1991 was my rookie season with the Royals; I was 23 and thought I was pretty cool.
We're in the bullpen in Milwaukee and I'm warming up my teammate (and at that point, 11 year veteran) Mike Boddicker for his start.
He's throwing and I'm kind of nonchalantly flipping the ball back to him. Let's just say not every toss back was on the money.
Well, after about the fifth time he had to bend over to catch my return throw, Mike stepped off and screamed, "Brent, hit me in the chest!" (There may have been a stronger word in there.)
He took me by surprise, and my initial thought was, "Who's this old guy telling me what to do?"
But then I kept thinking about it and a light went on. Mike was right.
First of all I thought, the poor guy is like 100 years old (he was probably 33, but that seemed ancient) and is going to have to throw about 100 pitches out there. The last thing he needs to do is chase my errant throws around.
Secondly, it dawned on me that if Mike's standing on the mound and I throw the ball back to him head high at about 75 percent velocity, and instead of catching it he ducks out of the way, guess where the ball ends up? That's right, second base.
This was big. I knew I was going to have to throw the ball back to the pitcher about 150 times every game anyway. If I just paid attention to that throw half the time, I was effectively practicing a throw to second base 75 times a game!
Now if a Ricky Henderson or a Carl Crawford runs, I don't have to think about a thing. That's just where I throw the ball.
It's a simple thing. But then again, if you want to be a player, you better pay attention to these simple things because baseball is a game of repetition. Whatever you do the most is what you're going to do when the heat is on.
Aside from being a bit selfish, mindlessly flipping the ball around creates bad habits. Police yourself to throw accurately and you'll be a better teammate and a better player for your efforts. I sure was. Thanks Bod...you old man.
Brent Mayne is a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. He ranks 75th in the history of baseball with 1,143 pro games caught, and his .993 career fielding percentage is 4th all-time. Brent is the author of the book "The Art of Catching"--a comprehensive guide to teaching and building defensive catching skills.