Spring training is always a time of renewed hope and optimism for the 29 MLB teams who failed to capture the World Series title the previous season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of those 29 teams, be it because of injuries, inconsistent starting pitching, down years from typical run producers or a beleaguered bullpen.
But following a second straight 81-81 campaign and a small re-tinkering of the roster — traded for outfielder Mark Trumbo and reliever Addison Reed and signed veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo — by general Kevin Towers, those within the organization are already noticing a difference between this year’s perspective squad and the one that took the field a season ago.
“This year, the communication between players around the cage has already been unbelievable,” D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill told Doug & Wolf during the Saturday’s Fan Fast on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It’s already a great feeling.”
Verbal dialogue between million-dollar athletes might be overrated depending on who one asks, but according to Hill, the type of conversations he and his teammates have had this spring signal a turning of the worm both on the field and off it.
“I think it’s with any job, relationship or whatever it is, communication is key,” said Hill. “You hear it, and it is true. When you get guys around the cage, instead of going in, getting your work done and going back and doing whatever it is you’re doing — whether it’s your iPad or whatever it is a lot of guys do now — I think it’s huge. You’re here to play baseball. This is what we love to do, so let’s talk about it.
“Let’s talk about the pitcher. Let’s talk about the approach we’re going to have that day. And I think we have the guys that do it. You see the passion that guys have for baseball when you’re spending time around the cage and talking. Sometimes guys learn a lot more sitting around talking than actually hitting off the tee or doing whatever. I get goosebumps just talking about it right now, because no matter how old you get you love the game.”
A nine-year veteran, Hill, who hit .291 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI in an injury-shortened 2013 season, noted that without the right kind of communication during the spring it can become that much harder for a team to find common ground and ultimately its identity when the calendar rolls through April and May.
“You need everyone on the same page,” said Hill. “Collectively, everyone has to believe in a common goal. Obviously, everyone wants to win a World Series, that’s why we play. At the same time, it’s about, ‘What can I do to help the team win?’ today. You want to have 25 guys on the team coming to the field with that attitude every single day as opposed to ‘Oh, I’m going to go 3-for-4.’ Obviously, that helps a team win, but there are certain things that can spark a team — beating out a ground ball or a double-play ball or making a diving play. Whatever is, momentum is huge.
“It’s tough to have a perfect clubhouse, because there’s always guys. But at the same time, if you have a group, [those guys] are going to feel like outsiders if they’re not being what everyone else wants them to be. I think they’ll turn around eventually. But, we don’t have one so it’s good.”