LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the morning dew still lingering on the infield grass and no players in sight, new third base coach Ned Yost and manager Bobby Cox were hard at work early Sunday morning practicing baseball's secret art.
The pair was going through signs, Cox in the dugout and Yost in the third base box, and they looked like they had been working together for years.
"You can't do enough of that, quite honestly," Cox said. "He's really good at it. We're using new signs so we both have to be on our toes."
As Cox called out situations from the dugout -- man on first, no outs -- he flashed signs to Yost, who relayed them to an imaginary baserunner. By the end of the session, it appeared he'd been been doing it for years.
"I've been thinking all winter in my mind what Bobby's signs are," said Yost, who had served as bullpen coach since 1991. "Now it's getting used to seeing them from a long distance. It's going to take every bit of the whole spring training to get comfortable, it's that big of an adjustment."
There's an art to giving signs and the best third base coaches are able to disguise them so effectively the opposing team is unable to read them. Yet, as Cox explained, the signs can't be too complicated or you risk communication problems with your own team.
"You've got to make them slow enough and easy enough for your own guys to get them, but yet decoy the other team to keep them from getting them," he said. "There's a thin line in there. If our guys aren't getting them we're not doing any good and if the other team steals them it kills us."
It will take more practice and game situations for Yost to develop the rapport with Cox that he had with his two previous third base coaches, Bobby Dews and Jimy Williams, but by the start of the season they will be thinking together.
"If you have the same coach out there, after a year or so the communication is just great," Cox said. "It's something you feel."