For the last week, 64 players have been executing three-hour pre-planned morning workout sessions with the precision of a symphony.
The composer and conductor of all this is not A's manager Bob Melvin, but his bench coach Ryan Christenson.
“I was amazed on the second day I had it planned to end at 11:20 am,” Christenson said. “And we finished literally at 11:19, so it was a good day.”
With spring training games starting Saturday, the clock has been ticking to get pitchers, fielders and hitters to a certain readiness. Meticulous planning and monitoring are scattered between four fields, an extended bullpen and additional batting cages.
“I look around. I watch him running around sweating, he’s got that worried look on his face, I know that feeling,” Melvin, who used to run these camps when he was Phil Garner's bench coach, said.
Being tasked with getting everyone ready to hit the diamond is an important responsibility for a club that wants to get out of the gates faster this season than in years past.
“This is my big chore you could say for the year, a little grindy,” Christenson admitted. “I find myself working on the schedule for a few hours even after the day is over.”
Christenson's meticulousness makes him the perfect man for the job.
“He’s very attentive to detail,” veteran outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. “I just don’t think things slip by him, he’s on top of things, very organized.”
In near-identical fashion to Oakland’s current core of young, home-grown players, Christenson has been a manager at every level of the A’s minor league system, starting in 2013. At one point or another, he has crossed paths with almost all the A’s who recently have arrived at the big league level.
“The timing of him getting here with the players he had in the minor leagues is a nice resource for me,” Melvin, who is beginning his 10th season with the A's, said.
“You get up in here and you already know what makes them tick, how they operate, what they’re like in the clubhouses, and that goes a long way,” said Christenson. “If you don’t have the relationship of trust with the players, and try to do some coaching or instruction or criticisms or compliments, it doesn’t have the same resonance.”
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The A’s not only are lucky to have Christenson, but they’re also lucky to have kept him. This past winter, the former Oakland outfielder interviewed to be manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“If they had happened to choose me, it would have been a difficult decision,” admitted Christenson, who said enjoyed experiencing the process.
“I’m not in a big hurry to jump in that [manager] chair. I love where I’m at. The opportunity I have here to be around guys that I know, guys that I pull for and know are great individuals. We have such a good nucleus here, great momentum going. Right now this is really where I want to be. I love sitting next to Bob Melvin.”