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D-backs add mental skills dept. to aid players

February 1, 2019

PHOENIX -- In an effort to help develop their players on and off the field, the D-backs have added a mental skills department to their baseball operations staff."It's not new conceptually for us," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "We've always had it. We've had Peter Crone and Peter is

PHOENIX -- In an effort to help develop their players on and off the field, the D-backs have added a mental skills department to their baseball operations staff.
"It's not new conceptually for us," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "We've always had it. We've had Peter Crone and Peter is really good and really smart, but obviously Peter has a much bigger business than just the D-backs, and I think the thought process was creating something that was comprehensive to the Diamondbacks, more proprietary and that we could implement systemwide."
Zach Brandon, whom the D-backs hired away from the IMG Academy, will lead the department and report to Ken Crenshaw, who oversees the team's medical and training staffs. While at IMG, Brandon was responsible for developing and implementing mental training programs for student-athletes, as well as providing individual consulting services to external trainees, including Olympic track-and-field athletes and Major League Baseball players.
The team also hired Charley Jauss to work in the department, and he joins former big league pitcher Daniel Bard, who served as the organization's player mentor in 2018.
"Our goal is to give our players every opportunity, every resource as they grow in their career," Hazen said. "Much like we've done with all of our fundamental and physical programs -- looking to make this program analogous to those."
Bard spent last summer traveling between the organization's Minor League teams, making himself available for players who wanted to talk. His experience as someone who had big league success, as well as well-publicized command issues with the Red Sox, allowed him to relate well to players.
"It was effective," Hazen said. "But just the volume requires more hands."
The goal now is to create a program that reaches throughout the organization, all the way down to the team's academy in the Dominican Republic. Jauss will be a huge asset with that given that he speaks fluent Spanish.
"There will be some integration at the Major League level, but we're going to start the majority of the focus underneath that in the Minor Leagues," Hazen said. "A lot of this is based on developing relationships and connections. You don't really know what you're going to deal with on a day-to-day basis because the game changes all the time and players are thrust into different situations, so having the foundation for those situations, I think those relationships are so important and that's just going to take time to develop."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.