For Rockies, Sunday's action in front of camera
Pitchers and catchers report, but main activity was shooting TV commercials
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pitchers and catchers report are words that conjure the first sights and sounds of baseball -- the sight of a pitcher stepping onto the mound and smoothly unfurling his delivery, the sound of the ball popping into the mitt, a "Hum baby" or two. But times have changed.
At the Rockies' facility at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Sunday morning and afternoon, the prominent sound heard was, "Action!"
Pitchers and catchers "reporting" essentially meant they had to be in town. But the main activity for the Rockies was shooting their television commercials. So on a clear, cool morning, new hitting coach Dante Bichette was discussing a, um, unique philosophy with players Charlie Blackmon, Jordan Pacheco, Josh Rutledge, Rex Brothers and DJ LeMahieu.
Pitchers and catchers have physicals Monday, so there won't be any official baseball activity until Tuesday. Position players other than pitchers and catchers -- Blackmon, Rutledge and LeMahieu would fall in that group -- report Saturday, and the first full-squad workout is next Sunday. Other commercials on the docket for Sunday featured Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Jonathan Herrera. Catcher Wilin Rosario and pitchers Jeff Francis and Matt Belisle are among those scheduled to act Monday.
The commercials were written by members of the Rockies' staff and filmed by Blue Goose Productions. The Rockies asked that the content of the spots not be revealed, but suffice it to say Bichette plays on the rock-star personality that he brought to the game as a player from 1993-99, and the players had fun learning from their new hitting leader.
Blackmon, battling for an outfield job, co-starred in a commercial last year with former Rockies veteran Jason Giambi -- who brings his experience to the Indians this spring. Blackmon did well enough in that was that his role was expanded this year.
"I guess they decided I could handle it, and I was ready -- for the full sentence, this time," said Blackmon, who joked that his Oscar must've gotten lost in the mail. "I was excited to do it. It's fun to be a part of."
The commercials let fans see a different side of the players and coaches, but there will be some business that comes from the pleasure. Bichette was hired over the winter and he lives in Orlando, Fla., so many of the position players who will be learning from him had never met him before Sunday.
Rutledge, a rookie who played shortstop last season but will move to second base this year, said Bichette's presence between now and the first full-squad workout means he can work with him for a few days before full-squad workouts begin.
Rutledge, who was called up from Double-A Tulsa in July and stayed the rest of the season, also has a few days to settle into his surroundings.
"We've got a week full of days so we're going to try to get some work in," Rutledge said. "This is my first big league camp. I was in the Minor League clubhouse last year. I might have peeked into the Major League clubhouse just to see it, but today was the first time I've really been in there. I'm eager to get going."
After dipping his toe into the acting profession, Pacheco, who played first base and third base, and saw limited duty at catcher last season, grabbed some of his bats and his catcher's mitt and was looking to work out with anyone who happened to wanted to do something other than act.
"I don't know who's out there, since all the coaches have meetings today, so I just want to throw, hit a little bit and see what happens," Pacheco said. "I'm not tired from acting. I didn't have to talk much, just stand there. Well, I had to look -- say the words with my facial expressions."
These days, you don't say, "Hurray for baseball" until after saying, "Hurray for Hollywood."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.