One of the perks of writing about baseball is listening to the pros talk about their craft. Actually, it’s better than a perk – with the notebooks put away and the tape recorders put away, there’s nothing better than letting the stories flow.
Before tonight’s game against the Nationals at the Bank, manager Charlie Manuel sat down with a bunch of the writers and a TV reporter and talked about hitting. And then he talked and talked and talked some more. During a typical pre-game chat with the writers, Charlie goes for about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the purpose and the news of the day starting at approximately 4 p.m. But today when it was all wrapped up and all the ideas had been exhausted, it was after 5 p.m.
Where had the time gone?
One thing is for certain: when it comes to hitting and the ideas behind successful hitting, there are very few people on the planet who are true students of it than Charlie Manuel. He relate stories about conversations he’s had with Ted Williams that lasted for four hours as the pair went on and on and on talking about the way to become the best hitter.
He talked about studying different theories and how he keeps a copy of Ted Williams’ book of hitting in several rooms of his home so he can pick it up for a quick read. Mostly he explained where the power comes from in a swing and how even good hitters can over think the simple essence of hitting.
Tons of names and styles were broached from George Brett to Rod Carew to Tony Oliva (a Manuel favorite) to Brian Downing. Then some smart-alecky dude brought up Walt Hriniak and his theories to really set the manager off.
Some were afraid that particular writer was going to drone on about the Boston Marathon and how it relates to Hriniak, Charley Lau and other such silliness. Fortunately, he muzzled himself quickly.
The sad part was that it was a side of Manuel that some in the media and the fandom are unwilling to understand or acknowledge and that’s Charlie Manuel has forgotten more about hitting than most people will ever come to know. Sure, he has his flaws as a manager – there is no denying that. But Manuel is part of a dwindling cadre of old-school baseball men will do anything to be a part of the game.
That’s hard not to like.
Anyway, here’s the point… baseball is all about stories. For some of us chasing them and collecting them is truly Quixotic and Manuel is an incredible source.