Monday, November 29, 2010

THE OFF-SEASON

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a really nice and relaxing post Thanksgiving weekend. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post for Jeff Bercume, a player in the Oakland Athletics organization. You guys can check out his blog at www.108stitchez.com where he does a great job of writing about all types of various topics.

In the post I wrote a little bit about what a typical off-season is like for me. I tried to go through the things I've learned throughout the past four years, and how my off-season preparation has changed since I was drafted. I hope you guys enjoy!


Over the past few years I've been asked a lot of different questions regarding the off-season of a professional baseball player. For eight months out of the year, fans of baseball get to watch their favorite players lay it on the line 162 times during the summer. Then all of a sudden one fall day, they disappear. I don't know about you, but for the die hard baseball fan, life without baseball just isn't the same. Yeah, we've got Dancing With the Stars and Two and a Half Men to watch at night, but it just doesn't compare to watching Pujols take one deep or Ichiro climbing the right field wall and rob a home run. If you're like me and live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, it feels like an eternity before we emerge from our igloos for the start of Spring Training and a new season. As a kid I always wondered where players go, and what they do when they aren't playing. Well, now that I've played professionally for the past five years, I'm one of the guys that's doing the disappearing. Everyone has a little different way of spending those months from November until February, but I'll do my best to explain what the off-season is like for me in my home of Boston, Massachusetts.

The first day during the off-season is always the oddest. It's the first time in more than eight months that you wake up, and really don't have anywhere to go. It's the first time you probably won't be jumping on a plane, or even worse a bus, and heading to another city for that week's series. It may be the first time you'll actually sit down and have a home cooked meal. Actually I take that back. I can't cook to save my life, so I'll be eating out, just not at my favorite "in-season" restaurant, McDonald's. For a lot of players it's the first time you get to see your entire family since February, lay in a comfortable bed, and go to sleep before 2 AM.

Don't get me wrong, playing baseball for a living is great, and it's what I've wanted to do since I was a little kid. But there are a lot of things you miss out on while away from home, and it feels great to have them all back again. Me personally, I'll usually spend a week or so enjoying all of these goodies while resting my body up for a long season of repeatedly beating the crap out of myself. People may make fun of baseball player's for not being tough or for playing a "non contact" sport, but the season absolutely takes a huge toll on your body. OK, stop laughing, I'm serious. We all need a little time to step back and relax for a while before next season's preparation begins.

I remember watching a video clip a few years ago of Alex Rodriguez having a conversation with Willie Mays, arguably two of the greatest baseball players of all-time. Alex Rodriguez, known for his outstanding work ethic, especially during the off-season, was asking Willie about his off-season workout and conditioning program. He asked how many swings he would take, how many miles he would run, and how many push-ups and sit-ups he would perform. The answer to all three questions was, none.

I, like Alex, was amazed at how drastically things have changed over the years. Baseball has become a year round job, a far cry from the 1950's when almost every Major League player would work a full-time job during the off-season to help support their families. To compete with the millions of baseball players around the globe in today's game, training for baseball has become a year round job. Baseball has truly become a national game, and if you think you can play at the Major League level and not put the work in during the months of October, November, December, and January, it isn't going to happen. There really is no "off-season" anymore.

After being drafted in 2006 by the San Diego Padres, I was thrown into professional baseball without any real knowledge of how it worked. As far as learning what it takes to get yourself ready for the upcoming season, I pretty much learned on the fly as most of the guys do when they arrive to start their careers. After playing my first season in Eugene, Oregon, running from the middle of June until the beginning of September, and then attending fall Instructional League until the end of October, I was given the next four months to myself back in my home town of Peabody, Massachusetts. This was literally the first time in my life where I was on my own to do whatever I pleased. It was my job to figure out what I thought would benefit me the most as a baseball player and go at it. The team gives you a workout schedule that they prefer you do, but nobody is there to hold your hand and make sure you get your workouts in everyday. Some guys take a few months off once the season ends, and some guys get right back at it the day they get home. Some prefer to hit throughout the off-season, and some don't pick a bat up until Spring Training is about to roll around. As nice as it sounds to sleep all day and eat nothing but In N Out "Double-Doubles", it probably wouldn't be the best thing for my career. I'll usually take a week off to rest and then start lifting weights and working on my speed and agility at a local sports and conditioning facility near my home town. I'll begin my baseball work by taking ground balls and batting practice in an indoor baseball facility around the beginning of November.

My off-season routine has changed a lot from my first off-season in 2006. I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. During my first off-season I had one thing in mind, to get BIG and STRONG. Thinking I could improve my power numbers I went from my normal 205 pound frame to around 225 pounds, and my home runs went from 21 to 7. Not exactly what I had in mind. My next off-season I learned from my mistakes and worked on my body composition and adding strength, all while keeping my body fat down. That off-season I worked so hard on my body, I forgot to make sure my swing was ready to go for Spring Training. It was another season of disappointing offensive numbers.

It wasn't until last season that I put everything together. I entered that season in the best shape of my life. I hit three times a week during November and December and five times a week in January. In February I hit everyday leading up to Spring Training. I had my best Spring Training of my life and was ready to continue with the best regular season of my young career. Unfortunately, I broke my hand a week before the season started and spent almost the entire year on the disabled list. Now that a new off-season is here once again, I know exactly what needs to be done to put myself in the best position to have a great season, and I can't wait to get everything going.

Well, I hope I did an OK job at helping everyone understand a little bit of what my life is like during the winter. I guess to wrap things up, Rogers Hornsby said it best when it came to baseball off-seasons. "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving today. Thinking back to when I was a little guy fighting epic battles in Mike Tyson's Punch Out and cooking gourmet meals with my sister's Easy Bake Oven, Christmas was definitely my favorite holiday. Now that I'm older and my boy Saint Nick doesn't bring me those wicked cool gifts anymore, Thanksgiving has taken over the top spot on my favorite holiday list. Any day that revolves around football and food is just fine in my book. I spent the morning waking up at 6 AM and driving an hour to watch my high school football team play in their annual Thanksgiving Day game. It's a pretty cool tradition that we have in Massachusetts where you play your rival school every year. We ended up winning, and by doing so qualified for the playoffs. Woopidiedoo!

When I got back from the game I got to watch my New England Patriots beat up on the Detroit Lions while I ate a big ole' turkey over my families house. My Thanksgiving Day meal is pretty much the same as every other meal I eat since I'm so picky, but I still love it. Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, some cranberry sauce, topped off with a slice of apple pie and vanilla ice cream. That's what I'm talking about! All in all it was a great day. Now it's around 6 PM and I'm just about to hit the sofa for some nap/pass out time.

Before I do, I wanted to throw some videos up. The first one is of me hitting a few days ago. I am glad I put it up here because I can see some things I need to work on a little bit with my swing. I am still pretty happy at how I feel considering I haven't been able to hit very much in a long time. A few more weeks and "look out!"





The second video is me answering some questions I received on Twitter. You can write to me at www.twitter.com/mattantonelli9. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and answer them while I drove to my workout. I survived without receiving any tickets or hitting any innocent bystanders, so that's a positive. Anyways, once again I hope everyone had a great day and enjoy the long weekend.


Monday, November 22, 2010

THE GAME OF BASEBALL

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a nice weekend. I spent Saturday morning talking with and teaching fielding to a group of local Little League players. I learned that even at 9 AM on a weekend, little kids have A LOT of energy. They also ask some pretty funny questions. Some wanted to know what it's like to hit a home run, but most wanted to know what my favorite action figure is, what it feels like to have a beard, and if I've ever eaten Play-Doh.

Yesterday I spent my day like usual, watching the NFL from 1PM until 11:30PM. Laura wants to know how I can constantly watch different men carry a piece of leather around and run into each other all day long. I never really thought of it like that before, but I still like it regardless. The Pats had a big win against their arch nemesis Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. After a big time comeback by the Colts, and the loss of pretty much all my fingernails, the Patriots intercepted a ball with only a few seconds left to seal a victory. Praise the Lord.

I wanted to finish things up by posting this video below that I saw on E:60. It is a really inspirational story about one super tough kid. I know you will all enjoy it. I hope everyone has a great day.


Friday, November 19, 2010

PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC WHITE BOY

Last night my girlfriend and I headed into Boston to the Hard Rock Cafe for a small concert to see Josh Kelley and Sunny Sweeney. Both singers were really good and we had a lot of fun. The only not so great part of the concert was there were no seats, so you had to stand the entire time. We got there around 7PM and it ended a little after 10PM. I may only be 25 years old, but my back wasn't made to stand that long. Before Sunny and Josh came out on stage everyone decided to take a seat on the floor to relax before the singing started. Here was my view while sitting down. Not too shabby.



After getting comfortable for a few minutes I started to think we may get lucky and everyone would stay seated for the concert. I would have a great view and be comfortable at the same time. Unfortunately that only lasted for about ten minutes, because this was my view after a few people decided to walk around me to get front row seats.



Needless to say, I stood for the remainder of the evening.

After the show I got to be a super fan and meet Josh. As you can see I wasn't very photogenic, but it was still cool to take a picture with him and be able to say hello. He seems like a really nice guy.



Hope you guys have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A NEW GRIND MY GEARS

Hey guys! I received a few emails over the past week or so asking when I was doing another Grind My Gears video. I decided to wake up early this morning and put one together for everyone. I had to delete the first few seconds of the video because it wouldn't fit on Youtube, so I'm sorry about that. I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HITTING AGAIN

Hey guys what's going on? A lot of people have been asking me how my hitting went yesterday, so I wanted to throw up a quick video of some swings I took. I appreciate everyone checking in on me and asking how things went. Good news is I felt pretty good, and hit without any pain. I didn't go too crazy for my first time out, only taking about 75 swings. Hopefully I won't wake up sore tomorrow and I'll start to build the swings up each time I head to the cages. As far as my swing, I was surprised how good it felt since I haven't touched a bat in more than three months, and really only a hand full of times since late March. It would be nice if things kept heading in the right direction. Here is a short clip of some swings from last night. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

TWITTER TIME

I saw this photo on Twitter a few days ago posted by Blue Jays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst. If you guys don't know Dirk you should check out his stuff online at www.dirkhayhurst.com and check out his book The Bullpen Gospels. It was a great book, and most importantly there is one sentence about me in there! OK, all kidding aside, here is the picture of the two of us while playing together for the Portland Beavers in 2008. It was mullet night at the stadium, so most of the players wore wigs during warmups to have some fun. As you can see, Dirk's wig was thinning a bit, but my natural hair resembled a young and handsome Uncle Jesse Katsopolis. Man, do I need some Full House in my life.


Also, a few days ago I said that if my hand doesn't get better I may try my luck in soccer. Well I was looking through some home footage and found a game of mine a few years back. Many people do not know this, but I was one of the best U-12 goaltenders in all the land. Check it out.





I'm just kidding that's not me. But it is pretty funny though. Have a great Sunday, and go Pats!


RANDOM STUFF

What's going on everybody? I hope you all had a great week and enjoy the upcoming weekend.

Remarkably, this coming Monday I get to swing a baseball bat for the first time in more than three months. I know, I know, shocking right. I'm more curious if I will remember how to do it more than anything else. I am really hoping everything goes well and I don't have any problems or setbacks. If I do, I may move to Italy and become a professional soccer player, or swimsuit model.

I was talking to some people on Twitter yesterday and we got on the topic of our favorite toys as kids? Someone mentioned about playing with toys while taking a bath and it got me thinking. Why was it so fun to bring your toys into the bathtub as a kid. I could do that shit for hours on end and have the time of my life. Rubber ducks, G.I. Joes, rocks from the backyard. It didn't really matter what it was, only that it was allowed in there, or I could find a way to sneak it in. When your young, the simplest things could keep you occupied forever. For some reason, sitting in a sandbox could keep you occupied for hours, but as adults its tough to find things that can keep your attention for more than five minutes. I miss my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Anyways, I saw a few funny things over the past few days so I thought I would throw a few of them up here. I hope you enjoy!

I feel bad for this lady, but it does make me laugh. "Who wants to be a millionaire?!?!?" Not her apparently.







This last one didn't make me laugh, but I was impressed at the brute strength of these two professional bodybuilders. Actually, it's my girlfriend and I getting after it yesterday at Catz Sports Performance. You know what they say, "a couple that pushes tractor tires around together, stays together."


Have a great weekend!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

MAIL BAG

I received a lot of good questions in my email a few days ago, so I wanted to take a few minutes and answer some of them for you guys. Hope you enjoy, and I appreciate you sending them.

Who are the active baseball players you look up to, model yourself after?
I look up to a lot of baseball players currently playing in the Major Leagues. I can't really name them all, but one guy I really like to watch how he does things is David Eckstein. He has won two World Series in his career, been a World Series MVP, and has had an unbelievable career. Plus he is a great teammate. I've been lucky enough to play with David for parts of the past two years and I've learned a lot of things just by watching him go about his business.

What players did you grow up idolizing?
I grew up playing short stop, so I was a fan of the game's top short stops at the time. My favorites were Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Tejada. Being from Boston I watched Nomar the most, but I would try and learn as much as a could from watching all of these great infielders.

Do you have any siblings?
I have a sister that is two years younger than me.

When you travel with your team, do you guys have time to tour around the cities before heading to the ballpark to play?
I usually don't do too much touring before games because we don't really have much time. Usually by the time the game ends and I finish dinner I don't get to bed until around 2 AM. By the time I get up and eat breakfast it is almost time to head to the field around 1 PM. The times that I can tour around cities is if we get into town and have an off-day while we are there. A few years ago we had an off-day on our first day in Washington D.C. It was awesome to spend a full day traveling around the area and visiting so many of the great sights there.

What was your favorite subject in school?
When I was younger my favorite subject was probably history. If I were to go back to school now, I would really be interested in business classes.

What was your major in college?
I joke with people and say my major in college was baseball. Actually, I'm kind of serious, but technically I was a communications major. Probably explains why I am such a great communicator. Haha, just kidding.

Thanks for the questions!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BATHROOM ETIQUETTE

Hey what's up guys? I've been running around a lot lately so I wanted to make a video with a few questions that have been bothering me. If you could help me out a little bit that would be great! Unfortunately I've got to run again, but I hope everyone has an awesome day.


Friday, November 5, 2010

ONE CLAP

Good day people. How are we all doing? The rain has finally stopped and the sun is shining for the first time in a few days, so things are starting to look nice for the weekend. Tomorrow I'll be heading to the IMAX theatre to see "Megamind" in 3D. I have been a big fan of mostly all the 3D movies that have come out over the past year or so, and I think this one should be pretty funny with Will Farrell staring in it. I'm looking forward to it.

Last night we went out for some dinner to a small Italian restaurant in East Boston. I had never been there before, but the word around town is that it's a very tiny place but the food is great. We drove there and finally found a parking spot on a side street after circling around the block a few times. That really is the worst part about going into the city. There are no parking spots, and I'm pretty bad at parallel parking when we finally do find one (I have been practicing and am getting better). I was excited to try this place out, but after we went inside to grab a table we found there was a wait of two hours and forty-five minutes! I have been to a lot of restaurants in my life and I don't think I've ever heard of a wait that long. The crazy part was the woman at the front desk was actually wondering if we were going to stay and wait. Needless to say we ended up leaving and heading to the North End for another Italian restaurant. I think next time I'll make a reservation.

In extremely important news, this week is do or die for my fantasy football team. I am 3-5 and need a victory to stay in the hunt. This has been by far my worst fantasy season of my life. I've made it to the championship game the last two years, and this year I'm in serious danger of missing the playoffs all together. If I lose this Sunday I will not be able to watch football, other than the Patriots of course, for the rest of the season. Do me a favor and cheer for Tom Brady to throw five TD's this week!

I'll be putting together a new Grind My Gears video for next week. I've had a lot of things that have really gotten on my nerves lately, so I figured I could vent to my Flip camera on Monday to make myself feel better.

To rap things up, I've searched long and hard for my walk up song next year and I think I've found it. Check it out and let me know what you think?

I hope everyone has a great weekend!


And in case you were interested you can check out the Marlin Motel. I'm pretty sure not too many people were lining up to reserve rooms at this place.



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TEACH ME HOW TO DOUGIE

Hey guys, what's up? I'm back in Massachusetts and have enjoyed being able to start lifting weights and training for the upcoming season. I couldn't believe when I woke up this morning to head to a workout and saw frost on the grass outside. Three days ago I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt in 97 degree weather with super dry air in Arizona. Now I'm wearing a winter hat with a sweatshirt, jeans, and three pairs of socks. Even so, it's still good to be home.

I spent most of today hoping that everyone in the NFL would pass up the opportunity to sign Randy Moss and he would end up right back with the Patriots for the playoff run. I know he must be acting like a complete idiot for the Patriots to deal him away in the middle of the season, and then for the Vikings to cut ties with him after less than a month, but I still love watching him play every Sunday (even if he does jog on 80% of his routes). I just heard he was picked up by the Titans. Seems to make sense for a playoff team trying to make a run that needs to open up some running room for Chris Johnson. Good luck to teams having to deal with CJ, Young, Moss, and Britt. That's a lot of freak athletes.

The next few weeks should be pretty low key around here. I get to hit on November 15 for the first time in more than three months. Pretty amazing when I think about it. Things are feeling pretty good in my wrist, so I'm excited to prove I can hit with no pain for the first time in about two years. If it doesn't work I plan on cutting the hand off and trying out that sweet arm that Arnold uses in The Terminator.

In other news, last night my girlfriend and I, two people extremely lacking in the cooking department, attempted to cook a meal of shrimp, scallops, and vegetables for dinner. I've been working on a diet since eating nothing but take out and fast foot the last three weeks in Arizona. I was actually surprised at how well everything came out. I was sure I'd be up all night throwing up from eating raw seafood. I know it shouldn't be very hard to peel shrimp and place it on the grill, but I'm a beginner so BACK OFF!

Finally, on a more serious note, I've found my new dance for opening day introductions next year. I think if I break this down on my way out to the first base foul line I'm good for at least a three for three day with a jack and five RBI. What do you think?