Several reporters are in Bradenton this week, covering the Pirates’ minor league camp that’s titled “Get Better at Baseball.”
I kind of thought that title might be a bit of a joke when Pirates’ farm director John Baker mentioned it in September. However, the team went with that self-explanatory title, t-shirts and all.
Alex Stumpf has a good write-up from the group interview with Baker, looking at how the organization will focus on getting better at baseball.
A key quote that stood out from the article was this:
“The intention is to show the players that we think that they’re people that play baseball and not just baseball players,” Baker said. “I think it’s all been successful.”
The “people that play baseball, not just baseball players” trend is something I’ve noticed throughout the system this year.
In the past, there would be strict dress codes, almost military drill-like scheduling for baseball drills, and very little signs of players having fun.
This year, the Bradenton team was one of the most lively groups in celebrating team accomplishments on the field. The Greensboro group was decked out in Wu-Tang shirts, tossing a football around the field on the first day that I saw them. It wasn’t much different in Altoona.
The Pirates are using a new buzzword for the old approach of continuous improvement. The new word is Kaizen, which is Japanese for “continuous improvement.” In the past, the doors of Pirate City had signs hanging over them, telling the players to improve a fraction of 1% each day.
Both messages lead to the same destination, with obvious differences in the pitch. The goal for any farm system should be continuous improvement with their prospects. The Pirates have yet to implement a system where that carries over to the big leagues.
I feel that their more relaxed atmosphere, combined with giving players opportunities in the majors before the norm, might help improve their future results in developing big league players.