A Red Sox physical spring training

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As a youngster, I had the opportunity to attend Red Sox spring training in both Arizona and Florida.

The routine in ST had been well established by generations of players, managers, coaches and front office personnel. You would see the traditional laps being run, fielding drills, agility drills, some hitting and the usual stretching. Occasionally a mano a mano event would take place. I remember Jim Busby, near the end of his career, still demonstrating his ability to literally fly around the bases.

There was no heavy lifting for a player who showed up in camp in relatively decent shape. Come in as a physical load and that usually means a dressing down by the manager or a coach. Players would often find a comfy spot to rest and gab while enjoying the shade. Occasionally I would spot a cooler with adult beverages readily available.

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Access was easy in the relaxed atmosphere that was spring training. You could approach almost any player or they would approach you. Large crowds were rare and media would take it all in as a nice three to four week vacation.

How times have changed.

You still have the basic workouts but they are now far more codified. The training staff is no longer a coach with a loud voice and a trainer with limited experience. Now it is a team of trained professionals who are on duty to quickly intervene with every tweak a player has. Staff must be keen observers to note any change in player mobility as someone in job competition or in a walk year may be reluctant to step forward.

The Red Sox have a payroll that approaches 200M and have, like all other teams, invested heavily in signing draft picks and international prospects. The players are a valuable asset. Just think of the turmoil within the Red Sox medical staff over the Jacoby Ellsbury injuries a few seasons back. That resulted in significant organizational changes.

The medical screening is now exceptional and even has stepped into the behavioral sciences. The study of body kinetics, using sophisticated visual technology and even body scans gives a baseline of information on each player. They can be utilized during the season as a comparison tool when injuries surface or to document medical history in player exchanges. If a contract is insured it is required to have as much medical support available in case of a career threatening injury.

The face of spring training may be the players and the stories that swirl around the team, but in the background is a team of watchful eyes. A misdiagnosis or failure to intervene appropriately could wreck a season or a career.