Henderson to lead base stealing seminar
PHOENIX (AP) – Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson arrived at the Oakland Athletics’ spring training facilities Saturday and at least a two dozen A’s were listening intently as he spoke on stealing bases, among other subjects.
A’s manager Bob Geren said Henderson’s focus will be on the basepath, but he won’t be limited. That’s fine with A’s outfielder Rajai Davis, who led the team with 41 steals last year.
“He has a wealth of knowledge and just to know what he knows is beneficial in any way,” Davis said. “I want to know what he has to say about stealing bases, playing defense and situational at-bats.”
Davis and Henderson even held an impromptu session during batting practice. Henderson gave him a couple of exercises to improve his balance and hip strength. It looked as though the two were skiing standing still.
“It’s a speed skating technique I use to build my hips and legs,” Henderson said. “In baseball you train the whole body, except for the hip and eyes. It’s not just speed but the ability to concentrate on pitchers, how to get a good jump and explode out of the jump.”
Henderson, who set major league career records for stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295), said Davis was capable of stealing 75-80 bases.
“I had to get him on his toes to get his balance,” Henderson said. “The biggest thing is getting rid of his fear to get thrown out. He has the heart to be a base stealer and I want him to accept failure. Once you can accept failure, you can have fun and success.”
Coco Crisp, signed as a free agent over the offseason, was another attentive student.
“He has a great idea of what he’s doing,” Henderson said. “I talked to him about sliding head first and how the closer you get to the dirt before you start your slide, the better it is. I’ve seen guys bouncing once or twice going head first.”
Henderson, a member of the 1989 World Champion A’s, enthusiastically embraced a multitude of subjects.
“I love talking about baserunning,” Henderson said. “Even the slowest guy can go from first to third and help win a ballgame. I’m glad baseball is showing some interest. There’s not as much success with home runs these days so it’s good to get back to the fundamentals – go out and create runs instead of waiting for one big hit.”
Henderson worked with the A’s in their instructional league team and Oakland GM Billy Beane thought it was a natural progression to invite him to spring training.
“Over the summer we talked about getting him more involved, particularly with some of our young guys,” Beane said. “It’s great to have him around, just his personality. Guys gravitate toward him. Speed was one of the bright spots of our offense last year. You have to have power to win in this league but you need guys with speed who can create opportunities.”
Several of the A’s best prospects – Michael Taylor, Chris Carter, Eric Patterson – were on hand to glean whatever they could.
“I just want to ask, ‘How do you do it and how can I do it?”‘ said Taylor, who stole over 20 bases in the minors last year. “I’d like to know how he got his jumps and what to look for. Even if I learn one thing, it’s worth it.”
More established players like Ryan Sweeney, Cliff Pennington and Mark Ellis were also interested in what Henderson had to say.
“I watched him on the MLB Network talking about stealing third and looking at the pitcher’s elbow,” Pennington said. “If I can pick his brain it would be great.”
Henderson said he’d like to stay more involved.
“It’s a great feeling just to be back with kids and give something back that I got from the generation before me,” he said. “I still enjoy the game.”
Notes: C Joel Galarraga arrived in camp after solving his visa issues. He sustained an arm injury last summer and is working his way back. … The A’s pushed back Sunday’s workout time in an attempt to avoid rain that is expected in the area. … IF Eric Chavez took grounders at every position in the infield and Geren said he was impressive.