Feb. 25, 2010GIANTS PAGEGIANTS VIDEO
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. If you think players work hard at spring training, you should see what kind of time the coaches put in. Theyre the first to show up in the morning and typically the last to leave.This is their busiest and most important time of year; once the season starts, the amount of actual coaching -- more specifically, teaching -- is minimal. Here is where they refine everybodys fundamentals, help individuals make any necessary adjustments in their game, and set the work-ethic tone for the marathon to come.During the season, coaches are basically in maintenance mode, keeping their troops sharp during the limited work time before each game. During the game, they assume roles just like the players.Third-base coach Tim Flannery has one of the most important in-game jobs on the Giants coaching staff; hes the guy who has to make the split-second, high-profile decisions -- stop or try to score -- that can be the difference between winning and losing.His job at spring training is awfully big, too, though, as evidenced by a scene I observed and a conversation I had with Flannery in the Giants dugout at Scottsdale Stadium.The scene -- part of which you can see in my flip-cam home videos for the day -- played out on the main diamond, some 45 minutes before the start of the full-squad workout. Flannery, well into his workday at about 9:15 in the morning, was on the mound feeding a pitching machine. Rotating in and out of the cage were Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, Nate Schierholtz and Kevin Frandsen.Early hitting? Nope. Early bunting, and Flannery is the designated bunting instructor. Torres, Velez, Schierholtz and Frandsen are the fastest players on a generally slow roster, and the Giants need to take advantage of that speed whenever possible.None of the aforementioned four has a starting job locked down, but Schierholtz is the obvious frontrunner in right field. Torres likely will end up as a backup in the outfield, Frandsen is trying to win a job as a utility infielder, and Velez will play all over the field.As bench players, theyll be key to the Giants success this year, and Flannery needs to make sure each of them can consistently play small ball.Thats not all Flannery does here. He throws batting practice every day, hes the baserunning instructor, and he hits fungoes -- ground balls -- throughout the day. He hits a lot of fungoes. I was wondering exactly how many hes hit in his 15 years as a coach, so I asked him when he stopped to get a drink of water while I was working in the dugout. "You know, I figured it out one day, a rough estimate," he told me. "I figure I hit about 44,000 ground balls a year."Multiplied by 15 seasons, that equals 660,000 fungoes. If he stays in coaching, that means hell pass the million mark at some point in 2017."Thats why," Flannery said with a smile before running back onto the field for more work, "we all get double shots of cortisone the day we get here every spring."--Mychael Urban
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