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Mudville: October 29, 2020 12:26 am PDT
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The Flyin’ Rosie, Adam Rosales

"I always loved being the utility player because every day was something different."

This baseball season has been tough on fans who appreciate old school baseball.

We had to swallow seven-inning doubleheaders, magic runners at second base in extra innings, expanded playoffs and a shortened season. We see ideal hit-and-run situations go by without a mention, because there’s no use in even suggesting it anymore.

Overnerding has turned the brains of baseball pursits into mashed potatoes.

It’s easy for fans to get discouraged that the game they grew up watching doesn’t exist anymore.

As usual, BallNine has the remedy for those who yearn for the days of Willie Mays playing stickball in the streets.

The cure is the recently retired Adam Rosales and he joins us this week for Spitballin’.

Rosales retired in 2019 after an 11-year career and if you ever need your love for baseball rejuvenated, the man they call “Rosie” has you covered.

Here’s why:

  • He played pickup games with kids while on the road as an active player as part of Sandlot Nation, a non-profit he founded in 2017. He did it to bring joy and enthusiasm to kids across America. Those kids could then turn on their TVs that night and watch the guy who was just pitching to them in the park play in a Major League game. And he brings his dad with him.

Adam Rosales with his Dad, ready to do some Sandlot Barnstormin'.

  • His home run “trots” were absolute sprints around the bases. Rosales’ fastest trip around the bases on a home run that went over the fence was 15.88 seconds. By comparison, Bartolo Colon’s was 31 seconds. From 2015-2017, his 15.88 time was faster than seven inside-the-park home runs. On almost all of them, he has a giant smile on his face and his sprint doesn’t end at home plate. It ends when he reaches the top step of the dugout. He said he does this because he promised himself that he would always play the game like a 12-year-old.

 

  • He does youth baseball instruction online for teams and individuals. It isn’t just your typical drills though. He plays trivia games with kids to teach them baseball lingo, the mental side of the game and the reasoning behind the drills they are working on.

 

  • The A’s have asked him to work as a coach in their Instructional League this fall, which he talks about with great excitement. When asked if he wants to pursue coaching, something he’d clearly be great at, his answer is that he’d rather spend time with his daughter and son, who are six and four.

“No matter where you are, just catch it.”

Adam Rosales will put a smile on your face no matter what he does. Check out his home run trots on YouTube. Go to baseballutility.com and watch him interact with kids. Google “Adam Rosales head-first slide” and scroll through the photos.

Or join us as we go Spitballin’ with Adam Rosales, the man whose spirit can save baseball.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Rosales. I’ve seen the instructional videos you have online, and you have such enthusiasm and are so positive. I want to ask where that all comes from and how that related to your career – but first, let’s start at the beginning. How did you get your start playing baseball?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Chicago and was a big Cubs fan. I remember watching them on TV and listening to Harry Caray and Steve Stone, watching Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson. But my guy I loved to watch play was Shawon Dunston. He was very energetic. I wanted to play the way he played. I emulated my game after him.

No cloud of dust was going to wipe Rosales' patented smile off his face while on the diamond.

Those guys were fun to watch for sure. So, you really grew up loving the game, at what point did you realize that you may have a chance to play professionally?

There were two times when it became a little bit real to me. First, when I played at Western Michigan, I saw all the pictures of Major Leaguers hanging up on the wall there. I thought, “Those guys were in the same shoes then as I am right now.” There were guys like John Vander Wal, Matt Mieske and Mike Squires. That’s what I wanted.

Another time was when my friend Pat Misch got drafted. He got drafted his junior year by the Astros, but then came back for his senior year, which was awesome because I got to play another year with him. Then he got drafted again by the Giants. I was thinking to myself, “Man, I can hit Misch. Maybe I can get drafted too.” Then I got drafted in 2005 by the Reds.

That’s great. It sounds like you had a great time playing at Western Michigan.

I was fortunate enough to play well there and my coach, Fred Decker was fantastic. He was honest with me on my recruiting trip. He told me there were no promises, but he really wanted me to be his starting shortstop as a freshman. That was exactly what I wanted to do and exactly what I did. To do it at a Division I school was special to me.

You made it through the minors pretty quick with the Reds and debuted in 2008. Dusty Baker was managing, and Ken Griffey Jr. was still on the roster. What is that experience like for someone who grew up loving the sport and watching those guys?

I never got to play with Griffey in the Majors, but I did get to play with him in Spring Training. I actually have a funny story about that. When I went to Western Michigan, I stayed there year-round in the suburbs. I was trying to gain my residency and I worked at Bob Evans. It was 2002 and my boss found out I was a baseball player. She asked me if I think I’ll ever play with Ken Griffey, Jr. I said that it would be pretty neat, but the chances of that happening are very slim. Fast forward four years, and I was standing next to him in Spring Training.

Throughout your Major League career, you established yourself as a utility guy, capable of playing anywhere in the infield or outfield. You really seem like you take a lot of pride in being able to play all over the field.

I tried to always keep it simple. A lot of utility players change their gloves when they switched from second to short or third, but I kept it simple. That comes from my dad. He always kept the game simple for me. He gave me the term “glove it, grip it, gun it,” he called it the Three G’s.

I believe it was 2006 and Johnny Bench came to talk to us as an instructor. He said the name of the game is defense. If you can catch the ball, it’ll buy you some time in this game. That’s what kept me in the game. Catching the ball and being able to play different positions. I had great coaches, especially my dad. He always said, “No matter where you are, just make sure you catch it.”

But I always loved being the utility player because every day was something different. I went to first base, then short, then left field, then second base. I fell in love with the dynamics of the game. There are different perspectives of the game playing different positions.

Speaking of being a true utility guy, a few weeks back we interviewed Desi Relaford and he said the highlight of his career was his one inning pitching. You made two pitching appearances. Do you have the same feelings about being on the mound?

Oh man! The first time I pitched it was against Toronto and my wife and mother-in-law were there with my daughter. My wife has seen me go out to warm up the pitcher before in between innings. This time, she saw me go to the mound and she said the first thought that came to her was that I was warming up a new catcher. She didn’t think there was any way I was pitching.

But yea, I got to pitch that game and then about two weeks later against the Yankees. I was warming up and just thinking, “OK, I got this,” but when it came time to go into the game, I was actually really nervous. I got pretty competitive too. But I gave up a homer to Danny Valencia in Toronto and Brett Gardner in New York. After that, I learned my lesson; the softer you throw, the more success you’re gonna have.

A true utility man answers the bell whenever he is needed - and Adam Rosales never shied away from letting a few pitches fly from 60 feet, six inches.

You played for six Major League teams and I wanted to ask about your experiences with a couple of them. First, tell us about what it was like playing with the A’s.

I played with them for four years and now I am coaching with them. I have a deep respect for Billy Beane. I read the book and saw the movie, but you don’t know what it’s really like. Then I was one of his players. I just had so much respect for Billy and the people that he brings to the club. He was transparent and a great communicator. I read Moneyball the year it came out and then I ended up on that team. I was like a captain and I tried to implement the moneyball strategies and tactics when I played.

The other team I wanted to ask about was the Texas Rangers with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and all those guys. Ron Washington was your manager. That was a great team, and you always seemed like you had so much fun playing. It was a lot of fun to watch as a fan.

You have a blast playing with those guys. But they want to win. Those guys don’t ever take a day off; they want to be out there. That’s what I learned from Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, Prince Fielder, all those guys. They have fun but they work hard and never take a day off. It was just amazing. Then Ron Washington and the energy that he brings to the game. What a treat to be part of that.

And I went back and forth between those two teams in 2013. I think I got designated four times in a month. I was in AAA and the A’s designated me, and I went to the Rangers. Then in two days the Rangers designated me, and I went back to the A’s. And it went back and forth. It was pretty wild.

I think that’s when the game is at its best. When a team has a ton of talent and has success while really having fun playing. That takes me into my question about Baseball Utility, a virtual youth instruction website where kids can learn about the game directly from you either individually or as a team. The whole time, you’re stressing having fun in the game. That seems to be a consistent message of yours.

For me, Baseball Utility is a big learning experience. I am trying to learn as much as I can so that I can put kids on the right track to grow and develop. If you put pressure on kids at the wrong time in their development, their time in the game is gonna close quick.

The National Alliance for Youth Sports did a study and said that 70% of kids quit sports by the age of 13 because it’s not fun anymore. I couldn’t believe that. I am trying to find a way to challenge these norms. Things like the amount of games they play and how long practice should be. We need to find a solution where kids can play just one more year and that will keep them in the game longer.

Ring around the Rosie

It seems like you really valued the fun you have playing youth baseball and you want kids to have that same experience as you. I think it’s great so much of what you do is geared towards youth.

That’s where my passion is. I saw that study and thought, maybe there’s too much pressure and that’s the number one reason they’re not having fun. You need to get them on the right schedule and make it more enjoyable those years when they stop playing. I just want to get them to play one more year.

They develop physically and mentally and then maybe they have a breakthrough and all of a sudden, they’re thinking, “Man, I really love this game!” I just want to be a catalyst for all of that.

In the situation we’re in with COVID and everything being remote, you’re offering some great instructional videos that I have seen on social media. Again, it looks like you’re having a lot of fun.

We were actually doing the online instruction before COVID. It’s like, I can reach a kid in New Jersey or wherever. If I have to wake up early for a workout before school, that’s OK. I kind of get innovative and then we try to figure out how we can organize the kids. These kids are recognized, and they need to know what they’re doing well.

 I try to build their confidence. I get a video and compare their swing to a Major Leaguer and you know, it’s really only a fraction difference. It’s very different physically, but mechanically, it’s really close. That tells me I should work on the mental part of things too, build confidence and educate. That’s communicated with the parents too. That’s the bridge, getting the parents on board.

That’s just so awesome. And you offer team training too?

Yes, and for the team training we have an online course that we go through. I was doing that with Lyle Overbay and everyone was fantastic. He’s great. So, these kids were like 12 years old and we’d go through videos on my hitting course. Then we would make them answer questions using the app Kahoot. You had to answer quick and accurately to get the most points. It ends up being a competition for about a half hour.

Then the other half hour we get them up out of their seats and they swing off a tee at home. I give them a lot of positive reinforcement and if the kids are doing something dramatically wrong, I can help them in a positive way.

Team building also looks like a big part of that too, right? That’s a good way to get kids to enjoy the sport. Building a good atmosphere around the team.

The biggest thing I miss about playing baseball is the clubhouse. Seeing all the guys and connecting. That’s what we try to create with the kids, a clubhouse atmosphere. We connect with guys like Overbay and Brandon Guyer and we build that atmosphere with the kids we train. It’s really important to me.

This has been really uplifting. It’s just so great to hear someone who just recently ended his career take such an interest in building a positive message while trying to get kids to stick with the sport. The last thing I ask our guests is if you have any final thoughts that you’d like to leave our readers with?

I say there’s no way we could do any of this without the fans. That’s what it comes down to; they make it go. They make this whole baseball opportunity and bring excitement to the game and that’s the point. That’s what I tell the guys I collaborate with. We’re not just building baseball players we’re trying to build fans of the game. It’s the greatest game in the world and I appreciate every moment I had on the field. The energy that the fans brought every day, it’s just remarkable.

None of this exists without the fans!

 

Learn more about Baseball Utility on their website www.BaseballUtility.com.

On his website, Adam says he “created our organization with a goal to provide youth baseball  players with a meaningful way to receive individualized hitting and fielding instruction from professional ballplayers who aspire to help each player not only perform to his or her full potential, but to continue progress in the long term.”

You can also see Adam’s latest instructional videos on social media.

Follow Baseball Utility on Twitter @bsblutility and on Instagram @BaseballUtility.

You can follow Adam on Twitter as well @ARosie7.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book will be out in April 2021.

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