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DeShields' method is quite a racket

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- "Tennis, anyone?" That's not what Delino DeShields has in mind as he walks around Spring Training carrying his racket.

DeShields, the manager of the Reds' Triple-A Louisville affiliate, has stood out throughout camp. While most coaches are using, walking with or leaning on the familiar red fungo bat, DeShields is often holding what appears to be a tennis racket.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- "Tennis, anyone?" That's not what Delino DeShields has in mind as he walks around Spring Training carrying his racket.

DeShields, the manager of the Reds' Triple-A Louisville affiliate, has stood out throughout camp. While most coaches are using, walking with or leaning on the familiar red fungo bat, DeShields is often holding what appears to be a tennis racket.

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Even more unique of a sight is DeShields using the racket to hit ground balls to infielders in drills.

"It provides less torque and effort on the body, and it's more accurate," DeShields explained. "I've been using it for quite some time."

As tennis legend John McEnroe might say, "You cannot be serious!"

But as DeShields will gladly point out, his racket is not for tennis at all. It's actually a baseball training device, from Sky Bat. Unlike the tennis rackets that Roger Federer or Serena Williams might use, DeShields' racket is made with heavy-duty strings and metal to withstand hitting baseballs.

Tweet from @m_sheldon: Delino DeShields uses this racket to hit ground balls to infielders. It's pretty neat to see. #reds pic.twitter.com/R6SDszH9CF

"There's more than one way to skin a cat," DeShields said. "A lot of times, we don't have a lot of time or a lot of days to get quality work in. I get good feedback from the kids. I wouldn't use it if they didn't like it. I've got nothing but good reviews, so I will continue to use it."

DeShields is in his ninth season with the Reds' organization and entering his third year as Louisville's manager. He played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, from 1990-2002, with the Expos, Dodgers, Cardinals, Orioles and Cubs. Most of his games were played at second base.

Early Friday morning on a half-field where infielders practice, DeShields was hitting grounders to Arismendy Alcantara at shortstop and Brandon Dixon at second base. It looked like any other coach hitting grounders to players, with one exception.

There was no crack of a bat hitting the ball. It was much quieter when each ball made contact with DeShields' special racket.

"It looks the same," Dixon said. "He'll hit some top spin on it. I think it gives you a different look. But I think it's similar to game-like ground balls. It's nice. Today I asked him where he got it because it's simple to do. If you're a parent or someone in the offseason, have them work with you. I hadn't seen it before I saw him using it."

Reds utility player Tony Renda has taken ground balls from the racket at Louisville and this spring. During the season, DeShields will wear a glove on his left hand and use the racket to hit balls with his right.

"It was a little funny at first but he's actually very accurate with it," Renda said. "It's actually quicker than having someone catch the ball for him. He has the racket in one hand and glove in the other. He catches it with the glove, flips it up with the glove and hits it with the racket. He loves it, too.

"He hits a good ground ball with it and puts it where he wants to. At first, it's a little suspect. By the end of it, you're like, 'All right, we actually are getting some work in.' You get a true hop or a true roll to the ball. It's pretty good. He might be on to something."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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