Saturday February 19 marked the voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers. You would have been hard pressed to guess that at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Position players could be seen working out at the facility as soon as it was opened.
Among those who arrived early was right fielder Justin Upton. Upton appeared to be in great shape a result of a more stringent off-season workout program. It wasn’t just showing up early that impressed me about Upton. He seemed very dialed in more so than I can imagine the last couple of years.
While attending the Diamondbacks Baseball Interactive event I had an opportunity to watch Upton go through his workouts. After moving through the various drills on the practice diamonds other players went inside as the weather turned cold and rainy.
Upton was not among that group. Instead he made his way over to the covered batting cages where he spent an extra hour working one-on-one with new hitting coach Don Baylor. Baylor had Upton hitting off a tee going through the mechanics of his swing.
Upton was intently listening and making adjustments during the session. It was encouraging to see this budding young superstar’s work ethic and his willingness to always learn.
When the Diamondbacks hired Baylor this off-season as their hitting coach I was enthusiastic as I have always been a big fan of Baylor and his teaching methods. You need not look any further than the Colorado Rockies to see his influence.
Baylor was the hitting coach for the Rockies and has been credited with making Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez the hitters they are today. Hopefully Baylor can make similar adjustments for Upton and Chris Young to make them more consistent hitters.
I walked away after watching the session with a new enthusiasm for the Diamondbacks 2011 season. Part of that may be the euphoria of Spring Training finally starting but hopefully this was the first day the Diamondbacks began changing to be more competitive in route to a winning season.