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The Pirates are continuing their ridiculous Navy SEALS training of prospects

Oct 24, 2012, 8:53 AM EDT


In late September Dejan Kovacevic reported that Pirates Instructional League players are training like Navy SEALS down in Florida, much to their chagrin and possibly to their developmental detriment.  At the time it was blown off by the Pirates as a short-lived little thing.  Today Kovacevic has another report showing that, no, it was not short-lived.

Rather, as recently as last week, Pirates minor league coaches and instructors woke up Pirates prospects in the middle of the night shouting “it’s Hell Week!” and put them through more crazy PT and hazing such as scavenger hunts, two-mile runs and “relay races in which they ran back and forth filling garbage cans with sand.”  The non-baseball drills would lead up until hours before they had to play scheduled instructional league games.

Worse: Gregory Polanco, one of the Pirates’ top prospects, aggravated an injury when he was made to sprint across the outfield “through an above-ground pool of ice water, then leaped into a sand pit.”

What in the Hell are the Pirates doing? Who is in charge and why are the team’s prospects being treated like military recruits and/or fraternity pledges? Isn’t the idea of the instructional league to instruct? As in baseball instruction?

  1. skids003 - Oct 24, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Well, I guess real baseball people know more than talking heads?

    • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:10 AM

      But we’re talking Pirates management, not real baseball people.

    • Jeremy Fox - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Yes, no real baseball person has EVER made a mistake that was pointed out by a fan, blogger, or journalist!

  2. Brian Donohue - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    I blame the GOP for this one: Mittens wants to make the case that Obama didn’t kill OBL, Clint Hurdle did. In 2 wks., after the election, the whole camp will be taken down.

    • heyblueyoustink - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      Don’t you know, everything that’s wrong with the world is the GOP’s fault.

      • Old Gator - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:29 AM

        Nope. Some of it was caused by the K/T meteorite.

      • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        From a Sauischian point of view, who can argue? That pretty much turned out the lights for them.

      • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        “saurischian” sigh

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    When you haven’t had a winning season since just before Clinton got his first BJ in the Oval Office, you can’t be blamed for trying anything, right?

  4. Carl Hancock - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Do you really expect the Pirates to be able to instruct baseball?

  5. dwrek5 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Maybe they are training to be real Pirates. Just saying…

    • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      They couldn’t be any worse at that than they are at baseball….could they?

  6. kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    The South African Rugby team used to go through military forces type training to prepare for tournaments. Pictures started circulating showing them wondering through swamps in their underwear etc. Some sort of weird injury involving a scorpion or something put an end to it.
    Fitness is absolutely paramount for Rugby, I can’t imagine a relief pitcher being too chuffed/capable of having to run 2 miles.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      Scorpion’s will do that to you.
      Your on point about the 2 mile run for Relief Pitchers.
      But at the same time…it will be very beneficial for them.
      These prospects will be sharp. In mind and body.
      Go through the training…and hit the baseball diamond afterwards.
      But I guess it’s easier for some people to get up in arms about it.
      Navy Seal training! Gasp! The outrage.
      I need to consult with WillClarkRageFace to get his take.

      • kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        RageFace might actually be one of the instructors

      • cur68 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        He’d dose them on RageWater™ and scorpion gonads and then force them to wrestle alligators. As far as the Pirates go, I think they’re out of their damn minds but WTF do I know? If any of these kids turn out to be exceptional MLB players you’ll see the old RageWater™ Training Method all over the minor leagues after that. Hmmm…”RageWater™ Training Method”…might have to patent that…

  7. stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Can someone explain to me why this is ridiculous? Seriously.
    I didn’t agree with that take initially and I don’t agree with it now.
    Here’s my take:
    The Organization is in the tank. The last two years they have falterd miserably from the All Star Break on.
    I bet the prospects actually love the change. Mix it up a bit if you will.
    I am thinking they need to not only do the Seals training…but throw in the Army Rangers and Paratroopers as well.

    So again…why is this ridiculous?
    Qualification: If you use the potential for injury as an answer I will discount the rest of your post.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      Can someone tell me why firing a gun randomly into a crowd is wrong?

      Qualification: If you use the potential for murder as an answer I will discount the rest of your post.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM

        Hahaha! Yeah…cause’ it’s definately similar.
        I gotta’ tell you…I actually laughed at your response.
        Good work Mabry.

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM

        The point I was going for is that you can’t say “Tell me why this is wrong”, and then tell people that they can’t tell you why it’s wrong.

        The fact is, there’s no obvious baseball upside to making people run through ice water, and there’s plenty of potential to injure your players. Spend that time helping a player work on his footwork around a bag, or how to recognize a breaking ball, and you might actually improve your team.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        Injuries are something that you always a potential of incuring.
        Be it riding your bike, playing basketball, baseball, shooting clay pidgeons, running obstacle courses, you name it.
        That is why (in my opinion)…the injury argument doesn’t carry water.
        Run em’ throught the obstacle courses. Run em’ till their asses puke.
        Run em’ some more after getting water to rinse their mouths out.
        Then when they are done running…run them some more.
        After going through the training…hit the diamond.
        After all…you can accomplish both.

      • ezthinking - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Why is endless running a benefit to a baseball player? And if you say fitness I will disregard your answer because we have all seen that fitness is not the key to a successful career.

      • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM


        This type of activity has no more benefit to baseball prospects than it would for a group of CPAs. While the exercise itself may be beneficial to any group, it will not improve the ability of a person to play baseball or be an accountant. Because there is no upside, the best you can do is waste time….the worst you can do is inhibit the development of baseball (or CPA) skills due to injuries that require surgery and/or rehab.

        I’d love to see a single argument in FAVOR of this stupidity (because there hasn’t been one given)…and if you use the ability to invade a poorly defended foreign country (or baseball team territory) I will discount your answer.

      • mgdsquiggy17 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        Just because fitness isn’t paramount or absolutely necessary to having a successful career being in great shape surely will help you more then if you weren’t. Most guys that are successful despite being fit just have a natural ability or talent that the majority of players don’t possess. However for the rest that need to work their ass off to have a chance at making it I don’t think it’s an awful idea. Baseball is a long season and I have no problem with the Pirates trying to use an outside the box idea to making sure their players are at their peak fitness wise.

      • bh192012 - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        Because it’s wasting ammo. Later on when I want to open a bottle of Red Stripe by shooting the top off I’ll be screwed.

    • danaking - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:28 AM

      Military training techniques are used to build a skill set that, in addition to superb physical conditioning, is uniquely suited for certain occupation-specific tasks, such as climbing, swimming, physical endurance, increasing the pain threshold, and combat. The skills set required for baseball–refined hand-eye coordination, a repeatable throwing motion calculated not to induce a repetitive motion injury–are completely different. This is a little like teaching a surgeon to install drywall. It probably won’t hurt him, but it’s not likely to improve his performance as a surgeon.

      (No insult intended to those in the military who undergo such training. They need it, and it was developed uniquely for their purposes.)

      • Old Gator - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        Stop making sense. There are Republicans reading these posts.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Great post Dana. And I agree (as posted previously).
        Navy Seal traning does not improve the skill set of baseball players.
        It does however get one in peak mental and physical shape.
        Being in peak mental and physical shape does help make one a better baseball player though.

      • ezthinking - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM

        Military training teaches soldiers to follow orders – not necessarily be the most intelligent they can be. That is not necessarily “peak mental shape” rather places them in the required mental state for military service. Nothing wrong with that, just useless for baseball.

      • blacksables - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        No, military training teached you to be disciplined, think for yourelf, and make good decisions, and then accept the responsibility for them if you make a mistake.

        I can see how you got confused, seeing as how you have never served. Not your fault, not everyone has the cojones to do it.

      • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        Doing this training for a few days likely does nothing for the “physical shape” of young athletes….who are generally already in great shape.

      • paperlions - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        It actually seems like military training teaches you to take responsibility for things you are told to take responsibility for…because it sure as hell doesn’t result in those responsible being accountable and does result in those told to execute orders taking full responsibility for the results.

        Given how rampant rape of fellow soldiers is in the military, it sure doesn’t seem that the “making good decisions thing” is working very well either.

      • IdahoMariner - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:15 PM

        thank you for making sense. Well said.

        I also don’t see the point of pushing them through sleep deprivation — in fact, making them perform through sleep deprivation’s effects is likely counter-productive to achieving peak physical fitness. And, it’s considered hazing in most states.

        I totally endorse all minor and major league players being subject to a mandatory diet and fitness regimen — in the off-season, too — because it makes sense to expect athletes to be in top physical shape and to be able to endure the longest professional sports season….and I think teams ought to either provide good healthy food to minor and major leaguers or pay the minor leaguers enough so they can provide it for themselves…
        but what the pirates are doing shouldn’t be mistaken for a physical fitness regimen. it’s a stunt, and a bad idea.

    • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Okay SLB, how about relevance to the skills needed for playing MLB baseball?

      Now I’ll say pointless injuries, so you can ignore from here on in.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM

        Carrying logs, trash cans filled to the brim, climping ropes, etc…
        NO revelance to the skills needed for playing MLB baseball whatsoever.
        I am on board with that. Is that the argument? If so…I agree.

        If the argument is Navy Seal training is bad for someone…I vehemently disagree.
        Quite to the contrary…I think it is great for people.
        Baseball players are people…right? Can we agree on that?

      • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        I will readily concede that any athlete who is in superior condition has a natural advantage, even in a skills-based game like baseball. In that regard, I support the idea that they put the guys through a disciplined regimen that improves their conditioning. Whether this training is it, though, is very much up in the air with me.

        And I’m sure that it isn’t really SEAL training. If I find out they are fighting with knives and dropping into jungles, I will definitely say it’s a bad idea.

  8. chadjones27 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. I wouldn’t want my future prospects risking injury carry logs through icey mud at 5:00am. But, it’s gotta be a great conditioning program. The major problem with using it for conditioning, is that, once they move up to AAA or beyond, all that conditioning gets lost. Interesting program though.

    • blacksables - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      When I was in the Army in Germany, we used to do cold weather training the way the Russian Spetznatz did it. Wait until the the coldest day we were going to get, with snow and ice on the ground, and then go out in the middle of the night, strip naked, and stay like that as long as we could.

      Before I did, I thought it was pretty stupid and didn’t see the point. But after 15 minutes of freezing my ass off, once I started to put my clothes on, I wasn’t really that cold any more. And to this day, have never been affected by the cold like other people. Because now I know how much it worse it can be standing out there naked than walking around at 0 bundled up in coats, gloves, and scarves.

      Once those Pirate players are done with this kind of training, and know how tough it is, I’ll bet they won’t complain nearly as much about an extra round of fielding drills, or playing a day game after a night game, or the summer heat. They’ll know there is much worse, and they’ve conquered it.

      It makes a tremendous difference in the mindset of a person.

      Cause and effect. Just because some individuals don’t want to try doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

      • Old Gator - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        The question is, once they’ve been brutalized into a state of acute physical excellence, where are they going to finish?

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:53 PM

        Blacksables: “When I was in the Army”
        Missippimusicman: “As a former active duty Marine”

        So you think just maybe there is a correlation between the three of us who have served being in pro “PT…Hell Week” camp versus the 475 other posters who haven’t served being against it?
        Coincidence? I think not.

      • blacksables - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        Hoo rah.

      • chadjones27 - Oct 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        Having never served I never thought about the “mind over matter” aspect later in their careers. Great perspective. I was commenting from a “let’s all get in shape and hope we don’t atrophy in the off-season” perspective. I see your point.

      • danaking - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM

        @Stlouis1baseball, and blacksables,
        I served, and I think it’s a stupid idea for baseball players. There are a lot of les risky ways to build teamwork.

        On the other hand, I agree with blacksables completely abut the cold training. i did my basic training at Fort Dix during an eight-week period where the temperature never got about 32. Early on I got in the habit of deciding, as soon as I hit the cold air, “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” That has carried over, and i am rarely cold now, whether I think of it or not.

        A week of something like this won’t do squat for them though, except maybe bond the players in hating the SOB who thought it up.

  9. danaking - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Having watched 120+ Pirates games a year on the past three years, the organization would be better served by spending the time spent in SEAL training on teaching better strike zone judgment, hitting the cut-off man, and developing the kinds of mental acuity to allow players to know better when to take the extra base and when to cut their losses on defense and take the sure out. They don’t need to be as physically and mentally tough as guys whose lives are on the lines, but they need to have a greater awareness of baseball-specific things.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      All of which can be improved via knife fighting during hand to hand combat, after being parachuted into dense disease ridden jungle.

      • danaking - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

        My previous comments notwithstanding, catchers will be far less likely to block the plate on them after all this jungle knife fighting training.

      • stex52 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        This ^

  10. mfortuna45 - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    While I don’t agree with the use of Navy SEALS training to help develop baseball players, I think using this as a reason to explain the ineptitude of the Pirates is unfair.

    Consider the source: Dejan Kovacevic has had it out for Bob Nutting, Neal Huntington, Kyle Stark, and essentially anybody involved with the Pirates front office. Whether or not he actually has a personal vendetta against them, or whether or not he’s just pandering to his reader base of frustrated fans, his columns and tweets have essentially been nothing but anti-Pirates snark or trying to dig up some dirt against the FO.

    The Pirates are a team that have seen their win totals rise from 57 in 2010 to 72 in 2011 and 79 in 2012. Collapses in 2011/2012 aside, any reasonable person would argue this is a step in the right direction. They have done this while continuing to accumulate top talent in their minor league system.

    I think it’s disingenuous to mention all the shortcomings of the front office without giving them the proper credit for beginning the turnaround of the Pirates.

    I actually don’t disagree with DK that Navy SEALS training doesn’t do anything to develop baseball players and doesn’t address some of the issues with fundamentals the Pirates have had over the last few years. I also don’t disagree that the risk of injury, and alienating players isn’t worth whatever benefits Navy SEALS training may provide.

    But let’s be honest, if the Pirates won the 2nd Wild Card last year, would anybody be talking about this?

    • ezthinking - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      Yes, and some other dipshit exec would want to use it for Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

      • blacksables - Oct 24, 2012 at 11:53 AM

        You are familiar with the difference between the Major Leagues and the Instructional Leagues, aren’t you?

    • mfortuna45 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      Of course I’m familiar with the difference between Major Leagues and the Instructional Leagues. This news just so happened to break while the Pirates were in the middle of a collapse at the Major League level. The writer’s point? Look how inept the Pirates are. They are in the middle of a big collapse and lack fundamentals at the Major League level and are putting their prospects through Navy SEALS training instead of teaching them fundamentals that are lacking in the majors.

      Like I said, if the Pirates won the Central or took one of the Wild Card spots this would be a non-story.

  11. mississippimusicman - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    As a former active duty Marine (no such thing as an ex-Marine, guys), I have to say that there are benefits to this type of training that people are overlooking. Phone pole drills aren’t just about carrying something heavy, they teach teamwork. As blacksables points out above, it’s not just about physical conditioning, although it’s great for that – it’s about building confidence that your body can take more than you gave it credit for.

  12. anvil35 - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    I agree with Mississippi and blacksables – this teaches discipline, teamwork and individual resourcefulness not just developing the body physically. This sort of training pushes limits and getting the most out of a persons body – both mentally and physically. Maybe Mr. Calcaterra ought to grab a short telephone pole and do some shoulder presses and situps hugging that thing…He might write better articles. Maybe you can get some more of you colleagues to join you…

  13. fmlizard - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Mark Appel is in an air-conditioned classroom in Palo Alto feeling pretty good about his choices right about now.

  14. schlom - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I think people are missing the fact that doing stuff like this is really, really, fun. I’m sure that’s why they are doing this instead of just exclusively the normal workout stuff

  15. Matt Bandi - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Regardless of whether the training should be considered a good idea, can we at least stop acting like Pirates prospects are the only athletes that have ever done something like this? There are tons of other teams/athletes that have tried it, with mostly positive reviews. For some reason, it’s only stupid for the Pirates to do it.

    • schlom - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      I think must of us realize that the reason it’s being seen as a bad idea is because the Pirates are doing it. If Joe Maddon was doing it everyone would be saying it’s genius.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      Thanks Matt! The Pirates certainly haven’t cornered the market on this sort of thing (as your post proves). Further, Kiwi stated a Rugby team used to do it (ceased doing so after a freak scorpion incident). The majority of commenters on this particular article seem to think going through a week of advanced PT suddenly makes a prospect forget to play baseball.
      Again…do the PT for the week then hit the diamond the following week.
      Is that so hard to grasp?

  16. metalhead65 - Oct 24, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    to you obummer fans saying this training is all the gop fault,hey maybe the pirates decided to try something different after years of doing it the democratic way. you know doing the same thing over and over and with the same losing results? maybe they decided the democratic ways of telling batters not to worry about striking out and that it is ok to make errors and it was ok for pitchers to leave balls over the plate for hitters to hit as long as they gave it their best effort was not working. maybe the pirates decided that making players work hard and be accountable for their pay was a better way than to have everything handed to them.maybe waking them up in the middle of the night was better than asking them if it was ok for them to get up at 10 in the morning for breakfast and if they felt like to maybe play some baseball know the way the democratic and liberal way of doing things.

  17. onbucky96 - Oct 24, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Wow. I blasted Apple and hs agent Satan for not signing. Now I must issue a mea culpa. To Apple, not Satan. Get a grip Pirates, you train baseball players not SEALS.

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