It's been a while since I've posted something on here (I'm more of a silent observer), but the recent outcry involving the Navy SEALs training and Kyle Stark's email I thought I'd lend a slightly different point of view than most to the discussion.
I am a West Point cadet, currently in my senior year. Come May I will graduate and commission as a 2nd Lt in the United States Army. I have also spent time during each of the last two summers working as an intern in the scouting department of another Major League Baseball franchise, so I can shed some light on two perspectives not normally available.
I'll begin this by saying that, yes, the Pirates and their minor-league affiliates do need to improve their fundamentals, and they absolutely should dedicate as much time as possible to teaching these skills. At the same time, however, I feel as though (and I hate to generalize like this, but I'm going to) the Pirates fanbase as a whole has completely undervalued the lessons that can be taught from spending a couple days training with the nation's best.
It's hard to grasp how young many minor league players truly are, especially when you consider they are all being paid to play professional sports, but the truth of the matter is, many of the kids playing in the lower levels of the Pirates system (where, correct me if I'm wrong, the actual Navy SEAL training is taking place) are 18,19, 20 years old. That's the same age many of my classmates and I were when we first arrived at basic training. I can't speak for this entire site, but I would guess many of you read those ages, and don't quite register the actual maturity level of kids fresh out of high school or their third year of civilian college. Now, obviously there is a difference between a couple days of training at a complex and arriving for boot camp, but I can tell you, for a fresh-faced civilian kid whose only real "military experience" before joining was a couple of games of paintball, it did not take long for the culture shock to register. No one in my family had served before me, and I had no friends who had any experience either, so for me there was an instant recognition of what I was undertaking.
This near-immediate attitude change is not some self-contained case. I had the pleasure to act as an instructor during cadet basic training last summer, and I was directly responsible for 10 fresh-faced high schoolers of my own, responsible for teaching another 30, and indirectly demonstrating what was right for another 90 kids. I can tell you that after three days, the changes were dramatic.
While the most common view of our training is the pop-culture montage of pushups, situps, jumping jacks, crab walks, buddy carries, and yelling, there are a number of underlying aspects and themes that most people simply do not recognize. At the core of any military training program, people are taught about taking pride in what you do, and the honor, respect, and leadership values that you simply will not find anywhere else. These lessons are truly valuable to someone of any age, but especially for someone who is adjusting to a new life on their own while they are developing.
While I was with the scouting department I worked for, I operated inside a complex similar to Pirate City. There were offices inside where we worked, where players could work out, see the trainer, and coaches/executives could hold meetings and conference calls, and outside there were four fields where the players practiced and played almost every day. I spent a lot of time around GCL and FSL players, and I can tell you that it really wouldn't hurt a single one of their development levels to spend a couple of days learning what an elite unit like the US Navy SEALs could teach them.
I can also tell you that the training they underwent is not something to be afraid of. It is very safe. The "hand to hand combat" mentioned in the Passan article is not boxing or striking (no one would ask a pitcher to actually punch something and risk their arm) but grappling, which if any of you haven't done, truly shows you what kind of man you are, and what kind of spirit you have (trust me, three minutes alone is exhausting). It is also much safer than that article would lead you to believe. The physical aspect of the training is not about conditioning. All major-league systems have trainers who are in charge of handling that aspect of player life. It is about pushing mental limits, and allowing the players to see how far they can go purely on drive, focus, and a relentless attitude, even though their bodies want to quit. You may be sore, but it's not something that will generally cause worrisome injuries.
Now, I'm not trying to argue that Neal Huntington is the right answer, or if Clint Hurdle is, or even Stark, I'm simply trying to give some perspective on what those players will actually be experiencing and asking you all to please take the media blasts with a grain of salt.
I know this was long-winded, and I'm sure there are points that will need clarification, so don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments.