Ozzie More than Just Defense

(Jupiter, FL) For the last week, Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has been at Spring Training with the St. Louis Cardinals, roving about and talking with veterans and young players alike.

“Getting the chance to get back out here on the field and watch the development of some of these young guys, it’s fun,” said Smith. “It’ll be interesting to see how the guys improve from last year. Guys like Grichuk, just how much they learned from last year getting post-season experience.”

2-25-15 Ozzie-GrichukThis is his third consecutive spring with the team, which has provided Ozzie real perspective to be able to monitor the growth and development in players like Grichuk.

“I think all the guys that they have at the big league level are really starting to come into their own,” stated Ozzie. “Randal has really shown what he’s capable of. Look for him to really have a good year if he stays healthy.”

And like it was with Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, and the other young players he helped along the way the advice from Smith has been well-received.

“Kind of just about approach and obviously with different counts–when you’re up in the count and down in the count,” said Grichuk, who was eager to have some knowledge dropped from The Wizard at the cage.

“Not really mechanic-wise,” continued Grichuk. “But just approach and mentally what you’re thinking. What you’re trying to do up there. And then, just trying to get some of the experiences he’s gone through. Stuff that he’s had to work on or stuff that he has gone through that I possibly might go through and just help me out when it arrives.”

“It’s always fun to watch because that’s hopefully the goal–that they can continue to improve and become better and more consistent,” added Smith. “I think that’s what we’re seeing. That’s what you hope for and one of the things that makes this organization so special.”

2-28-15 Ozzie-Matheny“A lot of pride in having him with us,” said Mike Matheny of Smith again coming down for camp. “He’s done a great job of keeping himself available to anybody who wants to talk.”

“A superstar like Ozzie he wants to be a resource to help guys. He doesn’t want to come out and tell every guy he has to do things a certain way, but tell them this is what worked for him. And obviously it worked really well. It’s very valuable for us. And to pass along that tradition–it’s something we take very seriously.”

While still providing the expected guidance defensively, Smith actually spent more of his time this year around the batting cage. Often overlooked are the nearly 2500 hits that he accumulated in his career–and the fact Ozzie basically taught himself to hit while playing at the big league level.

“It’s one of those things that I prided myself on being as well-rounded as I could,” said Smith. “I think that’s the same thing that working with these guys on–trying to be well-rounded and take pride in all aspects of it. Sometimes it’s the little things that you improve on or that you become more consistent at is the way that the team gets better. Looking at a lot of these guys now, they’re starting to take in all the things that they do, base-running and stuff.”

2-28-15 Ozzie-KozmaPete Kozma and others have mentioned a desire to cut down on their strikeouts–a sort of shift back to the mentality of when not making contact was looked down upon.

“That’s one of the areas that you want to work on too,” agreed Ozzie. “You want to cut down on that. There’s a couple of guys here, that just putting the ball in play sometimes.

“Because teams build themselves from an offensive standpoint, probably going to be lacking in other areas and that other area is usually defense. So, if you learn to keep the ball in play then it becomes much better, much more productive.”




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