The offseason for Major League Baseball is one of the shortest in all of sports. Regular season games wrap up around October 1. If your team makes a playoff run, add a couple more weeks. Most players say they take about a month to recover from the 162-plus game grind, and then start hitting the gym in earnest in November. By the time February 1 rolls around, the break is almost over, as pitchers and catchers must report to Spring Training in Florida or Arizona within a day or two of Valentine's Day. That gives guys about 130 days to shake off the old season and begin building themselves up for the new year.
"There's no catching up once the season starts," says Tony Watson, 28, a Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher who appeared in 67 games last year. Most players' offseason routines don't match the extremes of Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, last year's Rookie of the Year in the National League, or Jesus Montero of the Seattle Mariners. Fernandez lost about 25 lbs while cycling 600 miles some weeks with a peloton in Florida while Montero, a one-time top Yankees prospect, gained about 40 lbs in the offseason, something he blames on overeating. Guys want to be in good shape heading into camp, so they won't be sore in the early days, or get injured and miss out on valuable innings or at-bats when the General Manager is watching.
Players competing for a big-league roster spot literally can't afford to be tired in Spring Training, because if they are, it affects their bank accounts in a big way. The difference between a full-time MLB gig and the equivalent in Triple-A is about $500,000. Here are the offseason workout highlights of four ballplayers, just try to catch-up.
David Lough, 28, outfielder, Baltimore Orioles
In his first sustained big-league action last season as an outfielder with the Kansas City Royals, Lough turned enough heads to find his name on the offseason transaction list – a major compliment. While Lough looks compact and powerful on the field, it's possible they didn't know the body of a fitness magazine cover model lurked below the baseball uniform. "I've got 3-percent body fat, I just got that measured. I'm not a very big guy – people can't tell with the uniform on me," says Lough, who notched 90 hits in 96 games with the Royals last year. "But I take it very seriously and I can't walk to shower without people saying something to me. I'll try to put my shirt on as I'm walking back to my locker and hide it as best I can."
Most MLB players go hard in the depths of winter and then taper off before Spring Training. Lough says he stays focused up until the first day of camp, but he backs off the heavy weights as spring beckons, substituting plyometrics, speed training, bands, and even yoga or pick-up basketball for big weight. One day per week, though, is still reserved for a hard push, as the Orioles want their players to be able to max out every two or three weeks during the season. "I love working out. I love feeling the pain and the agony and destroying my body. There are times when I'm really tired and laying on the floor, gassed," says Lough, who has been working towards his CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) certification.
"When you first get on a baseball diamond, no matter what type of training you do, you'll still be sore. You're not working the same muscle groups you usually work in a gym. It's just one of those things," he says. "Baseball is just a different type of activity."
He logs every workout and emailed this one to Men's Journal.
Bike (10 minutes)
(60 sec rest between each circuit set)
Quick box jumps (42-inch plyo box)
Rope slams (4x20)
Front Squat (4x10)
Rope circles (4x20)
TRX hamstring curls (4x6-8)
Rope jacks (4x25)
Lateral step ups (4x10 each leg)
Kettlebell swings (4x10)
Plank series (3x30 sec)
Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images
Sledge hammer slams (3x10 ea)
Stability Ball mountain climbers (3x20)