’s, that’s for me, that’s the grind. Like that’s realizing, Oh my gosh, this is a lot. So you see those older guys, you know, they’ve, they’ve been through it so many times. They’ve been through the ups and downs so many times, you know, they realize, okay, this is bigger than mentally. I need to be really, really tough. And, and being mentally prepared for the day, which goes into that. But it’s okay, this is how he mentally wanting to prepare. I’m going to physically get myself into the best position possible by being, you know, being ready and being, being, taking care of my body. Um, just because that’s, that’s, you know, I say it’s physical, but it’s the mental prep. You know, you, you understand those long bus rides along slides, you know, you’ve, you’ve had two double headers for days.
Kenny Graham: 00:40:45 He let stop this real and it happens and you’ve got to be mentally tough to physically take care of your body and to get that part of it done. Um, because, you know, are some times your, your mind, your body are saying, Hey man, don’t do anything. You’re gas, but you, you gotta be mentally tough enough to get, get up and get on that roller and do your movement prep and do all the things you need to do so that you can play in two weeks so you don’t get hurt in two weeks, you know?
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:41:10 Yeah. So a very cool, so jumping over to why we’re talking about the mentor, let’s jump over to, to hitting the hitting side of, um, Oh, you’re, you’re, you’re helping guys develop, understand who they are and, and what, where they fit and what their, their approach should be. What does that practice look like?
Kenny Graham: 00:41:41 Um, like I kind of mentioned earlier, there is that early stage of, you know, giving the guys some freedom. Um, you know, Scouts Scouts do a tremendous job with, with how much homework they do and the detail they have and, and a lot of they’re scattered reports. And so, you know, when a new player comes in, you kind of have an idea of what his strengths and weaknesses are. You know, pitch ties. He can handle, you know, if he struggles with velocity or not, they’ll give you, they’ll give you a kind of heads up on that. But you know, again, to give the, to give the players, you know, that freedom to just settle in and selves, you know, those early stages are just kind of collecting data and you know, them basically establishing who they are. So you know what that sample size looks like.
Kenny Graham: 00:42:27 It’s, it’s different for everybody. But you know, after a short season for sure after a full season, you know, you’ve got a really good sample size of what that player is. And so again, it’s identifying what they do really, really well, getting them to hold onto that, getting them to work on that, but also finding those holes, finding the weaknesses and just help them minimize that. So, you know, it could be a pitch type, it could be a, you know, a velocity of a pitch. Uh, it could be a part of this zone. It could be account. There’s, there’s, you know, the beauty of all this, there’s so much information, there’s so much data out there. That’s the exciting thing as a coach is to dig in to make sure you don’t overwhelm them with all the information because there is so much information. It’s just like we talked about with the tech, they don’t need to know every metric, you know, from a blast sensor. The players don’t need to know all of that. They’ll need to know all of the different metrics that track man is recording. They just need to know what applies to them, what they do really well. And then this is my opinion, what they, what they, you know, where pitchers are going to attack them, where their, where their holes are.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:43:34 So what have you got a guy that really over fascinated with the tack and the video and really over analyzes? How did that conversation go?
Kenny Graham: 00:43:43 Oh yeah, that’s, that’s a real conversation too. Yeah, it is. And that’s, um, you know, and that’s, again, these guys have been around the game forever, is there’s always been the overthinkers you know, that, you know, what’s wrong with my swing and what’s wrong. You know, some of my bad, what’s wrong with my cleats, you know, now data can be become the new, you know, overthink or, you know, give me all the information you’ve given, give me all this. Um, like I kind mentioned it, it basically you give them, the best way I found to do it, um, is, is to kind of generally give them all the information because they want to, they want to see it. It’s theirs, you know, it’s their information. So it’s not as an, as an organization industry, I’m not trying to hide his information. Um, but you know, I think there’s be that, that follow up conversation at the very end that’s state, you know, we’re, you, you and that player kind of identify, let’s just focus on this one thing.
Kenny Graham: 00:44:42 Let’s just focus on this one thing right now. All this stuff’s important. It all, it’s all important, but this one thing, let’s work on this for the next week, you know, and give them a time, a timeframe so that, you know, there is an end in sight so that they can, um, you know, you can have the followup conversation. Okay, how did you do sticking to that one thing? And they struggle with it. They struggle sticking to that one thing. But that’s, you know, that’s, you know, that’s kind of, it’s not just gonna, you know, you’re not gonna snap your fingers. I’m just going to be fixed. Just like a lot of things in editing. So it takes time and it takes a lot of repetition, a lot of conversations.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:45:18 Nice. Let’s talk a bad impact on the field. Um, a lead that the amateur level, a lot of kids don’t understand the, the traditional, you know, bond hit behind all that stuff. Um, can you kind of maybe talk a little bit about that part of batting practice and, and why, why in there, what did dough for it and you know, what the purpose of it?
Kenny Graham: 00:45:50 Well, I think, I think there’s two big reasons to do the, do the situational practice. Um, one, it, it, it truly does, uh, create more adjustability. It creates players that can, you know, move the baseball around and, and a barrel, the baseball at different parts of the field. Um, more important than that. I think it’s important that the, the, each plier is understanding that you are trying to win a baseball game. Right? Ultimately, no matter what level you’re at, you were trying to [inaudible] when that baseball game and if, and if players can, can understand that the best players I’ve ever seen, the best hitters I’ve ever seen, you know, they’re the in practice and in the game there, they were good situational leaders because they made that the focus. And so what made them good players is not, he was a good player. Good. He’s a good situation to hitter.
Kenny Graham: 00:46:47 Not necessarily. I’m not saying that. My point is that they didn’t get caught up in themselves as much, so they didn’t get caught up in, I’ve got to do that. I’m moved for three, I’ve got to, I’ve gotta hit a, you know, I gotta get a base hit here rather than the guy that’s a good player. That’s a good hitter. He’s over three. There’s a guy at second base with nobody out in the tie ball game and the night, his only concern is getting the guy over. And then what happens? Like I get a base hit, you know, cause he’s not thinking, am I getting it? They said he’s just thinking about the things that he should be thinking about getting, get pushed ahead, you know, driving the baseball for the team. So in the practice with the, with those things, I think that those two, those two reasons are the big ones to do it.
Kenny Graham: 00:47:29 And you know, it is for younger guys, you do see them, um, you know, manipulate their swing and it ended as tough for some younger guys to get a guy over and practice some of that stuff and doing it the right way. But that’s, that’s where we come in. That’s where we as coaches have to be verbal and we, you know, if a guy’s carbon balls to, you know, hidden 72 hop ground balls to the second baseman to get a guy over. That’s not necessarily what we’re looking for. You know, we’re just using that example, you know, learner, it’s like a base nobody out. We always tell guys, Hey, you’ve got from the shortstop left shoulder to the right field line. It’s a lot of death, a lot of area to work with. So get a good pitch to hit and get off your a swing and barrel the baseball, get the job done, you know? So that’s, and that’s, that’s the coaching men, it’s in those conversations on different for, for every player.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:48:20 Yeah, no, you’re right. I think, uh, the, the explaining cause I get a lot of kids, Hey, my coach wants me to do this, but I don’t know. I, I don’t know why. You know, and, and then when you explain it to them, they’re like, Oh, okay, well that makes sense. So I think play or they’re very receptive. If you explain to them what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and then they’ll, they’ll work hard for you to try to figure it out.
Kenny Graham: 00:48:44 Yeah. Yup. You’re right.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:48:47 So, um, you know, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but kind of wrapping up. Okay. Awesome. Awesome. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit more on the hitting side. So the, when a her going through a slump, um, this, the, the, and expanding, there’s cleaning up bad pitches. Um, what’s the, what’s, you know, their mind in the wrong place right there. There’s a whole lot of things that go into that. How do you, um, you know, have the conversation and getting the guy, it did probably where less is more how, how do we have those conversations? Because some players want to hear some player, don’t, some player didn’t want to get away from everyone. If I’m player want to over analyze it. So what’s the balance? What do we, what, what should happen or what, and I know everybody different. Um, but what do you think?
Kenny Graham: 00:49:46 Well, I think every time I started that conversation with those guys, uh, you know, cause it, you see their body language, their work, everything just shows they’re not feeling good about what they’re doing. The way I tried to start it, sometimes it makes guys mad, but I said, I’ll go tell him, Hey, you know what the great thing about right now is, and I’d be like, what? I didn’t tell him you’re about to get really hot because it’s, you know, it’s the law of averages. You know, guys aren’t going to be cold the whole year and you know, I partially say it just to kind of lighten the mood and just say, Hey man, this is for the game. You know, there’s ups and downs but you know the best hitters, they just minimize those times of being down and, and you know, my explanation and then what I try to get those guys and really all players to understand is that, you know, there, there are the ups and downs of the game.
Kenny Graham: 00:50:40 If you want to look at certain statistics, if you’re going to look at your batting average, yeah it’s going to go up and down. But you really do not have control over your batting average, right? You can control some pitches you swing at, you can control whether you’re making consistent quality contact with the baseball. Those are things you can control when you get a hit or not. You know, especially with shifts now and everything that’s going on in the game and you know, as detailed as in resources, defenses are and pitchers, it’s really hard to get ahead. So, you know, control the things that you can control. And are you doing those things? Are you controlling the strikes on, are you making quality contact? And you know, just kind of getting them back into that mind, that mindset of okay, you know, control what you can control.
Kenny Graham: 00:51:23 Um, and, and ultimately, you know, sticking with that so that mentally you’re not going up and down throughout the years, you know, when, when you’re having the quote unquote downtimes, you know, what’s happening, what can you learn from that? Um, I tell guys, especially, you know, younger guys that you’d have that first tough year, that really, you know, first Tufts spent, whether it’s a month or a half a season or, and it is sometimes a year for guys that are, you know, very, very good hitters. Um, I, I’ve had players that absolutely dominated the minor leagues and just raked the entire time, uh, didn’t have a whole lot of those tough moments and those, those growing moments. And then when I got to the big leagues and had that first over 16, it, they never, they never were quite the same. They never really responded and they never really came back for him.
Kenny Graham: 00:52:18 Cause that’s, you know, that’s them going through those, those growing pains at, on the biggest stage, you know, 40,000 people in the stands, don’t know if you’re going to get a sit down, call back up, you know, this, those are, those are really tough battles for, for, you know, a young man in the big leagues. Um, so those guys that go through it in the minor leagues are going to go through college and all that. That’s, you know, that’s, that’s how do you handle it? How are you going to process what’s happening? Are you going to, and, and, and, you know, just be upset and, you know, like you said, everybody’s going to handle it different. You know, some guy may need to just go spend some time alone and if that’s what is going to get him out of it, I’m gonna let him go do it.
Kenny Graham: 00:52:57 Um, you know, there’s, there’s the guys that you don’t see him as much, but the guys that are just going bang it out in the cage, you know, if that’s how they need to get out of it, then okay, let’s, what can we do to, you know, get you right mentally. Because most of the time they want to say, what’s wrong with my swing was what am I doing wrong? Hey Juan, you either getting really unlucky or you’re, you’re chasing pitches out, striking on, like you said, once you start chasing those hits, then you started pitches and, and uh, you know, it’s a vicious cycle sometimes.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:53:30 And you know, the get into mind rye part to that, that the hard part could get that. No, I mean, lead put the younger kids that I work with, um, you know, high school, college range, they, uh, you start asking, Hey, what are you thinking? And uh, a lot of them really had never really had been approach as that question is, what are you thinking when you’re in the box? And a lot of time they’re way off on what they’re thinking. So what, uh, what, you know, for you and the guy that you work with, what, how do you, what, what are, what are they thinking about? What should they be thinking about? What should they not be thinking about
Kenny Graham: 00:54:07 that? Jen has a great question because, you know, as coaches, we’ve always said, you know, Hey, when you’re hot, you’re not thinking about anything. You know, that’s, that’s how it goes. Um, but it’s not necessarily that when, when we were out as editors, um, or when our players are high, it’s not that they’re not thinking about anything. Their thoughts are simple. They’re there, they’re on task. They’re, they’re what they need to be thinking about. So it doesn’t appear to be that in their own way. They’re not thinking about anything. When you’re hot, all you’re thinking about is though that thing up here. And if it’s in a strike and almost smash it, that’s know when you’re hot, that’s what you’re thinking. Right? So you don’t think you’re thinking about anything. I wasn’t thinking about nothing, you know? No. You, you, your posture with simple, they’re not concerned with, Oh my gosh, I’m, Oh for 20.
Kenny Graham: 00:54:58 Oh my gosh, it is on fires behind the play, man. He is, you know, he’s terrible back there. I might as well put two strikes on me right now. And then, you know, you’re not thinking about the 90 form on our fastball that you have competing in, you know, the thoughts get so distracted from the most important thing that baseball and you know, that’s like, I think you just said it, but it’s, that’s what I’ll ask guys all the time saying, you know, not as much what are you thinking, but Hey, what are you seeing up there?
Kenny Graham: 00:55:29 And the guys that are really frustrated, it’s like, I can’t see anything. I can, he’s hiding it and they’re frustrated. You know, it’s tough warm, but it’s, but it’s like see the baseball man. And I know that’s very general, but you know, it kinda gets them to, to see the baseball. I had, um, I was very fortunate to get to coach Kevin Polara in the minor leagues. He’s, uh, you know, with the blue Jays for many years, and, uh, this past year with the giants. But, uh, when he, he, when he’d really be struggling seeing the ball and, you know, having a tough day at the plate, he would go and he would just, he would just take pitches and it was Jeff, he was amazed. This kid is amazing and he’s, he’s the most mentally tough hitter I’ve ever been around. But he’d get up there and he’d just track a pitch, strike one, track another pitch, strike two, and look in the dugout and just start smiling.
Kenny Graham: 00:56:20 And it’s like, what? What are you smiling man? You’re an OTU cow. But he, he, you know, his thoughts were so simple. He’s like, okay, I can see the ball now. And then, you know, a pitch or two later, I was like, whack, double in the gap. Like, wow, that’s, you know, that’s, that’s taking things, slowing them down and saying, okay, I’m going to, I’m going to give this guy a couple pitches, even get to the no to cow, but I’m gonna be, that’s gonna put me in the best position to compete into, you know, when the at bat. So,
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:56:52 yeah. And it could be, it could be optical stuff too. You know, kid parents get divorce or dad goes to prison or, you know, a test coming up. I mean, it could be, it could be anything.
Kenny Graham: 00:57:07 Yeah. No, you’re, you’re so right about that. And Jeff, honestly, as probably a lot of times that more than anything else even, you know, and we’re finding now more and more just with as much, you know, science and research that’s in the game is, you know, how a guy sleeps the night before, even if things are going great in his life, if he just has a tough night’s sleep and you may have a tough day at the play.
Geoff Rottmayer: 00:57:29 Yeah. Yeah. Easy. How about, how about traveling? You know, the, the long bus rides, uh, this is where the, the, the mental toughness comes in. Um, the kid that are just coming out, maybe, maybe a kid and you know, let’s, let’s say you, you do have a kid that’s kind of on the bubble. He knows he’s getting ready to leave. You got power. Know that, um, you know, that’s all he thinking about and then it’s not helping him. Um, what, what are those conversations like? Because we had that every level really, if you think about it at every level, we had the kid that, okay, I’m not going to play because I’m not hitting or you know, or I’m going to get cut, whatever. Throw what that conversation. Right? Yeah. Everybody knows it. Everybody know, the coach knows it. Everybody knows it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kenny Graham: 00:58:17 And they are. That’s those, those are, those are really tough conversations to have because what I found and from my, my experience of doing it wrong, trying to, you know, fluff the conversation a little bit, the in those tough moments and, and the, and the players may not take a great, and they may be a little upset with you at the time, but just pure honesty with them at to, you know, in that moment it goes a long way, man. And, and it is, it’s a really hard conversation. It’s, it’s a lot of forcing, you know, the player to look in the mirror and evaluate things and, and, um, you know, we evaluate what’s going on, um, to, to help find them next step for them, you know, because like you said, those, those are real situations. And those conversations actually unfortunately happen a lot.
Kenny Graham: 00:59:10 Um, but it’s just a matter of, okay, this is the reality. What can we do? What, what do we, what do we need to do that’s gonna give us, give you the best opportunity to and to, you know, I, and I hate saying, you know, keep your job in a ball or keep your job and even double or triple aides. If you’re not playing professional baseball to, to, to move up and to get to the big leagues, then, you know, I think you’re in it for the wrong reasons. So, you know, those conversations are, okay, what do we need to adjust? What do we need to change that’s going to help you get to the big leagues and stay there? And so that’s, you know, you know, even though the, the front office and the manager and the hitting coach, like you set the player, everybody knows that. Well, unless you start, you know, hidden, hidden a lot, you know, this is going to be it. Um, it’s just kind of having that man to man conversation that, uh, you know, something’s got to change. Something’s, something’s gotta be adjusted.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:00:09 Yeah. What about the guy who comes in? He a first rounder, threw a lot of money at them. Expectations are really, really high. Um, a lot of times these kids are a little bit more mentally topper, but then there’s some that are not. Um, how do you help manage expectations? The expectations I think is a killer. So how do you help guide and manage expectations?
Kenny Graham: 01:00:38 Yeah, well I would say to a certain extent, um, whether you got $4 million or whether you got, you know, $4,000, uh, you were probably the best player on the team or in your area. You know, up until that point you get to professional baseball. Most of these guys, at least some of the college guys, maybe not so much, but um, you know, all these kids can play. So there are expectations and, and there are a lot of young players that, you know, get their tail kicked in at the rookie ball level. It’s kind of like, Whoa, wait a minute. You know, I wasn’t expecting this. Um, so, you know, from my perspective, you know, because I’ve seen, you know, first rounders, you get a lot of money, you know, fizzle away. I’ve seen, you know, the Kevin polars of the world. You know, 42nd round around, it doesn’t even exist anymore, you know, make it to the big leagues and have a successful career.
Kenny Graham: 01:01:32 You know, everybody’s got a chance, everybody’s got expectations, but their expectations have to be of what they expect of themselves. And, and it’s really tougher these days just, you know, from, from social media and, and we find it a lot where, uh, there’s so much, there’s so much, um, media on the, so you know, on social media that, you know, these younger players that are the star of their team that are the star, their area, you know, they, they, they’re getting pumped every day and that becomes part of that player self esteem. It really does. And it’s, and it’s not their fault. That’s just what’s happening there. They’re seeing their name in print all the time because it’s easier. Um, so once they get to professional baseball and they’re seeing their name in print, maybe, you know, then they’re the, you know, 50th ranked prospect in their system.
Kenny Graham: 01:02:23 It’s like, wow, I’m the 50th best player and just in our system. And then in all the baseballs, they’re not even on that list, let alone, you know, every game. They’re not getting the, the pub on social media, um, as much as they were when they’re younger because they were, you know, dominating every game when they were younger. It’ll happen every once in a while, but, uh, you know, especially for rookie ball guys and you know, they’re grinding out an extended, it’s pretty training or the GCL JACL, you know, those, those games that aren’t, uh, aren’t covered really. So it’s a little bit tougher. There is even more. So, uh, it’s just a matter of, you know, that’s part of that, that those initial conversations when guys come into the organization, like we were talking about earlier with routines, um, you know, explaining that stuff to them, you know, it’s [inaudible] kids are 18, 19 years old.
Kenny Graham: 01:03:13 It’s going to be four or five years for them. You know, the, the Mike trouts and the Bryce Harpers and the Sotos, you know, these guys, they only come around so often. Um, you know, for the rest of us, you know, and for the rest of the normal, uh, an average, you know, statistically speaking, the average players, it’s going to take them several years. So, um, it’s just a matter of teaching them this is what makes you a successful player and being able to measure that which is of the beauty of where we’re at with the game and show them on a daily basis and get them to, you know, get them to set goals according to what true success, controlling his own, making system, quality, hard contact, those sorts of things that, you know, as a coach and as an organization, you can, you can pub them every day. You can take [inaudible] care of them every day and helping them improve that to, you know, give them those, those feel good feelings that they, they hadn’t in a different way as a younger player.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:04:11 What do you think happened whenever a guy goes from an organization struggles, you know, not really figured it out, go to another organization and NGO and blossoms. What, what, what’s happening there?
Kenny Graham: 01:04:27 Yeah, no, that’s, that’s a very real thing. And I think, I think there’s a, there’s a couple of things that can happen. One, you know, new opportunities is very real. So, you know, players do get stale as much as you know, as much as you try to challenge guys and, and, um, you know, throw different things at them and, and challenge them individually. And, you know, as, as a player, um, you know, going to a new organization, it is a fresh start. So, you know, most of those guys that do kind of blossom as you say, which is, which is the right way to putting it, you know, they kind of like grow up, they take the experiences that they’ve had with other organizations and then it is that fresh start. It’s new faces. It’s, you know, there’s, there’s no bias there, uh, with the new staffs or anything.
Kenny Graham: 01:05:16 So it’s a fresh start and it’s almost like, you know, a do over. It’s like playing a video game and push and reset. But you, but you got, you’ve got years of experience, sometimes you get years of experience to help you go from there. Um, there, there are other players that, um, you know, do get challenged with different information and different ways of collecting in different ways of, um, showing it, you know, as, as much as there’s, you know, basically 30 data driven organizations now in baseball. Um, you know, we all do it differently. You know, just, just being with my third organization now, uh, I’ve been fortunate enough to be with some, some relatively progressive organizations and, and um, you know, we’ve, they’ve all done it differently and I can’t say if it’s better or worse, it’s just different because there are different minds. Um, collecting it and, and I’m putting it all together and, and uh, you know, obviously no one is sharing, so you can’t do that. You’ve gotta be creative and people are creative with numbers and, uh, the different ways to display and, and so, you know, sometimes that the new way of displaying things or, you know, the teams that have advantages and are a little more deep into the data driven, um, research and information. You know, sometimes they’ve got better information. Just, that’s, that’s more cutting edge and you know, that helps players too. So
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:06:43 what do you, what do you see the, uh, what, what the future of the game, you know, you know, if you listen to the old school guy, they, they hate it. Um, you look at a new goal, guys, you know, they love where it’s gone. So, and poly Bentleigh though that way forever. You know, the, the old school guys who take the weight and the game going, but the game’s gone where it’s gone. Whether it’s right or wrong at the relevant it, it’s gone, where to go. And what, what do you see? What do you, what do you, what are you seeing that going to be happening here in the games?
Kenny Graham: 01:07:13 That’s another great question, Jeff. And I wish I could answer. Um, I will say, um, I’ll agree with you that, you know, the old school versus new school, I think that’s been a, um, unfortunate battle forever. Um, but, you know, for me, and I think the, the, the, the guys that are going to, you know, be able to stick around and, and, and, you know, push the game farther are the guys that, you know, it’s not really old school versus new school. It’s combining what the old school guys had experienced and what they’ve done in a game because it’s super important. It’s vital information, you know, and a lot of these guys that, uh, you know, that actually, you know, dug in and, and, and got in the box and played in world series and, and did, you know, amazing things in the game. Guys like myself, I don’t have that experience.
Kenny Graham: 01:08:05 I can’t tell a player what that’s like. Right. Those guys can. And, and that’s, that’s, that’s really important. Um, and we can’t lose, lose track of that. Um, but the game is, and, and with the data and everything that’s out there, um, I, I feel that it’s truly moving with, uh, society too. And just like I kind of mentioned with some of the, you know, ways we display information to players, we’re, we’re having to teach them how they learn, not how we learned. Because that was, you know, 15, 20 years ago, you know, a lot of us, it was like, Hey, watch me do this. Now you do it. And that was coaching. That was how you coached, you know, with all the technology and these guys, you know, the players being gamified and, uh, as much interaction as they’re doing with those video games, um, we’ve got a patient that way.
Kenny Graham: 01:08:53 And so, um, you know, if you’re against it either one, I think that’s when you’re going to kind of separate yourself and, and eliminate yourself from the conversation and moving forward with the game. Because it’s, and again, it’s that conversation. Am I sitting on the fence? No. You know, I don’t have the experience of playing in the big leagues. I know that’s just the truth, right? There’s a, there’s a lot of guys that are really good coaches that have, and so, you know, those, those conversations I think, um, are important. And, and I think that’s where, um, you know, some of the, the players that are gonna be retiring here in like four or five years that are going to be kind of a hybrid of that, that, you know, did have that success at the highest level, uh, and are [inaudible] and can, can process the information and understand it. I think those guys are, those guys are going to be golden for organizations.
Geoff Rottmayer: 01:09:45 Yeah, true. What, uh, you know, so, um, all this competition meant often by the way. Um, so resources wide, but what are some of your favorite resources?
Kenny Graham: 01:10:01 Oh, um, well my, my sister growing up always pushed reading on me. She’s, she’s a teacher, she’s a reading specialist and I just didn’t love reading when I was younger. But, um, after, after, you know, just barren on me for all those years, I finally realized the importance and when I first really started coaching and realized, like I told you how little I knew, um, which my first year of coaching I was the best coach in the history of the game. Like I had it all figured out, you know, as we all, as we all do. But once I started realizing, Oh my gosh, I’m, I need to, I need to get a lot better. Um, and then you kind of realize that more and more every single year I started reading. So, um, again, there’s, there’s, there’s, you know, on Twitter there’s, there’s great resources and great people out there that push a lot of books.
Kenny Graham: 01:10:51 So I try to stay up on that. And I’ve got too many books on my bookshelf right now that, um, I just hadn’t gotten caught up on. But reading’s important to me because it’s, it is, it’s different, um, perspectives of whether it is a kinesiology book or if it’s a, um, a motivational book or, you know, a Bruce Lee book or, um, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s all these different resources and she can pull different things from, uh, that I feel like helps me be a more well rounded coach. And, and that’s ultimately what I’m trying to do is, is, you know, get to as many players as possible, not just try to get to only the data-driven guys. I’m trying to get the guys that, you know, enjoy classical music or, you know, like the paint and then I’m trying to like, you know, get to the guys that, uh, you know, listen the Proctor, you know, heavy metal and like the, like the drive, they’re Harley around yo or whatever.
Kenny Graham: 01:11:49 There’s a lot of different perspectives of people and, and, um, I think books are a great way to, to, to do that. Um, obviously internally, you know, which I can’t get in too much internally. We have love for resources with the tigers, um, which, which are very helpful and, and, um, you know, it kind of helps make sense out of all the, all the madness that we collect and, and some of the information. Um, but, uh, I, the short answer, I guess books and, and Twitter are two things that I really rely on a lot. Awesome. One last question. If you were interviewing yourself, what would you add? That, I didn’t know, you know, I knew you were going to ask you this question myself to prepare for it, but uh, but I didn’t, um, well I just gave you, it gave you the my resources answer.
Kenny Graham: 01:12:44 So, um, a follow up question I probably would have asked is, is what is your favorite book to that question? Yeah. And, and my answer would have been the, the Tao of Jeet Kun DOE by my Bruce Lee. Um, as I read it several years ago, I grew up watching Bruce Lee movies with my brothers and, and um, I as an older, when I got older, started reading, I read it and I just started finding like so many similarities to baseball and just even though the on guard dance, you know, where you can attack, defend or counter punch, know that’s, that was, that’s hitting man, that’s attack. That’s, that’s where your, your swing, your be aggressive on that. You’re being aggressive in that fastball. The, the defense where you’re taking that breaking ball in the dirt and the counter punch, that’s when you’re sitting fastball to be hangs a breaking ball and you counter punch. And, and smash that thing. And, um, Bruce was just really, really ahead of his time as far as, you know, mentally thinking, being, you know, uh, a collector of thoughts really, and, and philosopher and, and, um, you know, him, him, I think especially now the way he thought of, of, you know, just as mantra of the, of G condo or it’s used no way as way have no limitation as limitation, I think is just, it’s super applicable to baseball now and, and then, you know, it’s something that we can all take a lot from.
Kenny Graham: 01:14:11 Well, Kenny, I really appreciate your time. It’s been fun.
New Speaker: 01:14:16 No thanks man. This is, this is, this has been tremendous, Jeff, and I love your shows, man. They’re great. Awesome. Thank you.
Tagged as: Hitting.
Geoff Rottmayer is the owner of Athletic Mission Baseball Academy, a training facility in Tulsa Oklahoma. Geoff also host The Baseball Awakening Podcast, which was developed to provide content to the baseball community straight from the source. In addition that that, Geoff, is helping coaches and professional start their own podcast and find their own voice.
Geoff Rottmayer March 16, 2020
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