MESA, Ariz. - Everybody knows Joe Maddon loves when his players are versatile - able to hit in any spot in the lineup and play all over the field.
But it's much harder to pin down why it works so well, producing a successful product between the white lines.
Baseball players are creatures of habit. They love their routine.
Yet Maddon's desire for flexibility is the opposite of "routine."
The way Maddon manages, players never truly know where they're playing or where they're hitting in the lineup until they get to the ballpark that day.
Sort of like...Little League.
"I think that's a perfect way to describe it," Kris Bryant said. "When you think back to when you started playing baseball, it was always so much more fun in Little League.
"And now it's kinda like Little League in the big leagues."
Less than a week after Bryant was called up to the majors last season, Maddon already had the rookie out of his natural position of third base, playing center field with Dexter Fowler banged up.
Bryant had some experience in the outfield in college and took some reps out there in spring training, but he had never played anywhere but third base in his professional career until that moment in Pittsburgh...in his sixth MLB game.
Bryant said he's ready for anything now, which is kind of like Little League, when kids aren't pigeonholed into one spot and play six or seven different positions in one game.
Maddon spent Tuesday talking about the possibility of Bryant winning a Gold Glove at third base, a statement that would have been considered a longshot when Bryant was coming up through the minors with his defense at the hot corner as his biggest question mark.
Yet even after Bryant has proved his worth with his glove and arm at third base, he insists he wants to keep playing the outfield, too.
"I think it's good to move around," he said. "It gets you so you're not complacent. That's what I like. I don't like going to the field and seeing, 'Oh, I'm batting third or fourth or fifth and playing third every day.'
"It's kinda cool to see, 'Oh, I'm batting second today and playing left field.' It's like, you're more ready. It's fun.
"I guess that just comes from me growing up - I played all over the place and didn't really expect anything. I never knew exactly where I was going to play and I enjoy it. That's the fun of the game."
Addison Russell is clearly the Cubs' best defensive option at shortstop, yet he wants to stay ready and flexibile at second base, too.
Chris Coghlan hadn't played infield for years (and hardly at all in the big leagues) before Maddon moved him to third base, then second base and then even first base last season.
Kyle Schwarber is getting in work at both catcher and left field.
Javier Baez is learning center field and can already play all over the infield.
Ben Zobrist is the king of versatility, playing solid defense at four, five or even six defensive positions.
Jason Heyward has mastered right field and now is being moved to a more demanding position in center.
Maddon thinks the players being ready for anything can actually benefit them.
"I like the idea that they're out here just playing," Maddon said. "... When our guys come to the ballpark, they have to get ready to do a lot of different things. So their mind just can't be drawn or focused on one thing - whether I'm hitting or not.
"I think that's what gets guys in trouble more than anything is where they're at on the hitting spectrum right now and their day depends on that. I'd rather their day depend on us just winning and what they can do to help us win.
"We have so many guys that [are versatile] and I don't feel like we're losing anything in regards to catching the ball and maintaining a solid defense."
Maddon joked with the Little League mindset, the Cubs need to find somebody to bring the juice boxes.
And on a team with a bunch of guys who are barely old enough to drink, that Little League style fits in perfectly.
"I think that's one of the things that makes Joe such an unbelievable manager is that you never know what you're gonna do," Bryant said. "You never know what to expect in the clubhouse and I think more guys should be like that."