McKay covers the basics with Cubs' outfielders

McKay covers the basics with Cubs' outfielders

McKay covers the basics with Cubs' outfielders
MESA, Ariz. -- New Cubs coach Dave McKay isn't assuming anything when it comes to outfield defense.

"His knowledge is limitless," outfielder Dave Sappelt said of McKay. "He started from the beginning. Most coaches skip all the stuff that you need to know because they think you already know it. With him, he starts from the beginning and gives you every edge you can have on defense and on the basepaths, too. He's pointing out stuff that I've never heard of. That's always a positive."

OK, so what is McKay telling them?

"Nah, I can't give out the secrets," Sappelt said.

McKay has 26 years of Major League coaching experience with the Athletics and Cardinals. It helps that he's well-versed in the National League Central.

"I know when I hired Dave, I was fortunate to get him," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Thursday. "He's probably one of the best -- if not the best -- outfield and baserunning coaches in the game.

"The good thing about Dave is, he explains things real simple and they understand it. When you have passion like he does, players feed off that and they gain the same passion -- especially when they see results right away. You always need results when you're getting somebody to change a habit."

Sappelt said McKay knows all the tricks of the trade.

"He has a pretty good outlook on everybody," Sappelt said. "He's a hard worker for being as old as he is."

Sappelt, 25, then laughed. McKay turned 62 in January.

"He can move, too," Sappelt said. "He's in the best shape I've ever seen. He jumps around, he's quick still, lot of energy."

OK, back to outfield drills. A lot of slower outfielders can make up for their lack of speed by being in good positions. That is part of McKay's plan.

"That's what we're trying to work on, and hit with every aspect," Sappelt said. "Slower speed guys can still get an edge by jumps, and how you field the ball and how you bring the ball up to your throwing hand. There's all kinds of stuff you can improve as a slower guy. The fast guy can always get to the ball."

Sappelt came up in the Reds' organization and made his big league debut last August, coincidentally against the Cubs. Acquired by Chicago in the Sean Marshall deal, he's trying to win a spot as an extra outfielder. He is learning a lot.

"This is probably the best group I've been around," Sappelt said. "It's 100 miles an hour for everybody. I think Dale coming in here, that's what he's trying to change with the team -- and it's rubbed off on a lot of guys."