By BRENDAN McGAIR
Sunday in Southern New England saw Jack Frost get the last laugh with temperatures in some parts barely climbing above 20 degrees. Certainly a cold day doesnâ€™t make one anxious to head outside to shag fly balls and perform baseball-related exercises geared toward maintaining sharpness.
In short, Sundayâ€™s bone-chilling weather is exactly why Red Sox prospect Alex Hassan prefers sunny Naples, Fla. to his hometown of Milton, Mass. The 26-year-old outfielder, who could very well start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket after a successful 2011 campaign with Double-A Portland, divulged at Fridayâ€™s Hot Stove gathering at the reason behind his inclination to prepare for the coming season with sun serving as the backdrop as opposed to snow.
â€śFor me when I was home, I would have to drive 45 minutes to hit, another 20 minutes to the gym and another 20 minutes to a place where I could throw,â€ť stated Hassan inside McCoy Stadium. â€śIn Florida everything is closer and I get to be outside. For me I thought I would get a little bit more by being down south.â€ť
This marks the second straight offseason that Hassan, drafted by the Red Sox in 2009, has called Florida home. Following a stay in the Arizona Fall League, Hassan returned home to Milton for Thanksgiving and again at Christmas.
â€śThereâ€™s a field right across the street from my house [in Naples, which is right up the road from the Red Soxâ€™ spring training complex in Fort Myers] where Iâ€™m able to get most of my work done,â€ť Hassan pointed out.
As new Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett explained, every player in the minor-league system is encouraged to seek out the best possible training means during the offseason that will allow him to come into spring training ready to go.
â€śTo be in the best place to make that happen is a decision that each player needs to make. Not everybody whether its finances or family responsibilities are able to do that, but certainly if youâ€™re in a warm place, it makes things easier,â€ť Crockett said.
Hassanâ€™s words got me thinking about a similar question once posed to Rocco Baldelli and Chris Iannetta. Can a pro ball player truly and adequately prepare for the season while enduring a New England winter?
Hereâ€™s what Baldelli, who sought the comforts of the indoor batting cages located in the basement of Hava Java in Woonsocket, had to say on the matter in a Jan. 2007 piece: â€śItâ€™s actually a lot harder to stay in shape and get what you need done here. With the weather youâ€™re limited in what you can do. You canâ€™t go outside and youâ€™re limited in terms of facilities.â€ť
Iannetta cited similar terms in a Feb. 2010 Q&A session.
â€śComing to the Baseball Institute [located off Post Road in Warwick] is something Iâ€™ve done since I was little kid. No one knows me be better than John [Mello, facility director] when it comes to baseball. He gives me all that I need. You might not be outside every day, but you can definitely get everything you need to get done [indoors]. Iâ€™m comfortable with this and know it works.â€ť
In final analysis there appears no right or wrong way, though after Sundayâ€™s unbearable cold more people, more people might be more inclined to follow Hassanâ€™s route.