Monday, March 2, 2009

Allowing players to see the human side of their coach

Saw where Yankees manager Joe Girardi, borrowing a page from NY Giants coach Tom Coughlin's team chemistry playbook, recently "surprised his players with an impromptu field trip, loading more than 60 players and the entire coaching staff on a bus and heading for a Tampa-area pool hall."

Girardi "wanted to reward his players for their hard work with a day off from camp, and in the process, allow them to get to know each other in a non-baseball setting."

According to this story in the NY Daily News, "People familiar with the Giants said those events not only helped players grow closer but, more importantly, allowed them to observe a human side of Coughlin that had not previously been seen. For Girardi, who often carried a drill sergeant label with him during his first year in the manager's office, a little good will can't hurt."

"I've never been on a team that did something like this before, but I often wondered why," Girardi said. "There are a lot of other sports that do these types of things; get away from the park, enjoy each other off the field like you do on the field and get to know each other. Every year that you're here as a manager, you want to have more and more knowledge about your players and their personalities. You want to feel closer in a sense to your players so that you can read between the lines most of the time."

Listening to Yankee players, the experience made a real impact on the team.

Mark Teixeira said it was "probably the most fun I've ever had in spring training in my whole career."

Said Johnny Damon: "Today is one of those days that, as a ballplayer, you'll never forget. I don't think any team has ever really done this. It's a day I'll never forget. It says a lot about Joe. He knows we've been working hard and he rewarded us with a day off. For Joe to let us take a day off from practice like that, it makes you want to work even harder for him. I think everybody had a great time."