For Cecchini, baseball education began at home
Red Sox third-base prospect received valuable coaching from both mom and dad
BRADENTON, Fla. -- If Garin Cecchini plays like the son of a coach, it's because he is actually the son of two coaches and proud of it.
From t-ball to his senior year of high school, Cecchini was drilled in the fundamentals of the game by his mom and dad, Raissa and Glenn.
When Garin -- a left-handed-hitting third-base prospect for the Red Sox -- reached Barbe High School in Louisiana, Glenn was the head coach and Raissa was not only the first-base coach, but also the de facto hitting coach.
"I've learned everything that I know right now from them," said Garin, who is ranked sixth among third-base prospects by MLB.com. "I go to them with a lot of stuff during the season, and it's been pretty cool. They taught me the way to play the game the right way, the integrity of the game. How to hit, how to throw. It's pretty cool, because not many people can say, 'Hey, mom, can you come throw me BP?' And I can do that."
After a torn knee derailed Raissa's chances to play basketball in the Olympics, she thought about a career in dentistry. But she ultimately found her niche in coaching, for which her son is grateful.
And don't be fooled into thinking the lessons in the cage were elementary. Raissa has dissected the art of hitting throughout the years, attending clinics and talking to coaches who have been successful.
"That's one of my passions, is hitting," Raissa said. "I did a lot of studying and talked to a lot of people. The thing about coaches, I totally believe you have to do what you believe. Talking to all these people, I got something from everybody. There are too many people to say their names, but there are a lot of people who have helped me mold what I felt about hitting and coaching. I spent the most time with the boys hitting."
It is impossible to track how many hours Raissa spent in the cage pitching to Garin. Many other times, Glenn would do the pitching and Raissa would take technical notes.
"It's different," said Garin. "Some people might say, 'Oh, that's kind of weird that your mom throws BP to you.' But it's awesome, because I have four eyes on me -- my dad and my mom. Someone has to throw and someone has to watch. Sometimes your dad can just throw and can only watch at the same angle. To have two people, and then my brother can watch me, too, during the offseason. It's really helpful."
Make no mistake, this is a baseball family. Garin's younger brother, Gavin, was a first-round pick of the Mets in the 2012 Draft. Garin was a fourth-round selection by the Red Sox in '10. If his brother might be considered the better prospect just by Draft placement, don't be surprised if Garin is the same caliber of player when it's all said and done.
"When he graduated from high school and went to the Red Sox, he was a 200-pound kid," said Raissa. "Now he weighs 228. We always knew that Garin's power was going to come later. Everything he did, and everything in baseball, it came late. Everything developed late."
The power: That's the only concern anyone could have with Garin Cecchini's Minor League numbers to this point.
In 1,023 professional at-bats, he has the numbers one looks for in average (.312), on-base percentage (.417) and OPS (.874). But he has just 14 home runs.
Yet when asked about his hitting development, Cecchini was the one who went out of his way to mention power.
"I think power will come," he said. "I really think that. Trust me, I'm a guy that has really no patience. I would love to hit for power right now, but I really think it's going to come the way my swing is working right now. All I care about is line drives that are taking off right now, to tell you the truth."
There is a message in Cecchini's phone that reminds him to stay true to his hitting roots.
"I have it written in my phone: 'I've never met a person that complains about a line drive up the middle.' Nobody complains about a line drive up the middle," said Cecchini. "At the end of the day, nobody complains about that."
Nor will anybody complain about his work ethic. Red Sox manager John Farrell lights up when asked about Cecchini, referring to him as a "baseball rat."
Farrell's early impressions of Cecchini this spring?
"Outstanding," Farrell said. "He's got a very keen awareness of the strike zone. We knew that coming in, that he had a very advanced approach to hitting. What probably stands out the most are his instincts on the basepaths.
"He stole a base against a left-hander the other day, tried to stretch a single into a double even though [Aaron] Hicks made a heck of a throw to throw him out. He's not hesitant next time up with a ball that's bobbled in left, and he's standing on second base. All the things that he's demonstrated throughout his Minor League career have been on display here."
Cecchini, who will either start this season at Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket, started Monday's road game against the Pirates. After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, he promptly barreled into Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes to break up a double play.
When Cecchini got back to the dugout, a collection of Red Sox were reaching out for a handshake. Getting praise for something like that is more satisfying to Cecchini than what might come after a three-run double.
"I think anything with Garin, you go back to his upbringing," Farrell said. "His parents were heavily involved in his development as a player and the stress and importance that they placed on baserunning is evident. I think that speaks volumes to his hand-eye coordination and the ability to have confidence in the two-strike approach when he gets into those counts."
The "baseball rat" label is something that might just stay with Cecchini -- at least he hopes so.
"'Baseball rat,' that's an awesome comment," said Cecchini. "I love to be called a baseball rat. That's very humbling that [Farrell] says that, because that's what I try to be. I try to be around the field a lot and learn anything that I can from guys like him or Dustin Pedroia or Mike Napoli, or anything like that and just be around those guys.
"That's what rats are. They're just around and they're just pests. But I try not to be a pest. I just try to learn the game and respect the game and be a good player. I love being around the game, man."
It's always been like that. It probably always will be.
"That's one thing about Garin and Gavin, there's not a soul out there who plays this game of baseball who will outwork them," said Raissa. "We were hitting Christmas Eve, we were hitting Christmas Day. That's just what we wanted to do."
Within the next couple of weeks, Garin will probably move out of Major League camp and continue his development path in Minor League games.
But he is soaking in the experience, and is pleased with the way camp is going.
"I feel consistent. All anyone can ask for is being consistent," said Garin. "That's the player I want to be known for. A baseball rat that's consistent."