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Crew adjusting to limited video room access

@AdamMcCalvy
July 7, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Much has been made of beginning the Major League season with no fans in the stands, but Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines on Tuesday noted another “enormous” change awaiting players in 2020: Limited access to video. With the Brewers and other clubs adopting what manager Craig Counsell called

MILWAUKEE -- Much has been made of beginning the Major League season with no fans in the stands, but Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines on Tuesday noted another “enormous” change awaiting players in 2020: Limited access to video.

With the Brewers and other clubs adopting what manager Craig Counsell called an “outside is better than inside” approach to avoid the spread of COVID-19, players’ access to the tight quarters of the video room will be closely controlled or outright prohibited this season, Haines expects. That will require an adjustment for those who jog the 30 yards or so from the dugout to the video room to watch an at-bat that may have just concluded moments ago.

“We’ve talked a lot about how that will challenge them in a good way -- more discussion with teammates, more time watching from the dugout, just being more engaged,” Haines said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be in the dugout. They may be in the stands. I don’t know. … We’re just going to have to do it differently.

“It’s not feasible to think we’re going to take video away from them. I’ll still have my device or [assistant hitting coach] Jacob Cruz will have his device or [manager of advance scouting Brian] Powalish will have his device. We just have to handle it.”

Crew, first-round pick Mitchell agree (source)

iPads and other tablets have become ubiquitous in baseball in recent years. Devices have been allowed for use in the dugout in recent seasons, pre-loaded each day with video and cut off from the Internet to avoid nefarious uses. They have proven particularly helpful to hitters seeing a quick look at a relief pitcher about to enter a game, Haines said.

But what might not be available to players this year are the laptops in the video room (or on a table in the clubhouse on the road) which have offered on-demand video of whatever a player wishes to watch. Former Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal could often be found at a computer looking at video in the hours before he and his pitcher that day attempted to navigate a lineup. Hitters could sit and watch video of every past at-bat against the opponents’ starting pitcher.

Because of coronavirus protocols, Haines said, the Brewers and other teams may have to come up with alternative delivery methods for that information.

“Players are not going to have the freedom to have four guys in a row to sit down and touch a keyboard and a mouse,” Haines said. “It’s going to have to be my own personal … There’s some moving parts there. We’ve had discussions, and TBD, maybe, on the total function and finality of it.”

What do hitters make of the adjustments ahead?

“For me, analyzing my swing is based off of feel,” second baseman Keston Hiura said. “So, if I'm feeling something that night or feeling something's off, I'll know that after that at-bat or after that swing versus going into the video room and saying, ‘All right, what was wrong with that swing there?’ It’s more of a feel, understanding myself as a player and my swing in general.

“I know a lot of people really enjoy looking at video -- not only of themselves but opposing pitchers, opposing players, so they can get data on how to approach them, whether they're a pitcher, trying to pitch to hitters or a catcher trying to understand the weaknesses of a hitter. I think overall it could definitely impact some players. But I think at the end of the day, everyone's pretty knowledgeable about what they’re going to do in certain situations.”

Said veteran Brock Holt, who doesn’t watch much video himself: “This season is going to be more about just competing than anything.”

The video room is not the only space in the stadium that will look different during a 2020 season. The batting cage also requires new routines.

“We have masks on. We just keep our space,” Haines said. “Really, the work is the same. In the cage, there cannot be as many guys in there, just for distancing purposes. If you want to talk to them, you don’t get quite up on them as closely maybe as in the past. But we have masks on and we’re getting our work in.

“We kind of take pride in those cages. It’s kind of camaraderie, and we have a lot of running jokes in there. It’s the fellas. It’s the boys. So now it’s just much smaller groups.”

So far, Haines is happy with the adjustments.

“It’s so much better than I envisioned,” he said. “I was pretty anxious coming in because of the nature of the job and kind of what it takes, you feel like, to connect on the hitting side. You’re kind of in the trenches with them in the cages. If you want to watch video with them, you have all these thoughts in your head of, ‘How do you make that work?’

“It’s to our guys’ credit, from the medical to [manager Craig Counsell], how much thought they’ve put in this. It’s much better than I anticipated. It’s just new.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.