It was a proud moment for Corey Hart in a way. Danny Jansen stepped to the plate at the Futures Game and belted out a two-run home run with the eyes of all in Major League Baseball watching.
The goal for Hart is to see all of his players make it to the big leagues. He knows that’s not going to happen, but it’s part of his approach.
Each player is unique but each player is capable.
And whether he’s working with a rookie in the Gulf Coast League in Florida or with a top prospect knocking on the door of his first Major League call up, Hart treats all of them same. He works with their individuality to make them a better team player.
“As a hitting coach in professional baseball, a huge key is understanding your players and keeping things as simple as possible,” Devon Travis said during a stint with the Herd back in May. “I think Corey does a fantastic job of that. I think he’s going to be a big league hitting coach for a long time and I’m thankful for my time down here with him.”
Hart joined the Bisons staff this year as the team’s hitting coach, his third in the Blue Jays organization. Not to be confused with the former major league outfielder also named Corey Hart a two-time All-Star with the Brewers, the Bisons instructor played in the minor leagues from 1998-2005, spending parts of three seasons in Triple-A.
He spent the last two seasons in Dunedin, Fla., working with the Blue Jays rookies, minor leaguers and players on rehabilitation assignments.
His promotion to Buffalo allows Hart to help players fine-tune their approach to hitting and learn how to make that jump in performance.
But performance can be a tricky thing for a hitter. It can be downright frustrating actually, particularly wrapping your head around the greatness of failing 70 percent of the time at the plate.
Even more frustrating, especially for minor league players, is the desire to have instant results. In a game that fawns over the math, sometimes the statistics don’t match with the reality.
“I have to tell myself to look at the stats because I know how a player is doing by the way he’s swinging the bat and how he’s hitting the ball,” Hart said. “A lot of times it doesn’t match up with the numbers. It’s unfortunate. It’s surprising sometimes when I look at batting averages because I feel like they’re doing way better than their average is showing ...
“It is hard because they want success and they want immediate feedback,” Hart said. “The way the game is structured with numbers and everything, them hitting the ball hard is not good enough. Sometimes they’d rather hit it soft and get a hit than hit it hard and get out. That’s the bad thing about the game and the bad thing about the numbers of the game. You try to keep them focused on the process and not the result. Hopefully it will turn into good numbers eventually.”
How to get to those good numbers?
It’s about messing around with hitting. Every. Single. Day.
When players first enter the professional ranks, they’ve already enjoyed a level of success, usually in high school. But the reality of facing a professional pitcher – who had more than one pitch and movement on the ball – can be a harsh reality.
“A lot of times with younger hitters they always revert back to what worked for them in high school,” Hart said. “When the game wasn’t as fast you can could get away with a lot more stuff. Now the game gets faster and guys are throwing three pitches for strikes and it doesn’t always translate into good seasons. That’s when mechanics need to change. Some people will trust you and do it right away and focus on it and some won’t. Some will fight you and say well this worked for me back then. Eventually they’ll realize it doesn’t work and they’ll come to you.”
By the time players reach Triple-A, the mechanics are pretty much set, Hart said. The emphasis now is on approach. That means having a plan and sticking with the plan. This is where the art of hitting takes over, where players need to develop a feel and a rhythm.
And for Hart, his instruction is simple – give them as much information as possible and let the player decide what works best.
“It’s about getting the right position to hit. You think it would be easy to do it every day but there’s different timing of pitchers and different arms and different speeds and pitches, that it’s such a rhythmic process,” Hart said.
“My goal is to give them as much information as I can and let them sift through what they need and what helps them to get ready. There’s so many different stances and set-ups and all that. There’s some absolutes they need to get to in their timing and I think everyone gets to that differently. Yes, everybody is different. Some have small moves. Some big moves. Whatever works for that guy getting to be the most consistent he can be.”