Player development — the behind-the-scenes work that includes offseason workouts, MiLB nutritional plans and high-end rehab facilities — has changed dramatically in the last decade. The Toronto Blue Jays lag their MLB brethren, and one of Mark Shapiro‘s big challenges is closing the gap.
As position players report for spring training, it’s very apparent that the Blue Jays’ Florida facilities are way behind the times, whether it’s the older Bobby Mattick Training Center or the very basic Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. While other teams have seriously upgraded their workout and training facilities at their spring training camps, the Blue Jays have struggled to come up with a workable plan for a Florida Auto Exchange Stadium — first hooking up with the Astros on a proposed Palm Beach County camp, then deciding to stick with Dunedin.
The team’s future was a subject of discussion during a Wednesday meeting between Shapiro and Dunedin officials yesterday. And while there’s been some talk of a new training complex near Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, nothing is past the discussion phase. There is a sense of urgency, given that the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium lease ends in 2017 and Shapiro wants to have some sort of game plan in place, per Sports Net:
“There are realities that may be charming about our current situation, but that charm is not going to bring wins,” Shapiro said Thursday. “So we need to be in a situation where we modernize our facility and have the ability to ingrain a culture that’s player focussed and player centred. They understand that. They’ve been very receptive, and we’re going to have to work hard and work together to get that done, but I’m optimistic that will happen.”…
As things stand now, their spring stadium is small and dated with limited facilities, as is the Bobby Mattick Training Center, which is nearly six kilometres away.
“There are some logistical challenges we can certainly deal around, but it’s just modernization,” said Shapiro. “It’s thinking about the evolution of the game from a training and rehabilitation standpoint. The tools that allow players to both be on the field more frequently and to allow them to recover more effectively, to train in bigger volumes. You don’t want them to be crowded.
“To feed them in ways that you’ve got the best nutrition possible – every single aspect of the day allows opportunities for the player to make choices or decisions and us to provide resources to achieve their potential. And as you think about what a player does, from rest to recovery to training, to what he eats, those are all opportunities and a facility is really an infrastructure that fuels that.”
We are seeing that the proper facilities are the bedrock of good player development. Whether it’s the Minnesota Twins setting up a player-development academy complete with individual nutrition plans or the Oakland A’s spending $26.9 million on a new year-round workout facility with state-of-the-art rehab and workout facilities, MLB teams are emphasizing advanced techniques on multiple fronts. Shapiro’s challenge is to work with Dunedin on a plan that meets these needs.