Thanks to Jon Solomon for the link to a stark tale of unusual training techniques at Twins camp. From the Grand Forks Herald’s Gordon Wittenmyer.
The Twins’ scouting staff accurately reported Mike Redmond’s formidable skills as a catcher and impressive hitting ability.
But all three scouts responsible for reports on Redmond made the same glaring omission, failing to grade the talent area that proved a major catalyst in the Florida Marlins’ World Series championship season two years ago:
Naked batting practice.
“I didn’t see that in there,” general manager Terry Ryan said.
In fact, to this day, few Twins seem to be aware of the secret weapon they acquired when Redmond signed a two-year contract in November to be Joe Mauer’s backup.
It started May 25, 2003, in Cincinnati near the end of a long and losing road trip. The Marlins had just fired their manager, had a 21-29 record and appeared headed for another nowhere season.
After a team meeting, in a somber, sleepy clubhouse the morning of an early afternoon game, Redmond headed for the indoor batting cages with his bat, wearing nothing but turf shoes, socks and batting gloves.
Twins infielder Andy Fox, a Marlins teammate then, looked up in disbelief as Redmond headed for the clubhouse door that opened into the cages.
“Are you serious?” Fox asked.
And the door shut behind him.
Redmond proceeded to hit soft tosses against a screen as teammates took notice, one by one, until laughter could be heard from one end of the clubhouse to the other.
“No one could really hit after that,” Fox said.
Until the game. The Marlins scored early and beat the Reds 6-2, with Redmond collecting two hits.
“And the next thing I knew, I was doing it seven or eight straight days,” Redmond said.
“That’s a long time to be hitting naked,” Fox said.
But the Marlins kept winning, so Redmond kept the clothes off his body and his eye on the ball. They won six in a row. Then during another cold streak in August, he did it again in Pittsburgh, and the Marlins went 20-8 the rest of the season to clinch the National League wild-card playoff spot.
And the rest is World Series, New York Yankees-beating history.
“It worked,” Fox said. “We still talk about it.”
“Whatever it takes to win,” said Redmond, who has trouble explaining the inspiration. “It just came to me. We were really scuffling, and guys were putting pressure on themselves. I just thought I needed to do something that nobody really expected, to make guys laugh and relax.”
“He doesn’t have the most aesthetically pleasing body, either,” Fox said. “That’s just my opinion.”