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Mehring in AZ: Conversation

March 23, 2014

The talk about baseball never stops and that's okay with me.

Practice for the Timber Rattlers on Saturday morning began at 9:00am. Matt Erickson and his staff of Elvin Nina, Chuckie Caufield, and Jeff Paxson have already been at the complex for a few hours.

They arrive to meet about players, setting practice schedules, and talk about players.

Practice is a flurry of activity once the meeting has finished. But, there is always talk about baseball.

This shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as how the old t-shirt logo of "Baseball is Life." is quite literal in the case of those who chose to pursue this vocation.

The question isn't, "How was your winter?" The question is, "How was your offseason?"

The players I have had a chance to briefly chat with have all mentioned their offseason workouts and how they have been working to get better at the game. The coaches talk about which players have improved and what they - the coaches - are doing with those players.

During batting practice, players take their turns in the cage and take turns again out of the cage in talking with a coach is watching them.

It was at this point, I had a chance to talk a bit with Caufield. He mentioned that he wanted to be the kind of coach like the ones who had the most influence on him. I asked, "Who were they."

"Sandy and Al," he responded without hesitation. 

Sandy is Sandy Guerrero. Al is Al Leboeuf. Both have been frequent visitors to Wisconsin over the years as roving coaches in the Brewers organization.

The conversation continues during lunch and on the 30 minute ride over to Oakland's minor league complex and - even with the game going on - there is always conversation about baseball.

For example, I was sitting next to Pax while Nathan Orf was at the plate in the second inning. Orf fouled off a few pitches, took some borderline pitches for balls, and worked the count before grounding out sharply to short.

"He puts together good at bats," said Pax.

"Like…Nick Shaw?" I asked since Shaw, a Rattler in 2011 is my standard comp when people bring up good at bats.

"Yes. Exactly," he answered.

I had a brief talk with Matt about the game when it was finished. Then, we made plans to go out to dinner.

Even the ride over to the restaurant had talk about baseball.

The exciting Wisconsin Badgers comeback victory over Oregon in the NCAA Basketball tournament was on the TV as we waited for our food. That drew our attention a couple of times, but the conversation remained on baseball.

There were stories about their playing days or how they got released. There were stories about past games, other baseball stadiums, and what has been happening this spring at the complex.

Even when talking about the weather, the talk centers on baseball. "Is the snow off the field yet?" "Will it be warm enough to be ready to play?"

If it is, we'll play. If it isn't…well, we will have something else to talk about during the season.