Last week, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic discovered that the Pirates were opening their fall instructional league with three days of players being "put through drills by a group of former Navy SEALS." It was the idea of assistant general manager Kyle Stark, who told Kovacevic he wanted "to give our guys a unique training experience to reinforce various lessons we stress all the time pertaining to leadership, team building and mental toughness." Because that's a priority for an organization whose big leaguers can't run the bases: making sure its prospects can dive into a sand pile. But Stark, who has no military background and little baseball experience, genuinely believes in all this, according to a June 28 email that has since been forwarded to Kovacevic by someone within the organization.
But more on that in a moment. First, let's get to exactly what sort of Navy SEALS training the Pirates' prospects would be doing, according to what Kovacevic wrote today:
• Wake up at 5 a.m.
• Organize room/locker
• Pushups and sit-ups
• Serpentine on the grass
• Crab walk
• Running along the beach with a telephone-type pole, carried by five or six players
• Pushing a truck tire through the outfield for 90 feet, then flipping it
• Being sprayed by a hose
• Diving into a sand pile
All with a drill sergeant barking orders throughout.
Now for Stark's email, which was sent to minor-league managers and coaches and contained the subject line "SECOND HALF—OUR WHAT." Kovacevic published the whole thing in all its batshit glory here, but this is a sampling:
1. Dream like a Hippie - PASSION - Elite people have big dreams, are driven by those dreams, and believe that they can achieve them.
2. Prepare like a Boy Scout - RELENTLESS - Elite people have extreme work ethic, train exhaustively to get better, and prepare fully so they can be their best when their best is needed.
3. Trust like a Hell's Angel [sic] - OWNERSHIP - Elite people trust their preparation, own their strengths and weaknesses, know what they do best and build conviction around it, and compete with reckless abandon.
The biggest impact we can have in the second half is developing more Hell's Angels [sic]. We are really good at working before games. We excel at developing Boy Scouts. However, men play in the Big Leagues and that requires the reckless abandon of a Hell's Angel [sic]. This is a mentality that is developed. It is a harder mentality to develop with less control, more gray area, and less science. However, it is the separation between good coaches and great ones, good development systems and great ones, and good organizations and great ones. Training guys to unleash what they've got is an art and needs to be our WHAT in the second half.
Stark concluded his email by quoting from the battle cry of Native American war leader Crazy Horse: "HOKA HEY—it's a great day to die!!!" Which turned out to be the real WHAT of the Pirates' second half. Again.