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What in the Hell are the Pirates doing with their instructional League players?

Sep 21, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT


Craziness coming out of Pittsburgh. Dejan Kovacevic is reporting that Pirates Instructional League players are training like Navy SEALS down in Florida. Much to their chagrin and possibly to their developmental detriment.

Kovacevic reported this last Friday, but today he has more, including an email from Pirates Assistant General Manager Kyle Stark, who is the apparent architect of this regimen. The email, sent to Pirates personnel back in June, was obtained by Kovacevic and it is … strange, with talk of “swagger,” “reckless abandon,” “turning boys into men,” creating “Hells Angels” and “pushing players beyond their comfort zones, putting them in risky situations.” It ends with him saying “HOKA HEY — It’s a good day to die!!!”

Kovacevic then details the training — three days of military style drills — which includes the following schedule:

• Wake up at 5 a.m.

• Organize room/locker

• Pushups and sit-ups

• Serpentine on the grass

• Crab walk

• Running along the beach with a telephone-type pole, carried by five or six players

• Pushing a truck tire through the outfield for 90 feet, then flipping it

• Being sprayed by a hose

• Diving into a sand pile

All with a drill sergeant barking orders throughout.

Sounds a little — no, a lot intense for baseball players. Especially given that this Stark guy has no military background and, based on what Kovacevic says, isn’t otherwise a physical training expert himself.

Jeff Passan has some followup on this, and he notes that, according to his sources, Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a knee injury doing this stuff.  It is a training program that many in the organization despise and many around baseball are mocking.

Crazy stuff. I’d expect to hear more about this as the Pirates season comes to a thudding, dispiriting end.

  1. danaking - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Oh. My. God. This may be the worst news about the Pirates season I’ve heard yet.

  2. redguy12588 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    I deserve to get paid to root for this franchise.

    • wingslax35 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      That is an awesome reply!

    • ajcardsfan - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      Or at least free beer

  3. willclarkgameface - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    You know what…

    I kinda like this. It seems like the Pirates on the whole have ZERO stamina. They need to get their asses in shape and ready for 162 games.

    Does Strasburg’s doctor have an opinion on this or will Rizzo just say that it’s pointless and shut the whole thing down because they’re not insured properly for military activity?

    • crpls - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Will Clark fans everywhere beg you to remove willclark from your username as you are clearly an embarrassment to such a name. Thanks!

      • Reflex - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        I just get a kick out of him apparently not knowing the difference between the Pirates and the Nationals…

        Will Clark would never make that mistake!

      • realgone2 - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        Actually I think Will may have a point.

    • paperlions - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      Let’s see….Pirates doing dumb shit = good = < .500 record for 20th straight year.

      …and then you poke fun at the Nats shutting down Strasburg….you know, the team with the best record in baseball.

  4. sabatimus - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    What the bloody hell? April 1st is a awfully long way off for a joke like this.

  5. thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    So…the Pirates have decided the way to break out of their 20-year-slump is to train their players to literally kill the opposing team? Call me upright, but that seems terribly unsportsmanlike.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      It’s also possible that we may instead just see the Pirates players crab-walking to first after a base hit and spraying each other with hoses willy-nilly all game.

      I suppose it’s a small price to pay for the promise of a very tidy lockeroom.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        spraying each other with hoses willy-nilly all game.


    • dakotah55 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      Surely you’ve heard the old line, “if you can’t beat them…kill them”

      Perhaps not. It does seem a bit extreme.

      • chadjones27 - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Old Hoss Radbourn would approve

  6. 4cornersfan - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Did they hire R. Lee Ermey to be the drill instructor? “Front lean and rest position! Give me 20!” If the Pirates start to win I can see a movie in this. Hoka Hey!

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      It’d be worth it to see Neil Walker shitting Tiffany cufflinks.

  7. soobster - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    I think this is absolutely fantastic. These drills build Teamwork, discipline, faith and trust in your team and mental toughness. Even if it is only for 3 days, the types of drills they are doing will push them to persevere beyond what they think is their limit.

    I like it. Good for the Pirates.

  8. kevinleaptrot - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    This won’t win them any ball games, but the ones that go through the training will know 17 ways to kill you with their bare hands without leaving a mark.

  9. geoknows - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    No wonder Mark Appel refused to sign with them.

  10. blacksables - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Yep, discipline and teamwork have no place on a baseball team. Not in todays world.

    Method might not be the best, but the idea is. Because the guy who slacks on his part of carrying the log is the guy who doesn’t run out ground balls, who goes on the DL becasue of a bruised eyelash, and doesn’t lay down the sacrifice when ordered to by the manager (because he’s about himself and not the team).

    That’s just how it worked in the Army. Of course, comparing baseball players to soliders is stupid. One group is given respect, admiration, and treated like heroes.

    The other group has to collect food stamps to fee thier families.

    • blacksables - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      In other words, they need to quit whining and man up. It isn’t killing them, and believer it or not, it will make them better people.

      And better teammates. Any of them who feels he is too good to do this is playing under the “Jordan Rules”.

      • pdowdy83 - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:21 PM

        I don’t believer it.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        ” Any of them who feels he is too good to do this is playing under the ‘Jordan Rules'”

        …and we all know how badly that turned out for those Bulls teams.

  11. oilcanjim - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Look, while these skills may not directly correlate on the ballfield, there’s a larger reason that the military uses training like this. Nobody carries logs in combat either, but teambuilding exercises- done well- can have positive ramifications in both battle and baseball. I’m a sox fan- and I’d love to see Josh Beckett doing situps while being yelled at by a gunny for letting the team down.

    • paulsdamnblog - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      oilcan (awesome tag btw), there’s no way Josh Beckett and his awesome chin hair would ever do those sit ups. He may however ask the gunny to pass the bucket of KFC and a beer to him.

  12. kevinbnyc - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    You hear guys using non-traditional training methods to train for other sports all the time. It keeps things fresh and keeps guys from getting complacent. Sure, carrying a log on a beach is hard and a guy could get hurt, but a superstar closer got hurt this year shagging fly balls which is pretty freakin routine. Just because baseball isn’t as physical of a sport as football doesn’t mean we need to coddle and baby the players.

  13. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    This actually looks like a perfect way to prepare and get ready.

    For American Ninja Warrior, that is.

  14. JB (the original) - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Reminds me of the Les Steckel “year” as head coach of the Vikings. After going 8-8 in 1983 he was going to light a fire under the players by having a “boot camp”, with disastrous results. Team (essentially unchanged from the year before) went 3-13

  15. chumthumper - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Can’t you just see some promising player getting injured doing one of these activities that will affect his career. They are probably wondering what kind of crappy outfit they signed with.

    • blacksables - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:59 PM

      Let’s see:

      Brien Taylor – tore his shoulder up in a bar fight

      Larry Colton – tore his shoulder up in a bar fight

      Jeff Kent – hurt himself doing wheelies on his motorcycle

      Alan Trammell – hurt himself at a Halloween party

      Mike Matheny – cut himself with a hunting knife

      – hurt my back carrying deer meet

      – sneezed

      – had a dream about snakes

      Yeah, an injury caused making you more disciplined and a better teammate is much worse than just being a dumbass.

      • blacksables - Sep 21, 2012 at 7:01 PM

        There is a word for guys who can’t deal with this kind of thing:


        There is no Spanish equivalent to that.

  16. stlouis1baseball - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Gasp! No way! Are you trying to tell me the Pirates are trying to get their young kids in shape.
    In shape with Boot Camp style training no less? Think of the children! What is this world coming too?

  17. psousa1 - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    This just in – “Unnamed sources in MLB say Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports also makes up shit “

  18. phillyphannn83 - Sep 21, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Theses responses are funny. I guess Pirates fans can’t read too well because the story clearly states that this is being done with the INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE PLAYERS. So no, this is not going to help the Pirates this year as some of you are questioning. Maybe it’ll make some of your minor league teams slightly better but I say the chances of this affecting the big club are about <5%

  19. wj4122 - Sep 22, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    No doubt that they will get stronger…but they are re- training there muscles and proprioceptive cells to do different things/ patterns than position specific work. I don’t care how strong and how much endurance u have. baseball is a very very coordinated and specific sensitive set of skills to accomplish things such hitting a 95 mph ball. Working out should be specific to positions and amount of use.

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