Relaxation Keys Breakout For A's Crocker
Sometimes, a ballplayer can just try too hard.
From the time Bobby Crocker
signed with the Athletics after being their
fourth-round pick in 2011 out of Cal Poly, he worked so hard and played
with such intensity that he often lost the looseness needed to thrive on
the baseball field.
"He was a very intense player that never really freed up to let his
muscles to react, to be free and easy as a hitter," farm director Keith
Lieppman said. "He sometimes got locked into his swing and didn't react
to the late movement (of the pitch)."
That started changing at instructional league last year. "He learned to
breathe, to react and trust his swing," Lieppman said. "He made huge
adjustments; I think that's one of the hardest adjustments a hitter has
The A's will be most excited to see how the newly relaxed Crocker
thrives this year. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he is big, strong and fast,
with a good feel for defense in the outfield. He plays center
effectively, but probably profiles best in left because his arm grades
out as average. Crocker hit .268/.347/.369 with 109 strikeouts and 39
walks in 406 at-bats with low Class A Burlington last season.
Crocker viewed instructs as "an awesome opportunity."
"I basically just worked on my mentality at the plate," he said. "I
figured out that doing less is more. It was pretty hard for me to make
that adjustment; it was hard to realize that my style of play was
getting in the way of my approach at the plate."
Crocker, 25, said he learned to try not to think too much in the
batter's box; to relax and focus on the pitch and not let his mind go
astray. "I'm trying to keep my mind simple and take a consistent path to
the ball every time."
The Cal Poly alum has also learned not to let one mistake compound into
another. "I would have a bad at-bat, then I would go up and try harder
to make up for it, and that's when I would get into trouble."
Lieppman said hitting coach Todd Steverson saw the problems and helped
with the changes. "He (Crocker) made that adjustment and learned to take
it into games. It's a remarkable change, and it's so hard, especially
for intense people. He has a newfound freedom."
• Outfielder Michael Taylor
started working out at first base, in what
he hopes will provide another opportunity. Lieppman said that coach Greg
Sparks made the suggestion in January, and Taylor enthusiastically
• Outfielder Shane Peterson
was the talk of the early weeks of spring
training. He had a breakthrough year in 2012, reaching Triple-A, and he
appeared to be putting himself in position for a callup should a need
arise, Lieppman said.