Friday, January 14, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Fat Camp

Came to Spring Training out of shape? Nothin' Tony Perkis can't handle.

Think you can get away with that belly just because you hit a few homers? Welcome to Fat Camp. Now this term may not be universal throughout the entire Minor League system, but I'm sure each organization has their own version of this institution. It's simple really- show up to Spring Training with a belly? You're in Fat Camp. Gain a certain amount of weight during the season? Boom, Fat Camp. Start showing a decrease in your endurance or conditioning level? Go see that strength coach right over there and he'll get you set up in, yep, you guessed it: Fat Camp.

Now Minor League Fat Camp is not the fun and games depicted by Gerald Garner and company in Heavyweights- no go-karts or dances; no pranks or tomfoolery. Fat Camp is simply a series of additional exercises that players considered by the organization as 'out of shape' must do on a regular basis until they reach a target weight. For some it's a kick in the ass- a reminder to put down the fries and booze for a minute and lose those few extra pounds they've  added over a string of late nights. For others, it's a challenge to get in shape for the first time in their lives- they've always been big, but they've always known how to hit or pitch so they've always gotten by without having to change.

Then there's the one or two guys who look at Fat Camp as an inevitability- these are the lifetime members. Sure it's a pain in the ass to have to do more cardio than every one else, and at times it's embarrassing, but this is pizza and beer we're talking about here! These guys simply add the Fat Camp regiment to the rest of the team workouts and go on living their lives as they always have- same laziness, same diet, same slow speed and big belly. These kids are an enigma to me- so you know you're fat, the team knows you're fat, and it's proven that by applying yourself to better health you'll likely be more effective on the field and live a longer life? Yeah, I wouldn't try to change either. Sounds stupid.

Fat Camp comes in many forms- most notably, post-game bike workouts. These are usually 15 or 20-minute rides, and likely the last thing you want to do on top of a game and a lift- not to mention everyone is long gone by the time you finally get out of the shower. This weight-loss method is subtle- kept within the confines of the clubhouse- but there are more drastic measures that are implemented at times.

Enter public humiliation. On some occasions, if a player is showing no progress in his weight loss, or perhaps displaying a total lack of commitment, Fat Camp is instituted before the game- out on the field, for all to see. When coming out for stretch, the strength coach will give the player the 'Go' call and he will start running. Depending on the situation, the camp member will usually run around the perimeter of the field on the warning track for the duration of the stretch, throwing program, and batting practice- with slim hope of being called in for his own group's turn in the cage. If the lack of commitment keeps up, game suspensions and other punishments will ensue.

For me, I never understood how a Big Leaguer could be fat. Out of shape? It happens. But just grossly overweight? That's a joke. Minor Leaguers have more excuses, with less money and terrible travel often translating into fast food. But the MLB guys have every resource in the world at their finger tips- nutritionists, strength coaches, money, psychologists, personal chefs- what more could you ask for? I feel that guys like CC and Prince have to literally try to stay fat. Sure they're strong, but mix in a salad once in a while, big fella.

MiLB LIFE Series
My First Call-Up
A Typical Game Day [Part One]
A Typical Game Day [Part Two]
Being the 'K-Man'
A Taste of the Minor League Off-Season
New Helmets Issued, Players Respond: "Are You Joking?"
The Fines of Kangaroo Court
Kangaroo Court

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