Found February 27, 2012 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
JUPITER, Fla. Cardinals utility man Skip Schumaker found himself swinging a little harder than usual during batting practice the other day.
After all, he had to impress the pitcher.
Throwing to a group that included Schumaker, David Freese and Matt Holliday on a back field last week was Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who has taken being involved in practice to a new level in his first week on the job.
"You probably try to hit the ball as hard as you can when he's pitching," Schumaker joked. "Tony (La Russa) was involved in the practices but I never saw him throw a ball in all my years, so it's pretty neat to see Mike out there."
Matheny has thrown an occasional round of batting practice in previous springs, but doing so as manager is more noteworthy. He's pitched to a different group of hitters each day, throwing for about 15 minutes.
But after pitching to his kids the past few summers, throwing to one big league group apparently is a piece of cake.
"They think the average number of pitches in a round is somewhere around 60 or 70," Matheny said of his kids. "They don't understand that it's actually between four and seven, so the coaches ask how long I want to throw and I'm like, Listen, these guys have me throwing for an hour straight.'
"I've been blessed with a healthy arm so far and I'll keep working on it but for now, I want to throw and if the guys like what they have coming at them, I'll keep throwing all year."
Rangers manager Ron Washington is among a small number of big league managers who spend time throwing batting practice each day. Most managers would rather deal with scheduling issues or observe from a far.
But the 41-year-old first-year manager has taken his batting practice throws seriously thus far, ending a media session early on one occasion so he could jog to the back fields and not make his hitters wait.
"He's in incredible shape still and is in the gym all the time and that's never going to get away from him, being in shape and being involved," Schumaker said. "I know he had a lot of traveling teams with his kids. I'm sure he gets to check out hitters and hat type of thing too. I don't think he's just throwing, I think he's scouting guys."
Catchers are widely regarded as the best batting practice pitchers because of their consistent over-the-top release point. Matt Holliday had Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina throw to him during last summer's Home Run Derby.
Matheny, a former catcher, has been getting positive reviews for his throws. But players aren't likely to say otherwise when their manager is on the mound.
"Yeah that's true," Schumaker joked. "But it's neat. I'm glad he's more involved."
Matheny plans on continuing to throw batting practice in the regular season, assuming his players want him to.
"I'd like to think I have enough humility to know if I'm breaking bats and they are taking awful swings, then I'll know I have some bad BP going and I'll save it for my kids," Matheny said. "But until then, I'm going to throw."
Asked if he would bean one of his players for taking him deep, Matheny joked, "Maybe if they take a good long stare at it I might give them a second look, but them hitting me over the fence means I'm doing my job and they are doing theirs.
"I enjoy it. Until I hear somebody explain to me a better reason not to, I'm going to keep going."
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