Jon Jones, Mauricio Rua

Ballplayers training with mixed martial arts

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It’s all fun and games until someone takes their training out to the mound with them for a post-beanball donnybrook!

Mixed martial arts may be illegal as a competitive sport in some states, but several baseball players are incorporating its fighting methods into their training routines.

Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox, Brad Penny of the Detroit Tigers and Russell Martin of the Yankees have used the sport’s punches and kicks to improve their throwing and swinging. In addition to improving overall fitness, Martin said, mixed martial arts can make an athlete mentally tougher.

I never know what to think of these kinds of stories. I mean, I have zero doubt that this kind of training is beneficial because it sounds like hardcore stuff. MMA guys are certainly in good shape and anything that helps with strength, balance, flexibility and mental toughness has to be a good thing.

At the same time, I can’t help but smile at this, fully aware of the long and rich history of taking popular cultural phenomenons and turning them into workouts. As God is my witness I remember seeing a record/book set — this predated the era in which most people had VCRs — called “Disco your way to Health” or something very close to it. I’m sure there was a roller boogie followup. Not to say that MMA is so ephemeral as disco and roller boogie — it’s pretty established at this point — but there is something about all of this that makes me wonder how much money is being made off of this kind of thing, if not for the ballplayers, than at least for the common schlub in suburban gyms around the USA.

(thanks to Hannah for the heads up)

Not that the exercise industry is the worst offender. When it comes to exploiting the cultural zeitgeist for a quick buck, nothing beats the world of business book publishing.  Seriously: if you can’t find a book that fits the pattern of “[latest trendy pursuit] Lessons for the Businessman” on the shelf down at the Barnes and Noble, you can assured that it either just went out of print or it’s currently being written.

But now we’re into another rant, so let us end this post by thinking about Adam Dunn in an MMA match.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.