FORT MYERS, FLA.
The batting cages at Hammond Stadium come to life around 7 a.m. each day during spring training. Classic rock spills out of a sound system, mixing in with the crack of bats.
Tom Brunansky’s voice has become part of the daily vibe.
“Two bunts, Boggsy!” he yells to Brandon Boggs before flipping balls toward him.
“I want your hands to go through there,” Brunansky yells a few minutes later to Aaron Hicks. “You’re just a little quick. You’ll get to the stuff inside.”
These are the sounds of players trying to get better, sounds that Brunansky heard many times himself through a 14-year career, parts of seven that were spent with the Twins. After three years coaching Twins minor leaguers, Brunansky is the new Twins hitting coach following a staff shakeup at the end of the 2012 season. His predecessor, Joe Vavra, is now the third base coach.
Brunansky has spent spring training reconnecting with some of the players he has worked with in the past in the minors, such as Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson. Brunansky is also building relationships with former AL Most Valuable Players Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.
Brunansky’s energy and enthusiam are impossible to miss. His boisterous voice is also one of the most noticeable in the team’s clubhouse.
As Brunansky weaves his way through his first major league camp as a coach, he offers players the perspective of having been in their shoes. Of knowing what it’s like to succeed — as he did as the right fielder on the 1987 World Series champion Twins — and to fail.
“That’s true, and that is part of what I feel I can bring,” he says. “I’ve had the highs and had lows. I’ve reached the pinnacle of playing in the  World Series and winning it. I’ve lost in the playoffs. I have had down times. I’ve had some bad 0-fers. I’ve had some horrible months.
“I’ve been embarrassed. I’ve done some things, stupid stuff. There hasn’t been much I haven’t experienced. Been traded, sent down, have had issues as a high draft choice being arrogant and cocky.”
He hopes to call on all those experiences, the highs and the lows, to help turn around a franchise that has lost 195 games the past two seasons.
Back in the game
Back in the cage, Brunansky is flipping baseballs to Boggs, a nonroster invite to camp. He tells Boggs that he is throwing a pitch on the outside part of the plate but throws it on the inside corner. Boggs meets it squarely anyway.
“Your mind is thinking, ‘Out there,’ ” Brunansky tells him, “but you can react to the ball.”
The new hitting coach sounds convincing in his teaching.
Brunansky, after 14 major league seasons and 16 postseason games, retired following the 1994 season. He returned to Southern California to do … nothing. And things were great.
|Texas - WP: S. Tolleson||16||FINAL|
|Oakland - LP: D. Hooker||15|
|Los Angeles||3||Top 6th Inning|
|Calgary||2||3rd Prd 15:59|
|Anaheim||2||2nd Prd 7:33|
|San Diego St||58|
|Sam Houston St||49||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||69|
|Idaho||55||2nd Half 0:14|
|New Mexico St||77|
|Cal Poly||41||2nd Half 10:51|
|Red Bull New York||1|
|Sporting Kansas City||1|
|Real Salt Lake||3||2nd Half 32:00|
|Fla Gulf Coast||64|
|Coll of Charleston||52||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||80|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||84|