February 26. 2006 7:52AM
Reds' Berry is man with the plan
By JASON SWANCEY / Sarasota Herald-Tribune
SARASOTA -- Whether players are getting stronger in the gym, working on hitting a slider in a winter league or rehabbing an injury, fans have a good idea of how they fill their days in the off-season.
But what most people don't realize is how hard some coaches work during the winter months, not only to prepare their bodies for the physical grind of spring training, but to devise a schedule that will cover massive amounts of ground in a short span of time.
The majority of that burden falls on Cincinnati Reds third-base coach Mark Berry. When the new year rolls around, he starts outlining detailed schedules that allow the team to cram in stretching, fundamentals, defensive drills, batting practice, base running and conditioning ... in one week. That's how much time there is from the first full-squad workout until the first game of spring.
"There are 62 players plus coaches, so that's 84 people I have to account for every minute of every day," Berry explained. "And you can make schedules as far in advance as you want, but you have to tweak it every day. Plus the players need the next day's schedule before they leave that day, so I have to work a day ahead."
In the second week of January, Berry lays out a preliminary plan and kicks it around with the rest of the coaching staff at winter meetings. After absorbing all the feedback, he adjusts accordingly, so that by late January he's working five days a week, eight hours a day to finalize every last detail.
"That's the beauty of having coaches from all different organizations here," said Berry, who enters his 23rd season in the organization and eighth as a coach. "They all have different techniques and ideas, so everyone brings something to the table.
"We go around and Bucky Dent (bench coach) might want to add some defensive drills, and the pitching coach might want more live batting practice. It's not really hard, but it is time consuming."
Berry doesn't have the luxury some coaches do, of avoiding baseball for a majority of the off-season. And his year-round commitment doesn't go unnoticed.
"Mark is our organizer and every staff has to have one," said hitting coach Chris Chambliss. "He not only sets up this whole program, he constantly adjusts and makes sure we (coaching staff) have everything we need."
Then there's manager Jerry Narron, whom Berry consults with every step of the way. Just as Berry is asked whether coaches and players show appreciation for his groundwork, Narron pops his head out of his office with a quick, "I do, I definitely do."
Then there's the physical preparation. Just like the players, coaches don't want to come to camp and spend the first two weeks too sore to move after hitting ground balls or throwing batting practice for hours. That's why Berry, who like most coaches has had multiple arm surgeries from years of wear and tear, starts throwing a couple of weeks before camp so he's ready to take his turn behind the screen.
But Berry's arm is just a bonus, it's his ability to coordinate and adapt that makes him the most important coach on the staff this time of year.
"It's all about quality not quantity, that's our motto here," Berry said. "Every second we spend out here we have to accomplish something."
Free clinic for kids today
The annual baseball clinic at Ed Smith Stadium is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today. It's free and open to the public, and among those scheduled to participate are Ryan Freel, Reds minor league player of the year Chris Denorfia, Reds Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Browning and coach Donnie Scott.
Let get the games begin
An exhibition game against the Kia Tigers of the Korean professional league will be held Tuesday at Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium at 1:05 p.m. General admission tickets are $5, with proceeds to benefit the United Way of Sarasota County. ... The annual intrasquad scrimmage is scheduled for Wednesday at noon. The intra-squad scrimmage is free and open to the public.