Results tagged ‘ Sean Berry ’

Touching base with Sean Berry.

Every Friday through Spring Training, we’re running a feature called “Touching Base,” in an effort to let the fans get to know the Major League coaching staff, from the four newcomers — Brad Arnsberg, Bobby Meacham, Al Pedrique and Jamie Quirk — to the two returnees — Sean Berry and Dave Clark.

We hope this gives you insight to what coaches do every day. Their duties extend far beyond what you see them do on a field once the game starts. Last week, we featured pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. This week, the spotlight is on hitting coach Sean Berry.

(Check out our one-on-one video interview with Berry here.)

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Major League Baseball is mostly played at night, which makes those working within the industry grow accustomed to late hours and not-so-early wakeup calls in the morning.

That is, with the exception of Spring Training. During those six weeks, it’s almost as if there’s a race to see who can get to the clubhouse the earliest. The hours some of these people keep are, to use one of my favorite terms, absurd.

Manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg are both present and accounted for in the home clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium no later than 5:30 a.m. Most of the other coaches are not far behind, but with good reason — their players start filtering in as early as 6:30 a.m., and they’re ready to work.

Take Hunter Pence, for example. He’s there by an ungodly early time of 6:30, and within the hour, he’s ready to hit. That’s where hitting coach Sean Berry enters the picture, and it’ll be hours, and many, many sessions in the cage, before Pence is ready to call it quits for the day.

“There’s a few guys, like the Hunter Pences, that are in here morning, noon and night,” Berry said. “That’s OK. That’s what we’re here for. Hunter and I kid a lot that we have to teach him how to hit every day. We have a lot of fun with it.”

One of the original Killer B’s, Berry was a part of the Astros organization long before he became the hitting coach for the Major League club. He was first the club’s Double-A coach before spending two years as its roving hitting instructor. That past history means he’s probably known Pence longer than anyone currently working in the Astros’ system.

A coach fulfills many duties, but none may be more important than that of security blanket. They’re there to teach, encourage and observe, but they’re also there to make sure their players stay focused, and at the same time, relaxed. If baseball really is more of a mental than a physical game, it’s no wonder players become so attached to their coaches.

“As a hitting coach, you’re there to wipe their tears and help them out as much as we can,” Berry said. “That’s OK. That’s why we’re here.”

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All of the Astros’ coaches received their share of criticism during the Astros’ dismal finish in the standings in 2009, but Berry’s work with Pence and team MVP Michael Bourn should not be overlooked. Berry and third base coach Dave Clark have played an integral role in both Pence and Bourn making tremendous strides in transitioning from swing-happy youngsters into mature hitters who have better pitch recognition and who know when to be aggressive and when to wait for their pitch. This is something that cannot be detected by a stat sheet but is vital to having staying power at this level.

Berry has the added challenge of knowing how far to push his hitters during the spring season. Youngsters still have things to prove. Veterans, on the other hand, simply need to pace themselves and be ready to go in April, rather than worrying about what they do in a mid-March game in Viera.

“For the established players there’s not as much urgency during Spring Training as there is during the season,” Berry said. “For the young players trying to make the team, I have to be aware of which guys we can kind of tinker with a little more and work on a few things.

“There’s a little more relaxed atmosphere somewhat, but we’re trying to get ready to win ballgames, even in Spring Training. We have a new edge this year, and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”

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Just the facts: Sean Berry
Born
: Santa Monica, CA
Resides: Paso Robles, CA
Age: 43 (turns 44 on March 22)
Drafted: First round by the Kansas City Royals in 1986.
Major League debut: September 17, 1990
Final game: July 24, 2000
Began his coaching career in 2003.
Best remembered as
: One of the original “Killer B’s,” along with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Derek Bell.
Hobbies: He’s a wine connoisseur and enjoys golfing.
Something you didn’t know: “I’m a pretty good tennis player. Even though I don’t play anymore, I can still wax everybody.”

The view from the press box at Wrigley Field, and other leftover odds and ends.

 

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If you took a survey of 100 Major League players and asked them to name their favorite road city, it’s highly likely no fewer than 95 would answer, “Chicago.”

The people. The restaurants. The nightlife. And the ballpark.

Yes, the ballpark. For the most part, ballplayers love Wrigley Field. They love the tradition, the heckling fans, the packed houses every night, the rickety old infrastructure and the elaborate singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that has continued as a tradition since Harry Caray’s passing 11 years ago.

The clubhouse is cramped, the tunnels smell funny and the dugouts are tiny, but for some reason, none of that matters. Because it’s Chicago, it’s Wrigley Field, and it’s fun. And the showdowns between the Astros and Cubs over the years have been, for the most part, fantastic.

Above is a shot of my view of Wrigley Field from way up in the press box. Day games at Wrigley are preferred, but there’s nothing like the view on a clear, rain-free night.

Cleaning out the photo file…

It was Family Day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, the one day players are invited to bring their kids on the field for a free-for-all run around the bases (and the outfield and the dugouts and the mound…must be a fun day for the grounds crew).

I’ve been to a dozen family days but for some reason this one seemed more well-attended than those in the past. Check out this photo…and that’s only part of the group.

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Darin Erstad and family…

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Sean Berry and family…

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On Saturday, I attended the annual Texas Italian American Sports Foundation Scholarship Awards luncheon, a yearly ritual that involves Astros players, great food and a terrific cause.

The event is held at Damian’s Cucina Italiana every year and provides scholarships for student-athletes headed for college in the fall.

Representing the Astros were Jeff Fulchino, Mike Hampton, Jose Cruz, Hunter Pence and emcee Milo Hamilton. And the bread pudding was to die for.

Milo, with a young fan…

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Pence, Fulchino.

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Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuz

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Hampton.

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Yes, Puma, taking pictures is now my full-time job.

And he can barely contain his excitement:
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Seriously, though…great to see the team back in town, and really, really great to see hitting coach Sean Berry, who’s back from a three-week hiatus after having a cancerous kidney removed. He looks great and says he’s feeling good. Obviously, his team — more specifically, the hitters — were happy to see him. Here he is with Geoff Blum:
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And with Puma:
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And Coop:
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Jose Valverde has rejoined the team, even though he’s just now taking the very small steps toward returning to the mound. Here he is hanging behind the cage with the coaches:

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And last but most definitely not least, here is my somewhat frazzled friend Brian McTaggart…it’s his first day on the job as the new Astros beat writer for MLB.com. I taught him everything I know…but don’t hold it against him. Next to him is the Rockies MLB.com beat writer, Thomas Harding.

(Next time you email Tags, ask him about the Astros chances to get Ben Sheets and trade for Jake Peavy. He likes that.)

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Bits and pieces from postgame interviews…
Roy Oswalt:
“Hopefully, this homestand, we can get something going.”

On his early-season struggles::
“No matter how long you play this game, you’re going to run into a skid when you’re not playing well. Even some Hall of Famers have hit some skids along the way. You’re only human — a lot of people go through different things. It’s how you work out of it.”

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As Carlos Lee exited the clubhouse, he high-fived Sean Berry and said, “I missed you man. I haven’t done anything in two weeks.” Perhaps not so coincidentally, Lee logged his first RBI in more than two weeks on the very day Berry returned after a three-week absence.

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If you didn’t see the foul-ball incident involving Michael Bourn in the seventh inning, don’t look for it in the highlights. (It’s one of those injuries that make men cringe.) Anyway, Cooper was asked about it after the game, and he paused briefly, chuckled a bit and said, “I don’t want to talk about that one. We’ll just move on.”

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Buddy, can you spare a glove?

Jeff Fulchino had an interesting couple of hours after he was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. He met the Astros in Chicago Thursday night, and because he didn’t travel with them from Denver, he had to bring his equipment bag with him from the hotel to Wrigley Field Friday morning.

He hopped in a cab with a couple of teammates, but once they paid the cab fare, the driver took off — with, unwittingly, Fulchino’s equipment bag. So the relief pitcher had to borrow shoes and a glove from a couple of teammates. The glove was no problem — he swiped one, temporarily, from Roy Oswalt. The shoes, on the other hand…well, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fulchino wears a size 15. Not a whole lot of that just hanging around in the clubhouse.

LaTroy Hawkins was the closest, with a size 14. That’s close, but maybe not quite close enough. No wonder Fulchino was walking a little funny when he headed to the field for stretching before Friday’s game [which was eventually postponed].

But there’s a happy ending. A clubhouse worker received a call from the cabbie, who, upon discovering the equipment, headed back to Wrigley to deliver the goods.

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Michael Bourn and his solid production continues to be a hot topic each day. But manager Cecil Cooper takes no credit for the center fielder’s emergence.

“That’s all Sean Berry,” Cooper said, referring to the Astros’ hitting coach. Cooper also included third base coach Dave Clark as a major influence.

Speaking of Berry, he’s back with his family at his California home, where he’ll spend about a week. He’ll then return to Houston for another examination by his doctor, and if he’s given the “all-clear,” he’ll resume his coaching duties soon after.

It’s been about a week since Sean had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney, and he’s anxious to rejoin the club. He is, of course, glad the team is hitting well in his absence, but he’d prefer to see it up close and personal — and who can blame him?

Berry out of the hospital, texting Hunter.

Sean Berry was still lying in his hospital bed Sunday morning when he texted a friendly reminder to his prized pupil to be patient at the plate.

Naturally, Berry was happy to see Hunter Pence draw two walks during the Astros’ 12-5 win over the Padres. He was even happier Monday, when he was released from the hospital and was cleared to head to his California home with his wife, Linda, and children Tanner and Madeline.

Berry plans to fly west on Thursday. He hopes to be back with the team in about two weeks — “maybe a little less, maybe a little more,” he said.

The
43-year-old Berry was diagnosed with having a tumor on his right kidney
after feeling discomfort that he mistook for kidney stones during the
last road trip. The tumor was discovered last Wednesday, and he had
surgery to removed the kidney two days later.

For now, Berry is cancer-free, but he realizes he’s in for a new way of life from here on out. He’ll be checked every three months for any other complications that may arise. He’s in great spirits and is anxious to return to the team — after enjoying some time with a family that I’m sure has had one heck of a tough week.

Tough day. Good to see Boooooone. Get well soon, Sean.

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It was somewhat ironic that Aaron Boone happened to be visiting the Astros on Wednesday, the same day the Astros made another one of those serious announcements about the health of someone in uniform that had nothing to do with hamstring strains or shoulder tendinitis.

A little over six weeks ago, Boone, age 36, told the world he was having open-heart surgery. Today, 43-year-old hitting coach Sean Berry let us know he has a tumor on his kidney that is likely cancerous, and will have to be removed soon.

If there is a silver lining to Sean’s condition, it’s that this cancer is extremely treatable and should be 100 percent gone once the tumor is removed. He might even be able to do it laproscopically, which would require just a short recovery time.

“You always hear this is the one you want to get,” Berry said. “After they cut it out, I should be 100 percent fine. No chemo, no radiation.”

You can read here about Dave Clark’s inadvertent contribution that caused Berry to detect the tumor early.

Here’s hoping Sean gets through this quickly. He’s a great guy, a great coach and a great friend to many. Not to mention one of the original Killer B’s.

As usual, Puma summed it up nicely:

“It’s almost surreal,” Berkman said. “It’s just weird because a week ago, that never even enters your mind. Then we knew he wasn’t feeling well in Atlanta. He said it was kidney stones. I’ve heard of people having those before. It’s farily common and very painful. When I came in today we saw a meeting at 4:15, and the furthest thing from my mind was anything like that.

“I thought maybe they were going to chew us out or something, whatever. Then I knew immediately it was something not good. Then you get a sick feeling in your stomach. You just can hardly believe it.

“We’re encouraged by the report. Not that cancer’s ever not a big deal, but if you’re going to have cancer it sounds like this is a better situation than most. They can operate on it and it doesn’t sound like he has to have chemo, so that’s good news.”

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Meanwhile, it was nice to see Booooooone. I heard he was showing off his scar to his teammates so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask him to show it off to the media. I didn’t think he’d go for it, but boy was I wrong:

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Dave Clark organized a fun session of batting practice with the coaches while the team was in Atlanta. Little did he know how important that session would be to Berry in the end.

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Not only is Sean Berry the best hitting coach Hunter Pence has ever had, according to Pence himself, but he’s also a mentor. Pence took this one hard. 

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