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More than a game

Baseball success isn’t determined in just nine innings on the field; wins come from hours of prep as well

Daily challenges: There a lot more to the game than just the nine innings on the field.
Scott Kinser/Winston-Salem Dash

The second installment of Andrew Perez’s player diary is the first featured on South Side Sox. Today, Andrew examines the crucial concentration players need to be successful off of the field. Look for more from Andrew in weeks to come, and follow him on Twitter @El_PlatanoPerez.

Having a strong enough mentality to be able to play baseball at the professional level is important, but there are other important factors. We face challenges as players that we must push through just to be ready for the next opportunity.

Professional baseball is very simple in one aspect, one that many on the outside do not realize. Sure, the game rewards you by how hard you work and how well you react through adversity. But, simply said, success comes from consistency.

The consistency I’m referring to here isn’t repeating pitches or having consistent at-bats, but the importance of nutrition, dedication to attacking the weight room each day, and learning to appreciate the everyday grind.

Personally, I have loved every second of professional baseball to the fullest. Coming from college helps you understand that there’s more to life than baseball, and this creates a balance among your physical, mental, and social life. The opportunity to play in college taught me that you have to prioritize and dedicate yourself to everything you put your mind to.

In the weight room, college hands you those days where you feel exhausted from classes, long practices, and trying to mix in a social life; those workouts are powered by your strength coach, who is ready to maximize your physical and mental strength to its fullest (shout-out to Coach Roberts and Coach Waterbury) to be able to compete on the field at the highest level, day-in and day-out.

I don’t recall taking workouts off, but I do remember how miserably sore my legs were my first workout of my freshman summer. It was difficult to walk after the incredible leg day we had to complete, but that set the bar for my time in college. There were a lot more extreme lifts in my junior year, where I realized I was going extremely hard with my workout partner Max Holmes and my strength coaches at University of South Florida. And by that time, a great byproduct of my workouts in the the team sense was knowing they motivated some of the other guys around me to focus up and get an even better workout in.

Lucky for me in the offseason, I’ve kept strong with my close friend and brother Scott Toner, who I’ve been working out since high school — we take the offseason very seriously, and push one another hard. It’s great to have a workout partner who is as dedicated and can help push you.

Fast-forward to professional baseball: You have to understand that the mindset doesn’t change, and the intensity doesn’t change in the weight room, because that where you flush out your mind and everything around it. And playing a long season, you have to understand your body with regard to nutrition.

I do remember a fun time as a freshman in college, when my roommate Chris Chatfield and I would have during our summer B session workouts, and we always left right after those long, hot days of conditioning and go to Little Ceasar’s to grab a pepperoni pie and those large gallons of Gatorade. Even as a pro, sometimes you get away from being disciplined nutritionally because of the long bus rides. It becomes more difficult to avoid buying McDonalds or even eating pizza, especially because some of the towns we play in are very small.

Outside of being an athlete, and challenging my body with workout routines and proper nutrition, I challenge myself mentally in ways that go beyond the baseball diamond. I’m still a student pursuing my educational career. Since being drafted, I have continued my education by enrolling in classes at USF, from the start of short season last year in Great Falls, all the way till now in Winston-Salem.

School for me has always been a priority, so being able to continue to take classes has been very important. Finishing up my degree in communications while playing has given me the opportunity to still keep in touch with an outside life besides baseball. Even in college, I took a few online or virtual classes. Those are a great way to help me complete my degree while playing.

For the first time since turning pro, this coming fall I will be taking one course back on campus, which will be very fun. Just to get outside of the routine and go back to campus, being able to interact as a student but also knowing I just finished a season of professional baseball, is very unique — especially having been a student-athlete at the same university. Sometimes being on the road, staying at hotels that lack good WiFi or even regular phone service, it’s hard to submit some assignments in time or even attempt them because of how late games can run. But that teaches me to get all the work I can done early, which is what I tried to practice during my first half-season in Kannapolis. Now, I’m able to take a few more online classes in season, instead of one at a time.

The game itself, workouts, nutrition, even off-field pursuits like taking classes all help to alleviate feeling homesick or distant from family and friends during the long pro season. Having a strong support system at my back and always by my side always continues to motivate me and lead me forward.

The journey is more important than the destination!