CLEVELAND -- Shortly after Indians fans watch Travis Hafner's at-bats on television, Hafner watches them, too."I always watch all of my at-bats to look for mechanical things," Hafner said, "to see if the pitches were the location that I thought they were." And Hafner, the Indians designated hitter, is able to do that watching because of Bob Chester and Frank Velotta. Chester and Velotta spend their days in a small video room located between manager Eric Wedge's office and the Indians' aerobics room. And it doesn't matter the season. Whether the baseball season has just ended and sight of Jacobs Field inspires reflection, or it's the dead of winter and it seems as though the stadium will be forever lifeless, the two men are down in the video room compiling video. Since the 1996 season, Chester and Velotta have been working together, and the work they do is essential to the success of the team. But they don't get a lot of accolades. "A lot of people don't even know this exists," Velotta said. But the Tribe players are grateful. Most of them stop by Chester and Velotta's office before every game to watch video of themselves and opposing players. "Usually, when you first get to the park, you'll watch 10 minutes to a half hour of video," Hafner said. "Most of the time, I've seen video on all the pitchers we're facing before the game." During the games, Hafner watches the videos from a convenient location behind the Cleveland dugout, but Chester and Velotta do get some in-game company. "If a reliever or pitcher comes out of the game," Velotta said, "they'll come up here to look at stuff." Typically, when players study video, they are looking for weaknesses in their approach or exploitable trends in the opposition. Whether it's scouting the opponent or basically scouting themselves, Chester said players are looking for any way to get an edge. But not every player regards video as a valuable tool. Jason Michaels is new to the league, and he is largely unfamiliar with American League pitchers, but he's no video hound. "Video doesn't tell you the true story," Michaels said. He said if he hasn't faced a pitcher, video won't tell him much about the pitcher. But pitcher Paul Byrd might differ with Michaels on this point. Byrd said opposing hitters, thanks to video, are quicker to make adjustments these days. Unlike Michaels, Byrd watches a great deal of video, but he knows that hitters around the league are studying him as much as he's studying them.
: : : This Edition: May 17, 2006 : : :
Joseph Gartrell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.