Justin Verlander went on quite the trek in 2017. After spending the first 12 years of his MLB career with the Detroit Tigers, Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros minutes before the waiver trade deadline in August, setting him on what would become one of his biggest adventures yet.
Verlander posted a 1.06 ERA and won all five of his regular-season starts for the team, then helped pitch the Astros to its first World Series championship in franchise history. But that wasn’t all. After winning the World Series, Verlander skipped out on the parade, because he had something else to do: get married to supermodel Kate Upton in Tuscany.
And now, with a World Series title on his resume, Verlander is back and ready for another MLB adventure in 2018 as he tries to help the Astros repeat as champions. Before the season started, Verlander also teamed up with Flonase to help fight back against his allergies, putting together a video with his father where they discuss Verlander’s best way to deal with congestion during the spring and summer months.
Men’s Journal caught up with Verlander ahead of the 2018 MLB season to ask him about the best way to stay fresh on the field, where he wants to travel next, and his favorite gear.
Where’s your favorite place to travel?
I absolutely loved going to Europe, and I loved Italy. Tuscany was amazing, and Florence, to me, was one of the best cities in the world. Everything there was just amazing, the food, the architecture, the landscape. I also really enjoyed going to Napa, and pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean I really enjoy getting to travel to. Turks and Caicos is an island that jumps out at me, that was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen—the water there was so blue, just unbelievable.
“I love working on legs and core. For me as a pitcher, I think that’s the most important thing to focus on, since that’s where I generate my strength.”
Is there anywhere you’re excited to visit next?
There’s definitely a few places I want to go when I retire and have some more time to explore and check cities out. I’m kind of saving the Amalfi Coast and some places like that for when I can go and spend the right amount of time there and during the right time, too. Baseball season goes during the middle of the summer, during prime travel time, so those types of places are on my list for the future.
What’s your favorite adventure that you’ve been on during one of your trips?
I really enjoy being in the water and doing that kind of stuff when I’m traveling and visiting places. I like snorkeling and scuba diving, those types of adventurous activities. I’ve also done a shark dive before—that was pretty exhilarating.
What’s your favorite piece of gear right now?
Oh, wow, I have a bunch, so I really don’t have just one favorite thing. I love a lot of my Under Armour workout gear that I use when I’m training. I always like to stay pretty up to date with the latest tech stuff, too. I really love cars as well, and I just got the new “Eleanor” Mustang from Gone in 60 Seconds. It’s amazing, I love that car. (Check out Justin’s new ride at his Instagram page.) In addition to those, I would say I love my new Breitling watch. I love getting to wear that. Some great stuff came my way this offseason.
What’s your favorite drink or cocktail?
I keep it pretty simple and pretty clean actually, usually I’ll go with a vodka soda, or some wine.
What’s your favorite exercise and most-dreaded exercise to do in your training?
I love working on legs and core. For me as a pitcher, I think that’s the most important thing to focus on, since that’s where I generate my strength. A lot of people that don’t know a lot about the mechanics of pitching sometimes ask me, “How do you throw a baseball so hard? You’re not very muscular in your upper body?” Well, that’s really not where it comes from, the arm is just kind of the end of the whip. The strength you can generate on the pitch comes through your legs and through your core.
I really like doing deadlifts, and explosive stuff like med ball throws for my core. The last couple years I’ve gotten a little bit more into pullups and pushups, and trying to do those explosively. As for the most-dreaded, I’d say I’m not a huge fan of running so much and doing the cardio stuff. I still do it, but pretty much no matter what it is, it sucks [laughs]. But it’s just one of those things. You have to grind your way through and just go as hard as you can until you’re done even if you don’t like it.