Work: All Ways and Always

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Flashback to 2013. The player thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread even though he had yet to play a single game of professional baseball. The second he heard his name called in the Major League Baseball draft was the moment- in his mind- that he made it. To be clear, this was surely a significant moment in life, but for those who do find Big League stardom, getting selected by a club is merely one of many steps within the journey. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for this player of mine who I was set to manage as a part of our Gulf Coast League Red Sox team that season.

Instead of looking at his entry into rookie ball- the lowest level of professional baseball- as getting on the freeway to Boston, this player behaved as if he was parking his car in the first row in Cooperstown. Never had I seen a player more disconnected from the reality of a situation than this one. Despite our best efforts to acclimate him to professional baseball and equip him with the mindset he needed to have to get to where he thought he already was, he never ‘got it’. He didn’t work, he remained unmotivated, and he wasn’t getting better.

He was out of baseball just two years later.

Fast forward to present day. With the 2022 MLB draft in the books, we have a whole new crop of players who dream of one day making their mark at Fenway Park in Boston. Most of those newly signed draftees recently participated in our first-year player mini-camp at our Spring Training complex in Fort Myers. Essentially during this week-long introduction to our organization and professional baseball, players not only participated in physical activity on the diamond, but also in educational sessions off the field.

Infielders were introduced to our staple drill routines. Pitchers learned the details behind our throwing program. Hitters got a crash course on our overall developmental plan and the kind of work needed to see it come to fruition. In addition to all the baseball work, we wanted to also familiarize them with things like the importance of nutrition and sleep, mental skills, and strength and conditioning.

The common theme throughout the week and in all these areas: work. Work at your best, in everything you do.

“Always and all ways” is an expression I learned as a first year Minor League player back in 2000 and is something I still use often when it comes to not only the work, but also in terms of what it means to truly be a professional. In every aspect of life, and at all times, you are representing yourself, your family, your friends, teammates, and coaches. How you do anything is how you do everything. Habits off the field- in the gym, the kitchen, at night, in the morning- will indicate your habits on it.

Being a professional baseball player here in 2022 goes far beyond just baseball. While it is at the center of everything we do, there are many parts of our days that epitomize the holistic development of our players. Time spent in the weight room is not meant to look good at the beach but to make our players stronger on the field. Getting a good night’s sleep and a better day’s meal will play directly into the energy we have in the tank to do what we need to do on diamond. Being mentally strong can only help us manage the ups and downs in this game of failure we play.

Everyone loves to hit, but will they take the same pride in their baserunning? Everyone loves baseball, but will you be as dedicated to the non-baseball parts of the profession that will make the baseball that much better? Those who are the most dedicated to all parts of professional baseball are the ones who put themselves in the best position to advance.

August is a very exciting month on the baseball calendar. Hundreds of players will lace up their spikes for the first time as professionals. College programs are also welcoming their freshmen and transfers to campus for the first time, with fall practice soon to follow. Many minor leaguers are moving on up and earning promotions to higher levels that will give them a head start on next year. And a select few will be playing in the Major Leagues for the very first time with the goal of staying under those bright lights for the foreseeable future.

At every level of the game, there is always that next level to reach. Even Mike Trout, who is arguably the best player in the game today, has another level that he wants to get to as a player. And when he gets there, he’ll want to take his game even higher. Whether it be that college freshman or the first time Big Leaguer, there is a funny thing about those who are consistently successful every time they arrive to the next level of the game: they approach their work every single day as if they never arrived.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.