In which Hunter Pence approves of my dietary choices

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I’ve mentioned my change in diet a few times around here. Sorry if I’m being redundant about it, but it has represented a pretty major life change for me. And being on the road for a week and a half it’s impossible not to think about it.  Road trips are always bad for me, food wise. Especially baseball trips. It’s impossible to eat well in a ballpark. That’s true even if you stay away from the concession food and stick to the media spread. You can find salads there on occasion, but it’s often hot dogs, big sandwiches, chicken parm and things like that.

I left the ballpark yesterday and went to the Whole Foods in Tempe. Their prepared foods section has a million great things. Fresh veggies, grilled meats, lentils, quinoa and the like. I got that grilled salmon, quinoa tabbouleh and asparagus/mushroom/red pepper mixup pictured to the right and ate it in the little cafe. As I left I picked up some healthy foods to take back to the hotel with me and to pack in my bag each day when I head out to the ballpark. As I type this I am doing my best to ignore the wonderful smells from the concourse here in Scottsdale Stadium and concentrate on the apple, walnuts and jerky I bought along.

Heading here this morning I remembered the post about Hunter Pence’s adherence to the paleo diet  from last week — which is not terribly different than what I’m doing — and decided that I’d ask him how it was going.

I asked him if he had a couple of minutes. He started that familiar rap players who don’t really want to be interviewed at the moment offer, asking how much time it’d take (“hey I have to get to this room or that meeting and blahblahblah…”) but when I told him it’d be quick and it was about how his diet was going, he opened up and acted like he had all day to talk.  Maybe this is just a favorite topic for him. Or maybe players are simply bored to tears with the usual spring training  clubhouse rebop.

Pence said that it was going great. That since he cut out carbs in September he has felt way more energetic, sleeps better, the whole deal.  I asked him if, as is the case with me and a lot of other people, the initial absence of sugar and carbs led to some serotonin deficit-inspired depression. He said he had heard that happened, but thankfully it didn’t happen to him.

source: Getty ImagesI asked him if an athlete’s far greater than typical energy needs makes it more difficult to avoid carbs and he said “Nope. I just pound kale and vegetables all the time. It’s in there.” I asked him if it’s hard for him to not get room service and bad food on the road and he said “Not at all. It’s just a matter of getting in a cab and making them take you to Whole Foods.”

At that point I figured I’d mention that I’m on the same sort of diet, albeit for very different reasons. I mentioned about my trip to Whole Foods yesterday and how I’d plan to do that kind of thing the whole trip, and he started to take on that look he had while giving the rah-rah pep talks during the Giants playoff run last year. “That’s great! Keep that up, man. You’ll get over the initial hump and feel much better. Just keep it up.” It was easy to giggle a bit at Pence’s motivational speaker thing last season, but in that moment, I felt ready to go out and beat the Tigers. Or the potato chips and pasta. Or something.

Anyway. No point to this, but it was one of my favorite player encounters in a long time so I figure I’d share it.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.