This was the primary exercise for Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers and catchers, so full uniforms have been required for the primary time in spring coaching at Pirate Metropolis.
That meant one thing particular to Derek Shelton, because it marked the primary time he wore a black Pirates jersey and grey uniform pants together with his identify stitched throughout his shoulders above No. 17.
This was Day 1 of his first season as a serious league supervisor, the conclusion of a objective he has been working towards for twenty years. The 49-year-old was named the 41st supervisor of the Pirates on Nov. 27, however to be in uniform with all however a handful of place gamers made it really feel “particular and actual” to Shelton.
No surprise he couldn’t cease smiling afterward.
“I waited a very long time to be out right here,” Shelton mentioned, stretching out the ‘o’ in lengthy for emphasis. “It was cool. I imply, it was. I believe it’s a bit bit emotional. You spend plenty of time all through your profession, and also you look forward to a day like this and a corporation like this. It was a very big day.”
What made it much more memorable for Shelton was he shared it together with his father, Ron, who lives close by and watched the exercise. Ron Shelton coached for three-plus many years at Warren Excessive — the place Derek’s No. eight is retired — and is a member of the Illinois Excessive College Baseball Coaches Corridor of Fame.
“I’m certain you’ll see my dad right here so much. He lives shut, and I believe my dad’s in all probability extra excited than I’m,” Shelton mentioned. “It’s actually particular. He was a highschool coach for 35 years and is aware of so much concerning the recreation. I’m very lucky as a result of he has ideas about how issues ought to go and what they need to do. But it surely’s cool to have the ability to share that. Anytime you may share experiences with your loved ones, and particularly your father, it makes it a cool bonding second.”
The signature of his first exercise with the Pirates was how Shelton saved it gentle and unfastened whereas circling from diamond to diamond to speak with place gamers at backstops and pitchers earlier than throwing bullpens. After 12 years as a hitting coach, Shelton joked he watched extra bullpens than ever, so it was good to roam round.
Shelton spoke of constructing relationships and setting expectations because the Pirates shift to a brand new entrance workplace and training workers. After 9 years with Clint Hurdle in cost, gamers saved listening to there could be a unique really feel to this spring coaching. However they’d no concept what that meant till they may see for themselves.
What they’d in Hurdle was a person who centered on the minutaie whereas going by the motions, a supervisor whose mantras and messages have been tuned out in powerful occasions. We discovered final summer season how little enjoyable baseball could be when a group is dropping 24 out of 28 video games after the All-Star break.
Shelton will get a contemporary begin to form this group in his picture.
When he squatted subsequent to Cole Tucker whereas the gamers stretched, casually chatting earlier than watching him take some cuts in batting apply, it spoke volumes to the rookie shortstop.
“It was simply unfastened,” Tucker mentioned. “It didn’t appear to be anybody was being judged about something. Clearly, we’re being judged by our play on the sector. That’s the sport. That’s the enterprise, and it’ll by no means change. However simply personally, the best way we’re interacting with one another is laid-back and freed up, which is sweet. As we all know, baseball’s a very exhausting recreation. It’s even more durable while you’re insecure about what individuals may take into consideration you.”
Shelton made clear the significance of honesty and transparency to his method, nonetheless, beginning with an announcement. At PiratesFest final month at PNC Park, Shelton prevented giving a solution when requested about who would change two-time All-Star Felipe Vazquez as nearer. Shelton wished to have a dialog first with Keone Kela earlier than divulging what had been determined. It earned Kela’s quick respect.
That’s paramount for the Pirates, projected to lose 102 video games this season by USA At this time. Shelton is worked up a couple of group with a proficient, younger core however is aware of the Pirates are present process a rebuild — even when they refuse to say so.
“Everybody retains saying, ‘It’s going to be totally different this 12 months. It’s going to be enjoyable. It’s going to look and sound totally different,’ ” Tucker mentioned. “What does that appear to be? Enjoyable could be taken plenty of other ways, however we’re seeing that present up already and we’ve been right here 5 minutes. … It seems like he’s been right here earlier than. It doesn’t really feel like he’s this new, stiff man.”
That was the key to Shelton’s first official apply as Pirates supervisor: He match proper in with a brand new group, which is precisely how the Pirates felt after just one pitchers and catchers exercise.
“It’s an enormous day for him as a result of it’s his first day of being a supervisor,” right-hander Mitch Keller mentioned, “and for all of us who’ve been with the Pirates for a very long time, it sort of feels like a brand new group, truthfully. It’s the identical group of fellows, however all the pieces else is totally different. That’s a superb change.”
One which was a very long time within the making for Shelton, who hopes it’s the beginning of one thing particular with the Pirates.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Evaluate workers author. You’ll be able to contact Kevin by electronic mail at [email protected] or by way of Twitter .