Brock Enjoying the Fundamentals

During his Hall of Fame career, Lou Brock was rarely on the disabled list–joining Stan Musial as the only two players in St. Louis Cardinals history to play in over 2200 games for the team. So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brock is giving serious consideration to playing in the “Chip off the Old Brock” contest at his annual golf tournament next week.

“That’s a great thought,” he laughed during a earlier this week. “I just may–on a chip, I probably could do that.”

The 25th Annual Lou Brock Golf Classic takes place on Monday, September 10th at Whitmoor Country Club and benefits the Lou Brock Scholarship Fund and Lindenwood University Athletics.

And after dealing with diabetes and cancer over the last couple years, Brock is looking forward to being more active at the tournament this year.

“All those things are practically behind me right now and I’m moving forward,” shared Brock, who showed some of his progress recently at the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame ceremony when he cast aside his cane and walked up the dugout steps and onto the field.

“For about 10 steps, I can probably do it without the cane,” he said. “But after that, I need the support. The Hall of Fame induction itself, I couldn’t miss it because you’re bringing in people who have played Major League baseball with the Cardinals and one of the things about the Cardinal players over time, they all are masters of the fundamentals. When you master the fundamentals, you’re going to play at a high level–and that’s one of the things that Cardinal baseball is all about.”

And of late, Brock is getting even more enjoyment out of watching the Cardinals as their play has put them back in the playoff mix.

“I think we can thank Bader for that because he’s raised the game to another level,” praised Brock. “Sometimes when a player like that hits the field, he just has that energy that emanates and finds itself into other players. And I think because of that, the Cardinals have gone to another level. However, when you really look at what the Cardinals are doing, it is the pitching staff, those young guys who are throwing the ball, and nobody can touch it. When I say touch it, they may get a hit but they’re not scoring runs against this pitching staff.”

For now, the pair have only been able to speak a couple of times.

“He has that look on his face, the look in his eyes that I may have something that he needs,” laughed Brock. “We chatted a little bit and I said we’ll get together. Hopefully, at that time we can expand the fundamentals of base running because that may be one of the things he’s lacking–but not that much.”

Told of Brock’s comments later in the day, Bader said he couldn’t wait to thank the Hall of Famer personally and sit down for that conversation at some point in the future.

Bader currently leads the Cardinals with 13 steals and has been caught stealing only three times.

Earlier this year, Vince Coleman discussed how he broke down a pitcher long before he reached first base. Brock also began his process even before the game started.

“You have to read the pitcher,” said Brock. “The pitcher has rhythm and he has timing, so as a base stealer you had to be in tune to that.”

“As a base stealer, you’re going to watch that rhythm fall in place when a pitcher goes into the bullpen to warm up before the game. We base stealers find ourselves in an isolated place where no one can find us for 15 minutes as we watch the pitcher warm up and get into the rhythm. When the game starts, the pitcher can’t change that rhythm so you’re in tune to it and that’s how it goes every game. You’ve got to know how far off base you gotta be and all that–the fundamentals of the game, base stealing which is the lead and the jump. But reading the pitcher is just as important.”

So who was the most difficult pitcher to read that rhythm and timing?

“Well, actually nobody,” laughed Brock. “Because remember, you’re reacting to what the pitcher does. You’re not set into motion–people think that the base stealer actually initiates the action, but he doesn’t. He just reacts to what he sees from the pitcher. So if the pitcher holds the ball for 10 hours, he’s standing there for 10 hours. But the rhythm of the pitcher won’t let him hold the ball for 10 hours, he’s got to uncoil and throw the ball home. When he starts to uncoil, that’s what you’re going to read. And that’s your signal to go.”

Stolen bases are obviously no longer a big part of today’s MLB game. Besides good catchers, one of the more common reasons given is the usage of slide steps by pitchers.

“Slide steppers, they were great,” countered Brock. “But a slide stepper, you were able to increase your lead at first base from a 12-foot lead to a 14-foot lead. So with a slide stepper and a 14-foot, 15-foot lead he’s not going to get you anyway. It all plays out as to what a base runner can do in relation to a slide stepper. Slid step allows the pitcher to speed the ball home, but he’s slow throwing to first–so that allows you to get a bigger lead.”

The change in the game doesn’t upset Brock, he doesn’t scream at the television or anything like that. In fact, he’s actually encouraged by the excitement of today’s youth for the game.

“Little kids they often say ‘you’re number 16 of the all-time Hall of Fame ballplayers on my list,” he said. “So they’ve got a number for you. Little kids, they probably know more about baseball than we do in terms of history, so I get a kick out of that because I’m amazed at their interest in the game.”

And on that note, Lou Brock wears the badge of being ‘old school’ with pride.

“Old school, you know what, I like that term ‘old school’,” he chuckled. “But you know what old school never had? An expiration date.”

photo credit: Jasen Vinlove, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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