Bull's-eye! Rockies loosen up camp with archery competition

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) DJ LeMahieu raised his bow, pulled back the cord and let fly. In the blink of an eye, his arrow hit the target.

A cheer rose from his Colorado Rockies teammates, all standing in a semi-circle around the second baseman, the way a golf gallery gathers around the teebox.

Looking for a novel way to break the spring training monotony, new Rockies manager Bud Black hit the bull's-eye Sunday. An archery tournament, with pitcher Kyle Freeland outscoring LeMahieu, bullpen coach Darren Holmes and catcher Tom Murphy to win the event.

And the best news for Black and his team - no mishaps.

It's one of several team-unity building activities Black organized after speaking with his coaching staff.

''Just talking to our guys and getting to know them off the field,'' said Black, who introduced the competitors before the first round of shooting. ''What their hobbies are, their passions, what they do in the offseason or even in-season at times.''

Freeland said he'd gotten in some target practice after a few workouts - baseball's best archer probably remains Tampa Bay star pitcher Chris Archer.

''I just got my first bow this past offseason,'' Freeland said.

Black learned that Holmes, in his third season on the Rockies' staff, enjoys hunting and the outdoors. He asked Holmes to let him know who else on the team likes it, and a competition was born.

''In our morning meetings, we talk about baseball, obviously,'' Black said. ''But with that we had a little bit of trash talking about who can do this, and who's better than who.''

While he was on the Angels' staff, Black watched manager Mike Scioscia come up with similar activities. Black took his methods to San Diego, where he managed until 2015, and is at it again with the Rockies.

''It's a good way for guys, for a half-hour or 40 minutes, to loosen up a bit before we start our day. It brings guys together, gets guys talking about a competition and stuff, backing each other as we did,'' Black said. ''You backed who you backed, so you're pulling for people. There was a teammate concept to this, too.''

The Rockies had a game against Cincinnati later in the day, part of an extended spring training thanks to the World Baseball Classic. But the morning was all about another event as LeMahieu, the major league batting champion, and others took turns with their bows.

''Whoaaaaa!!!'' players shouted as each arrow stuck into the targets. Some watchers tried to upset the shooter's rhythm and concentration as they lined up.

''Bud's done a great job of having little things like that throughout camp that kind of transform the attitude around here and keep things light,'' Murphy said.

Murphy, from upstate New York, hunts regularly in the offseason.

Black ''does his homework on guys, makes sure he kind of knows what's going on before you tell him what's going on,'' Murphy said. ''He gave us some time to get bows out here and do our thing.''

Earlier this month, Black had a full-grown longhorn steer brought in for the players to see and touch, and also to learn about different cuts of beef.

In the hallway outside the clubhouse is a map of North America and the Caribbean region, with thumbtacks and yarn pinpointing where Rockies players, coaches and staff members are from in the world and what high school they attended.

NOTES: Pitcher Chad Qualls is dealing with elbow discomfort, the reason he hasn't pitched recently, Black said. There is no timetable for when Qualls will pitch again, but the team will know more on Monday. ... Pitchers Greg Holland and Jairo Diaz, who have yet to pitch in spring training games, threw in a simulated game against minor leaguers on Sunday.

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