INDIANAPOLIS – We have all heard it. When a player wins an award or gets called up, many times the speeches and quotes that follow are cookie cutter thank you’s to the fans, family, and/or higher powers.
However, in his speech after being named the Indianapolis Indians player of the month of June, Bell decided to go in a more heartfelt direction in thanking hitting coach Butch Wynegar. Bell has been working with Wynegar for the past year in Indianapolis and has credited the hitting coach and long-time big leaguer each step of the way.
In fact, Bell said that he can “always attribute [Wynegar] to his success.” This now can include a call up to the big leagues, which Bell enjoyed on Friday.
The trust, which both call the most important aspect, began in the first couple of weeks of their relationship.
“The trust began last year,” Bell said. “I came [to Indianapolis] and really struggled the first couple of weeks. I started facing older and better pitchers with a better game plan for me. [Wynegar] laid that foundation for how I should work and how to attack pitchers.”
Ever since then, Bell has seen consistent results, while not always maintaining consistent mechanics at the plate. However, he took the mindset that Wynegar suggested into the off-season, and came back even stronger.
This season, the power component has really developed for Bell. He has 13 home runs prior to the call up in 312 at bats. This already ties his highest total in a season over his career. He hit the same number in 459 at bats with West Virginia in 2013. He has done all of this while the strikeout totals have not inflated much and the batting average has remained constant.
“I took that game plan into the off-season and came back this year, it has allowed for me to be a lot more comfortable in the box,” Bell said. “I am a lot more trusting with our pregame rituals and analysis of the opposition.”
Much of this is due to the game plan and the work that he has put in with Wynegar. With the hitting coach rooting him on and teaching during batting practice on Thursday, Bell hit three majestic home runs in a row over the right field fence in his final round.
With the advice, Bell points to trust as the key to his work at Triple-A, and there are not many he trusts more at the level than Wynegar.
“I feel like [trust] is the most important thing,” Bell said. “You have someone that you can trust in your work day, you can only look at your swing so many times with two different camera angles from the game. Having someone in your corner, day in and day out, making sure that you are not trying to do too much [is huge].”
For Wynegar, the key is to build a bond and a friendship with the hitters, so they are able to take his advice – and occasional criticisms – well.
“I think that, first and foremost, it is important to create a bond with these guys,” Wynegar said. “The trust that I will be there with them through thick and then, my wife reminds me of that. When they are struggling is when they need you the most. When it is going good, it is easy to pat them on the back.”
In order to earn the trust, Wynegar knows that it is a daily process in talking to the players and getting a feeler out for their moods. He also knows putting in the work is always required in the cage when it is needed.
The most important is learning the personality of the hitter and what works for each one. In addition, it is building that friendship, just as he has done with Bell.
“Hitting for me, is like a jigsaw puzzle,” Wynegar said. “I have my ideas and what I like to look for. If a guy can stand on his head and hit, I am pretty much going to let him. When he struggles, I get my two cents in.”
This is what Wynegar has been constantly doing with Bell. They have been making transitions from the beginning. Last season, the pair had started a leg kick that added to Bell’s swing. This season, it was not as good of a fit for comfort on the left side, so they took it away. The relationship has built as the adaptations were needed and then worked.
The trust extends to off the field as well. The most important part of being a friend is always being there for the other. Both Wynegar and Bell admit that is the case.
Wynegar, and others, know that the players respect his long big league experience as a player – both on and off the field.
“All you have to do is turn over his baseball card,” Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. “That is his credibility.”
Treanor knows that the long hours that Wynegar puts in with the hitters really pays off and he is unable to quantify what he means to the staff.
“[Wynegar] is in the trenches and in the cage for a long time with the hitters,” Treanor said. “He is there for them and they know that. He gets down there so early so that he can get the one-on-one and quality time with the guys. He is invaluable to the staff.”
Though it is clearly Bell and his huge talent that earned him the call up, he clearly has respect and appreciation for everything that his hitting coach has done over the past season. With the power being the last aspect that needed to develop, Bell looks big league ready at the plate. Now, he will get his opportunity to prove it.