NEW YORK -- Most teams never take pregame infield practice.
The White Sox do, once a series.
Why? Because Robin Ventura wanted them to.
"I'm in," Adam Dunn said Friday. "Whatever he wants us to do, I'm in."
The White Sox seemed to be taking a gamble when they hired Ventura, who had no previous managerial experience and no coaching experience, either. As I wrote this spring, when the White Sox approached Ventura about managing, his first reaction was, "You guys are [bleeping] nuts."
Midway through his first season, it doesn't seem nuts at all. Ventura's White Sox are in first place, and his style is playing to rave reviews in the clubhouse.
Dunn and other White Sox players and coaches said that the Ventura they saw in spring training is the same one they've seen all season and that they love him for it.
"He never panics," third-base coach Joe McEwing said.
Ventura has ended up with a bullpen full of rookies, which would be enough to test most first-year managers, or even veteran managers. But the pitchers credit Ventura for the way he has communicated with them, and pitching coach Don Cooper credits Ventura for the way he has run the bullpen.
"Robin's got a good feel for everything," Cooper said.
He has a way of getting players to do what he wants.
One reason teams stopped taking infield practice before games is that veteran players didn't want to do it. The Yankees haven't taken infield once all year -- not even in spring training.
The Twins are maybe the only team that has continued to do it.
The White Sox do it now for a simple reason.
"I just believe in it," Ventura said.
He also believes in having fun. Ventura had told his players about once taking a "phantom infield" when he played for the Yankees, one where the coach pretends to hit the ball and the players pretend to field and throw it.
Thursday at Yankee Stadium, McEwing said they wanted to do it.
Fine, Ventura said.
So they did. They'll do whatever Ventura wants them to.