Joe Maddon Wants Rays to Practice Less, Arrive Later as Part of New Approach
Rays manager Joe Maddon has always been an outside-the-box thinker. He’s not confined by typical baseball conventions, and that mindset has helped the Rays do well under his watch. Now we’re seeing Maddon do the opposite of what most teams preach; he’s encouraging his players to arrive at the park later and practice less. Maddon is hoping the new concept will help keep his players fresher later in the season. The logic makes sense.
“We’ve done better on the road than at home this year. Part of that is we go to the ballpark later on the road than we do at home,” Maddon reasoned. “When you’re on the road you normally don’t do as much work and guys show up a little bit later. That’s part of it.
“I want guys to show up later,” Maddon explained before Saturday’s game. “I don’t want them to sit around all day getting lazy. I think sometimes it’s such a misconception the whole ‘first one at the ballpark.’ That means he drinks the most coffee, eats the most snacks, watches the most TV — that’s what that name means most of the time. So that’s always been a misconception in baseball.
“So I want them to come later, have a life, go out take their wives or girlfriends out to lunch, mess with the kids and then come here at a decent hour and play baseball. That’s part of it.
“The other part, I just want to back off work. Baseball players swing the bat way too much this time of the year. I would prefer them swinging the bat less as opposed to more. You look around baseball, these little injuries that are creeping up on different teams. I don’t know if this will help or not, but this is my attempt to see if we can keep guys fresher. I want them to be fresh and ready to go at 7:10, not at 3:10.
“By now, I’m counting on the fact that they know how to swing the bat, they know how to throw the baseball, they know how to run, so I prefer a fresh mind and body right now.”
The Rays are 32-28 at home and 35-28 on the road, so it’s not as if the difference is too extreme. Still, considering it’s late August and the team has already played 121 games, it’s not a bad idea to try and keep the guys fresh. Remember, this is the same manager who has protected his players against boos and alleged racism. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he wants to protect his players’ overall mind and body. I love the approach.