If you take a good look in the Grand Junction Rockies' dugout throughout the season, you'll notice several men wearing Colorado Rockies coaching gear who aren't there every night.
Grand Junction has a four-man coaching staff – manager Jake Opitz, hitting coach Zach Osborne, pitching coach Blaine Beatty and developmental supervisor Andy Gonzalez.
With a 35-man roster, they can get stretched pretty thin during practice, and since Rookie baseball is all about developing skills, the Rockies have a large staff of minor league instructors and coordinators who travel among the minor league cities to lend a hand.
Yes, they're there to help evaluate each player, depending on their specialty, but more than that, they're an extra set of eyes and another voice for the players just starting their professional careers.
In the hours before games, the players and coaches are on the field, taking ground balls and tracking fly balls, making a smooth transition on a double play up the middle, pitchers taking fielding practice, hitters running the bases, situational hitting — you name it, the Rockies practice it — all before taking batting practice.
Two of the newest GJ Rockies, infielders Christian Koss and Turner Brown, have been with the club only a couple of weeks, and they quickly got indoctrinated into doing things "The "Rockies Way," courtesy of the minor league coordinators.
"It's a lot of information, but the way we look at it, now this is our job," said Brown, a ninth-round draft pick out of East Carolina. "It's basically preparing for the games, which is your test. All those guys coming in have been extremely helpful.
"The base running guy (former GJ manager Anthony Sanders, now the minor league outfield and base running coordinator) was just here and in just three days I probably learned more about base running than I have in my life.
"You have to be a student of the game and take in every day what they tell you, and you can't let it overwhelm you. It's really good when they come in because you get different perspectives from different people."
That's the real value in having so many coordinators rotate through and spending anywhere from a couple of days to a full homestand — and even climbing on the bus for a road trip — Opitz said. Coordinators will make multiple trips to each minor league club during the season.
"There's so much that goes into it. First of all the new guys, their heads are spinning, there's a lot going on and then the coordinators show up and they think they've gotta impress them and do something more for them," the Rockies' second-year manager said.
"We have such good coordinators, they say, 'Hey, relax, we're just here to help. We're not evaluating you guys.' They are, but they aren't judging them and writing the lineup, they're just here to help. When you have Sanders come in town and take the outfielders and do some outfield stuff, the same stuff we do, but they hear it from them it goes a long way.
"Same with the pitching and catching coordinators. They're hearing the same stuff they do from us, just a different voice and it's always good. They spend a good five, six days with the guys, focusing in on what they want to accomplish. With the new guys, it's understanding the Rockies' way. Hearing it from a different voice is the important thing."
Late last month, several of the coordinators spent the week at Suplizio Field, along with Zach Wilson, the Rockies' assistant general manager for player development, and Rolando Fernandez, the vice president of international scouting and development.
Opitz laughed that the offices, clubhouse, dugout and the bus got a little crowded, but the players got plenty of individual attention early in the season.
As a rule, the Rockies don't make significant changes to a player's swing or pitching delivery in the first month of the Rookie season, instead, letting the players get accustomed to pro ball. It also gives the staff and coordinators time to evaluate each player, watching them live and on video so they can form a plan for each guy.
It could be a simple adjustment of a hitter's hands or retooling their swing. Pitchers will adjust their repertoire, possibly adding a pitch, or tweaking a grip to get better movement and keeping pitches down in the zone.
Closer Gavin Hollowell has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and an filthy slider that he started to learn his sophomore year at St. John's.
"I was working with the pitching coach experimenting with different grips and that one kind of worked, so I stuck with it," he said. "It always feels good. Now I have to develop the other pitches."
In bullpen sessions, he works on his curve and change-up so he's as confident throwing those pitches for strikes as he is his fastball and slider.
Koss, who hit the ground running as soon as he got into the lineup, hitting .447 in his first 11 games, with 14 RBI and a pair of home runs, is soaking in as much information as possible.
"Our hitting coordinator (Darin Everson) is coming in this week, we just had our speed guy (Sanders), a lot of people coming in," said Koss, drafted in the 12th round out of UC-Irvine. "It's Rookie ball, they want to develop. It's good to see those guys early so they can say something before it gets to something bad. It's good being around these guys."
The young players are eager to learn, and rarely resist changing old habits, although it's not always easy.
"They've been in baseball a long time and their knowledge is way beyond mine," said outfielder Jack Yalowitz, a 10th-round pick out of Illinois. "I definitely listen to what they have to say and their advice and different tips they give. I enjoy when they come in so I can learn from them.
"The one thing I will say, though, is part of being a professional that I'm learning is you have to listen to that, but you also have to listen to yourself and what you think is going to help as well. A combination of both, I think, helps mesh a player.
"With my swing, there's some things I need to work on and things they said have really helped me a lot. I listen to what they say because their experience is way beyond mine and they've been in the game twice as long as I have."
The coordinators don't come in and blow up what Opitz and his staff have built. They work in unison, starting in spring training and extended spring with the players from the Dominican Summer League and those who are destined for a short season club, either in Grand Junction or Boise.
The message is the same, Opitz said, but there's often a key difference.
"This game, you can tell one guy the exact same thing in another way and it clicks the other way," he said. "That's something those coordinators do. They're good; they've been coaching a long time and they know how to say certain things with hitting a different way. We say 'stay back,' they say 'stay balanced,' and all of a sudden, 'balance' registers, even though we're saying the same thing.
"We're all going day in and day out trying to help these guys one way or another. That's what they do well, they know different ways to say certain things."