This off-season was a special one for 2012 BlueClaws outfielder Kelly Dugan – he got to enjoy his first “white Christmas.”
“Our family went up to Yosemite with my girlfriend and best friend. They had never seen snow before,” said Dugan. “You don’t get a white Christmas in LA.”
Now that the holidays have passed, however, the only white Dugan will be seeing is a baseball. He’s spent the last few months, and will spend the next month, diligently preparing for the baseball season that will begin when he reports to Clearwater for Spring Training next month.
“Being able to spend time with family is great, but one of the best parts of the off-season is being able to spend so much time in the gym and working on my craft,” he said. “That part makes you feel confident heading into a long year.”
Dugan took about a month off but beginning in October, got back in the weight room and has been hitting with former Dodger Reggie Smith at his facility five minutes from the Dugan residence.
Adding strength has been a priority for Dugan, who knows the years don’t get shorter as you move up the ladder.
“I’m trying to get real strong, which will help me later in the season when your strength starts to fade,” he said.
2012 was Dugan’s first “long year,” meaning full season, after spending the two previous years with short-season Williamsport. In 2010, he played 28 games and added 47 in 2011, but last year, Dugan played 117 games, missing just three weeks after a freak injury in April when he rolled his ankle lunging towards first base.
The year started quick (he had two hits on Opening Day), but after hitting just .215 in June, he sat at .246 before a sizzling finish to the season. Dugan hit .374 in July and .328 in August/September, including 3-3 in the season’s final game to finish at an even .300.
“[Hitting coach Greg] Legg and I just stuck with it and we both worked hard all year. I think what started to happen was I got my legs back and my swing became more powerful and more efficient.”
That swing has been a left-handed swing only, as Dugan, who was drafted in 2009 as a switch-hitter (a natural righty, he picked up switch-hitting at a young age), gave that part of his game up.
“At some point, I felt that I was hitting left-handed 75% of the time anyway, and it was easier to simplify things. I worked on hitting left-handed off left-handed pitchers and it helped out my consistency.”
In fact, this year Dugan hit .291 against lefties and .305 against righties, a very small difference, which should help as the pitchers get better this year in the Florida State League.
One other change is that the Phillies will have a new Minor League Hitting Coordinator, with previous coordinator Steve Henderson taking over as Phillies hitting coach. Andy Tracy, who managed Williamsport in 2012 after his playing career ended, starts in that role in 2013.
“I worked with him a little bit in extended (when Dugan was injured) and you work with everyone in spring training,” said Dugan. “We’ve talked on the phone and I’m excited to work with him.”
With Opening Day in 2 ½ months, Dugan feels he’s more ready for a season than he’s ever been, and he will enter 2013 off his best season as a pro.
“I think it’s going to be a fun year,” he said. “I’m excited.”