As the Orioles’ new minor league offensive coordinator, former shortstop Mike Bordick won’t be wearing a headset and implementing the shotgun. And I won’t be making any Gilbert Arenas jokes.
Bordick will teach the small-ball approach to some impressionable youngsters, while also being available to assist in other areas, such as defense and baserunning. His methods will meld with those belonging to roving hitting instructor Denny Walling.
Bordick addressed this topic, among others, during the most recent Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan and ESPN 1300.
On the importance of playing small-ball: “There are going to be tough games. You’ve got two No. 1 guys going against each other, you know it’s going to be a low-scoring game, you’ve got to manufacture some runs instead of hoping or praying that someone’s going to hit a two-run or three-run home run. In some situations, you may have to bunt in the first and second innings, and I think if we can get the kids, especially, to learn that, it’ll give them more opportunities to make the big leagues.”
On players not being able to bunt: “Mentally, there isn’t a focus. Obviously, there has to be more of a focus on hitting because you’re going to get 500 at-bats, but it doesn’t take much to concentrate and get 10 bunts down and just to lock it in and have that focus. I know when guys take ground balls, like myself or Cal Ripken or anybody else, there’s focus, there’s a purpose to what you do, so why not have a purpose when you’re bunting or doing your hit-and-runs or getting a guy over? That stuff’s going to lock in and it’s going to become more instinctive, so you don’t have to think about it or worry about it when you step in the box.”
On offering help with fielding and baserunning: “I hope I can. I hope they let me do stuff like that. Last year, I was the roving infield instructor for the Blue Jays and I’d help guys every now and then with some hitting and baserunning stuff. So hopefully, coming over to the Orioles, if there’s a chance to work with kids on some fielding things along with what they want me to do on the offensive side, I hope I can because I really enjoy that stuff. And I know kids nowadays, there’s a need for that, teach guys the right way to field ground balls and to mentally be out there for every pitch and keep their head in the game.”
On how these lessons helped him early in his career: “Coming up with the A’s, my opportunities were limited, but Tony La Russa would give me chances to help the team win by hit-and-runs, bunting, things like that. I had a soft bat, but what I had confidence in and what made me feel like I was helping this team win was the fact that I could go out there and prevent runs from scoring. Mike Gallego used to tell me that all the time. I’d have my head down, I was 0-for-3 or something, and he’d say, ‘Listen, go out there and make a diving play, save the winning run from scoring, and there you go, you did a good job.’ That’s what you’ve got to hang your hat on and take pride in.”
On setting the major league record for consecutive games without an error (110) in 2002: “I ended up thinking about it when it became a higher number, and obviously that kind of stuff gets in the media and you’re asked questions. What separates most guys, why they’re professional athletes, is you can take the field and hang your hat on your preparation, and that’s what I did. Every day I’d go out there and I’d get my ground balls. I’d take them for a whole group, I’d get them from Sam Perlozzo, and I made sure I did the same thing every day. And that was my routine, so when game time started, no matter what I was thinking about, I could trust the preparation and knew I was ready to go.”
On making a tough play at the end to set the record: “There was a broken-bat chopper in the hole between short and third, but the broken bat came flying out to short and it almost hit me. That was a little tricky, but I was kind of focused on that ball.”
On how Perlozzo aided him as a coach: “Sam helped me tremendously. Not necessarily about the fundamentals and the mechanics of fielding, but keeping my head in there. I know coming over to Baltimore was a tricky transition, coming in for Cal, and that was probably the hardest adjustment, but Sam really helped me relax and I ended up having a better second half of the season defensively and overall. Just being there as a coach, and being able to pick up some little things and understanding what’s going on out there, because if you hit a guy that many ground balls, he obviously knows every little movement and when things are going wrong. He always talked to me about stuff. He was always talking about situations, why I’d do this, changing coverages on hit-and-runs, and it was great. I think there was a great open communication, which is important for a player and coach.”
On today’s players not knowing him: “I’m sure a lot of them don’t know who I am, but if there’s a problem, I’ll just go out and take ground balls with them. They can Google or whatever. A lot of guys did that last year when I was with the Blue Jays. Nobody knew who I was, then they’d come up and say, ‘Hey, I Googled you. I didn’t realize you played that long in the big leagues.’”
On getting players to stay focused: “I know the hardest thing for a professional player is to have focus in the minor leagues for 144 games or 142 games, to go out there every day and be prepared and be ready to play baseball and want to win. There are going to be good days and bad days. You might be in a slump, 0-for-20, but you still have to go out there and prepare yourself the same way and want to try to get as good as you can and not stop learning. And that’s the way guys make it to the big leagues. If you want to become a big leaguer and you’re only going to be ready for 140 games, you’re not going to cut it in the big leagues. You’ve got to be ready for 162 games. You go out there, you prepare yourself. This is your job, you’re a professional baseball player. There are going to be days off the whole off-season. Let’s go. That’s what minor league baseball is about. Are you willing to make the sacrifice and be committed to ride buses for basically the love of the game? And every time you get off the bus and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, are you still going to go out there and bust your hump to try to help your team win and do whenever you can to get better and make it to the big leagues? That’s the test.”
On having to adapt to different personalities: “I found that out from coaching in high school for a few years and coaching last year and having six kids. Everybody’s different, and there are different ways to motivate kids, and there are different ways kids are going to learn. With some, you can say something and they’ll pick it up. Others, you have to show them and demonstrate it. And others, you have to stay on them every day until they get it - especially some of the younger kids. There are very talented kids, 17, 18 19, who are just so young, it won’t absorb, so you have to stay on them, and hopefully it takes.”