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."

blog comments powered by Disqus