When Aaron Rowand took a seat at Mays’ table in the Giants’ clubhouse last week, something important was happening. For all the talk of Rowand’s prolonged hitting slump during his first season with the Giants, his fielding troubles might have been more crucial.
Rowand did not always get great jumps on balls and overthrew cutoff men far more than a seven-year major-leaguer should. Mays had some answers. He told Rowand to close the gap between his fingers when he grips the ball and throw more on a downward slope, as a pitcher does. Mays also said Rowand needs to crouch more as the pitch is thrown, allowing for a more catlike step toward long flyballs.
Rowand is a great talker. In this conversation, he was a great listener.
“There’s no doubt he is the greatest center fielder of all time,” Rowand said. “To have a chance to sit down and talk to him, first it’s getting over the intimidation factor. He’s an imposing figure. He’s one of the greatest of all time of anybody who’s ever laced up a pair of cleats.
“Talking to him about playing center field, talking to him about playing balls off the wall, grips, stuff like that, you’re not going to find a better source of information on this planet than the man who did it the best.”
I’ve always been suspicious of immortals like Mays giving tips like this. It’s kind of like Superman telling someone “you just have to sort of will yourself up and you’ll be jumping tall buildings in a single bound in no time.” I’m not saying Mays doesn’t have anything to offer Rowand — indeed, I’m sure he’s forgotten more about pickin’ it in center than Rowand will ever know — but I can’t help but think that there are about 15 levels of talent, knowledge, skill, and work Rowand would have to advance through before really being able to make use of what he’s being told.
Miles Davis didn’t give trumpet lessons to kids in his parlor. Picasso didn’t teach art class at the community college. There’s a reason for that.
(link via BTF)