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More notes from Josh Donaldson’s virtual baseball pro camp

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins
Quarantine baseball looks slightly less graceful than the above.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

It turns out that when you’re inside the house in a location not recommended for baseball drills, you probably don’t need baseball equipment.

With only minutes to go until Josh Donaldson’s virtual pro camp began, I grabbed my glove, a Matt LeCroy broken bat from New Britain, and a ball I’d snagged in batting practice in New York, only to realize I wouldn’t have a chance to use them.

But along with James, Jonathan, and countless others across the country, I watched Josh Donaldson use his own tools, giving tips, drills, and advice in his virtual pro camp this past Thursday.

I’ll try not to rehash the points in James’ and Jonathan’s articles; if you haven’t read them already, give them a look.

But the things that stood out to me most were:

  • Regarding stretching, Donaldson made the point that players need to prepare the mind as well as the body. While keeping the mind calm may slide into the niche of “obviously,” preparing the mind is wise for a ballplayer as they’ll be able to focus on what needs to be done on a particular play and react as best as they can.
  • Related to the above, in the camp’s section on baserunning, Donaldson pointed out that a baserunner needs to be able to see the play before it happens, in order to make an educated guess on where to go depending on where the ball lands. He gave the example from his career of scoring from third on a pop-up to second baseman Jason Kipnis; knowing that Kipnis has an average arm, Donaldson determined he would take off it Kipnis made the catch stepping back, which he did.
  • As Jonathan pointed out, Donaldson gave the tip that an infielder should try to catch the ball in the glove’s pocket, not the web. This tip was one that I too had never heard before.
  • Another fielding tip he gave regarded the grip and throwing motion an infielder will use versus an outfielder, keeping the thumb under the ball and gaining extension on the throw to keep the throw more accurate over a short distance. These would have been useful to know growing up, but better to learn late.
  • At hitting, Donaldson placed a lot of attention on providing leverage. using his own leg kick as an example; due to having less raw strength than other power hitters, the leg kick allows him to create additional power. He pointed out that the leg kick is not for everyone, but no matter a player’s individual stance and stride, the sequence of mechanics has to match up on every pitch.
  • One of his hitting drills repurposed a dog fetcher, swung deliberately with the bottom hand only. I cannot remember the purpose of the drill because I was too impressed by the use of the dog fetcher. That was cool.

I was more than impressed by Donaldson’s camp. Building on what Jonathan wrote about his attention to detail, Donaldson made sure to point out why each detail is important, giving as much information as he could within the hour given. I’ve attended youth clinics in New Britain when the Twins still had their Double-A team there, and the level of detail presented by Donaldson virtually was... probably more than 11-year-old me would have taken in, but was far above what I learned then.

In the meantime, the glove has gone back into a drawer, the bat on a hook, and the ball on a bookshelf. It’s a shame I never got to hit it Thursday; at this point, I’d like to take a swing at anything with Rob Manfred’s name on it.

Thanks Kyle Volp for reaching out to us on behalf of Donaldson and letting us know about the virtual pro camp. It was a pleasure.