Last week, some of the best and brightest young arms in the Texas Rangers' farm system made their way to Arlington to participate in a mini-camp with new major league pitching coach Mike Maddux. I recently asked rising pitching prospects Michael Main, Blake Beavan, Kasey Kiker, and Tim Murphy for their thoughts on the experience, as well as their first impressions of Maddux. Despite the similarities in their answers, I decided to reproduce their responses unfiltered in order to accurately capture their unique perspectives on the experience.
Let's get started.
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Q: First of all, can you walk me through a typical day at mini-camp?
Michael Main: We would all get up and have breakfast at the hotel around 7:30 a.m. before leaving for the stadium. From there, we would just get ready and go over our schedule for the day. Mike Maddux ran all the meetings. We would then head out onto the field around 9:15 a.m. and stretch and throw. They had us split up into two groups. One group would throw bullpen [sessions] one day, and the other group would work on running/conditioning.
We would eat lunch around 12:00 p.m. and then attend two meetings. Maddux would conduct the first meeting. He would discuss bullpen routines, etc. Then we would have our life skills meeting. For example, we would have real estate agents talk to us about buying a house or clubhouse personnel talk to us about clubhouse management. We had different people come in every day. It was cool.
Tim Murphy: We would wake up at 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. and meet downstairs for breakfast. We'd finish breakfast around 7:30 a.m. and head over to the ballpark. We would usually have about an hour to hang out and get ready for work. We would be on the field by 9:00 a.m. to stretch and throw. Half of the guys would throw Monday and Wednesday and the other half Tuesday and Thursday. After long toss, we would break up into the groups. Half would throw their bullpen [sessions], and the other half would work on their conditioning and their core work. Then you would usually come in and get your lifting done, and by then it would be pretty close to 12:00 p.m. and we would grab about an hour for lunch.
The second half of the day would be in the classroom. We would do a baseball topic for the first hour or so and then the second hour would be a life lesson. That was the day.
Kasey Kiker: We would wake up and eat breakfast at the team hotel. Then we would leave for the field. Then we would get dressed and sit in the major league clubhouse in probably the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in. We sat in front of the lockers and discussed how nice the chairs were. Then we would have a quick pitchers' meeting with Mike Maddux and the other coaches. Then we would go out and stretch. I threw a bullpen [session] on Monday and then every other day. We would do our running and our bands and our long toss.
Then we would have more meetings. Basically, we were just getting to know Maddux. We had meetings in different rooms all over the clubhouse. We were in the media room and we would work on our interview skills -- how to prepare for interviews and what questions [the reporters] are going to ask. I met T.R. Sullivan. T.R. is a really great guy. He had me rollin'.
On our throwing day, we would watch the video of our bullpen [sessions]. We had to go on our little journey to find the media room. Mainly, we learned about the big league lifestyle and what we will run into in the future; stuff I hope I run into in the future. That would be great.
Blake Beavan: At 9 a.m. we would have our first meeting and we would go over our schedule for the day. We would go over bullpen assignments and all of that. Then we would hit the field and stretch until 9:30 a.m. or so. Then we would throw, run and do our abdominal workouts. If we didn't have to throw that day, we would come back inside and do more workouts. Then we would have meetings until lunch. After lunch, we would have a classroom session where we would talk about pitching in the big leagues and what to expect. After that, we would have life meetings and discuss how to buy a house and buy insurance and stuff. They wanted to inform us about what to expect when you become a major leaguer, like paying clubhouse dues and tipping people.
Q: What did you think of new major league pitching coach Mike Maddux?
Michael Main: I thought he was a great guy. He was really funny and he told a lot of jokes. Very personable guy. I know that I'm a young guy and not really close to the big leagues, but I felt like I could talk to him about things. He is a really good fit for the organization.
Tim Murphy: Great guy. Funny. Seemed very knowledgeable about pitching.
Kasey Kiker: I think he's a great guy. One of the most intelligent people I've ever met. Really funny. I respond to funny and smart, not all serious all the time. I even saw [team president] Nolan [Ryan] crack a smile in those meetings. You see Nolan sitting over there and he's all serious but then you would see him crack a smile.
Blake Beavan: He's a funny guy. Always trying to make someone laugh. Very easy to get along with. Very goofy.
Q: Did Maddux discuss his pitching philosophies with you and how they will trickle down to the farm?
Michael Main: We talked a lot about pitching in general and what we are going to be about as an organization.
Tim Murphy: Definitely. Fundamental stuff. He wants us to get ahead of hitters with first-pitch strikes. You have to be able to own your fastball. You have to have fastball command. The roots of pitching. You have to let your defense work behind you. As far as conditioning, he definitely wants to bring back long toss. He wants to implement long toss into all of our throwing programs -- something that we really didn't do before. He wants to get back to the basics.
Kasey Kiker: He wants to stress long toss. He also wants us to go deeper into games. He said that he was tired of us saying 100 pitches and we're done. He said if it takes 130 pitches to finish the game, then we're going to throw 130 pitches to finish the game. He said the hitters will tell us when we are done.
Blake Beavan: He said he wants to see everybody in shape and ready to pitch in spring training. Conditioning was a big part of everything.
Q: Were the bullpen sessions competitive? Were you throwing with full intensity?
Michael Main: No. For most of us it was our first or second time on a mound this off-season. They told us to take it easy and that we weren't trying to make the team in January.
Q: I heard some pitchers were able to throw their bullpen [sessions] off of the actual mound. What was that like?
Michael Main: We pitched all of our bullpen [sessions] off of the actual mound. It was a really cool atmosphere. I got to speak with several major league players, as well as the big league coaching staff. It allowed me to see things and experience things that I will see when I finally get up to the major leagues. It really helped out the younger guys so that we aren't so shell-shocked when we do make it up. It was a good week.
Tim Murphy: I was definitely honored. It showed me that pitching on that mound represents a different lifestyle. It was something you have to see. It was a privilege and I hope to do it again next year.
Kasey Kiker: Let me try to explain this. It was a great feeling. My spikes really dug in the dirt. It was weird because I would throw all of my pitches and I would look down and there wouldn't be a hole. I'm not used to that. I'm used to something being wrong. I'm usually looking for something to be wrong like a rock or a huge hole. I looked down and it was like I had just started. It was perfect.
I'll go even further. I'll say that before I even got to the mound, before I even got to the clubhouse, pulling up in the parking [lot] is when I realized this is where I want to be. I looked over and saw [Kevin] Millwood's car and I was blown away. In the clubhouse, there are flat-screen televisions everywhere. You could see Josh Hamilton's locker with a brand new red jersey hanging in it and that just blew me away. It made me say that I'm really going to bust it because this is where I want to be. This isn't [High-A] Bakersfield.
Blake Beavan: It was fun. The whole experience makes you want to work hard so that you can get back up there. I can only imagine what it would be like during the season.
Q: Who made up the coaching staff?
Michael Main: All of the pitching coaches were there: Mike Maddux, [bullpen coach] Andy Hawkins, [minor league pitching coordinator] Danny Clark. Basically all of the coaches from all of the minor league affiliates were there. [Manager] Ron Washington was there every day. [Director of player development] Scott Servais was there. He basically ran the mini-camp along with Maddux.
Q: What was Nolan's role at the mini-camp? Was he heavily involved?
Tim Murphy: Nolan was there. He watched every bullpen [session] every single day. He was also usually around for the classroom sessions. He would occasionally talk to guys after they came off of the mound. He would give us tips.
Q: What were the classroom situations like?
Kasey Kiker: Everybody was zoned in. Mike Maddux would be really serious and then bust out some of the funniest stuff you've ever heard. He stressed first-pitch strikes. We would go around the room and give the nicknames for out pitches. He made us feel very involved and very important to the organization.