Brendan Prunty of The Newark Star-Ledger wrote a pretty cool piece today about a hitting drill that Kevin Long developed while he was hitting coach of the Wichita Wranglers.
Brandon Berger was his first subject to be exposed to the drill and he went from 18 home runs in a season to 40. Today Robinson Cano is the drill’s main benefactor as the young second baseman who always hit for a high average has become a potential 30-home run hitter.
Here is a short excerpt, but the entire article is well worth a read:
Kevin Long had this idea for a drill. He would drag one of the protective fielding screens over half of home plate and stand halfway between the pitcher’s mound and the plate and toss pitches underhand, so hitters could practice increasing their power by shortening their swing. But by 2001, it was just another idea on the scrap heap for the Wichita Wranglers hitting coach. It was a little too quirky to just throw out to the entire team. He needed a test case.
Enter a stocky, light-hitting left fielder named Brandon Berger.
For five years, Berger had toiled in the Kansas City Royals system bouncing between Class-A Wilmington and Double-A Wichita. He had never hit more than 18 home runs in a season. So, Long’s idea for this drill — about to be thrown away — rode on Berger’s bat for the 2001 season. If Berger failed, Long would move onto his next idea. But if he succeeded, then the longtime minor-league hitting instructor might have something.
Brandon Berger hit 40 home runs that season.
“He obviously thought it would work and, when Kevin sold it, I believed it,” Berger said from his home in Fort Mitchell, Ky. “I’m glad I made it work then. It sounds like the guys up there love that he’s done that drill with them.”
“The guys up there” are, of course, the Yankees, and Long is their hitting coach now.
The drill — aptly nicknamed, “The Home Run Drill” — has become a staple of the team’s workout routine. But for all of the players Long has done it with since thinking it up in 2000, he acknowledges no one does it better than Robinson Cano.
Yankee fans have a lot of admiration for Kevin Long for the work he’s done with the team. Never in my life have I seen a hitting coach have such an effect on the team. It’s got to be his ability to think outside the box and to try new things with hitters that does it.
Hopefully he’s around in the Bronx for a very long time.