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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Very Good Story on Ryan Howard

Thanks to David Murphy of The Philadelphia Daily News for writing this piece.

The article focuses on Ryan Howard's pre-season training regimen, his past performance and, of course, his contract negotiations/arbitration. Howard reported five days early to the Phillies' spring training camp after having spent almost two weeks at an elite performance camp at Saddlebrook, a golf and tennis resort near Tampa. Among those in attendance at the camp were Derek Jeter and Ryan Zimmerman. Howard reported to the Phillies' camp 10-15 pounds lighter than last year and in great shape.

I happened to be at Saddlebrook while that camp was going on and saw the workout facility, which is pretty impressive (I worked out at the gym for the relative proleteriat, furthering my resolve to firm up the core and watch the waistline). Some in my group (it was a business meeting) saw Derek Jeter at breakfast; I thought I saw some baseball players at the gym (gee, they were the guys throwing a baseball around), but I didn't recognize any of them. At any rate, this program is all business (and apparently has elite performance trainers from all over the country taking their high-school kids there for intensive workouts too, albeit not with the Major Leaguers).

What does this say about Ryan Howard? First, that he's committed to staying in shape and being an elite baseball player. As "Baseball Prospectus" has pointed out, a cause for pause for baseball teams looking to sign big players to long-term contracts is their girth. Many of us remember that Bobby Bonilla expanded after he signed his then-huge 5-year, $25 million deal with the Mets, and that Mo Vaughn channeled his inner dirigible after also inking a lucrative free-agent deal with the Mets before having his career end prematurely because of a bad ankle that probably had some correlation to his at-least 280 pounds. Second, that he's a true professional, confident that salary negotiations will work themselves out. Some athletes might have shown up in so-so shape or in a bad mood, but not Howard. He's out to prove that he's an elite performer through and through.

And he's done a good job of doing just that.

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