The Storm Chasers are in Reno right now, continuing their quest to repeat as Pacific Coast League champions. By this point in the year, we’ve all learned a lot about each of the players on the roster. But someone who’s not on the roster is a pretty important part of the team – strength and conditioning coach Joey Greany.
I can’t tell you what workouts all of the Chasers players do, because all of them do different things. Greany isn’t like this crazy coach from Harvard (link NSFW), who thinks every single athlete should be huge like some gorilla. Greany doesn’t think every single player should be any one thing: “I’m in charge of twenty-five guys here. Each guy learns different, each guy’s body type is different, and each guy for the most part is motivated differently.”
Some players, like newly-minted Major Leaguer David Lough, work out intensely without anyone having to push too hard. Others might want to get into better shape, but need a nudge. Greany tells a story of a simple thing he did to set Kelvin Herrera on the right path. Herrera was tying his best, but couldn’t drag himself out of bed in the mornings. Greany went to Herrera’s place and discovered that Kelvin had his windows covered up, making the room pitch black.
“When the sun comes up, that’s when your body’s supposed to wake up and restart your biological clock,” Greany said. “So all we did was take everything down from his window and had normal blinds put in.”
After that, Herrera could get moving in the mornings for breakfast, and started shedding some weight. “He was hooked,” Greany said. “When [players] start seeing results, you’ve got ’em for a lifetime.”
The two players mentioned above are both in the Majors today. Greany hopes to join them and all the other players he’s worked with in the past. Just like all the players who have worked their way up through the minors, Greany has worked his way up from Burlingtons (NC and Iowa), followed by two seasons in Northwest Arkansas, and now Omaha. His goal, just like his players, is to win a World Series with the big club.
His players at Omaha joked and chattered with him throughout our chat in the dugout, throwing around his slogans as they walked by. (“A body in motion stays in motion!”) One ran up with a cup of water, chiding Greany for not being hydrated. Jokes aside, though, the guys listen to Greany. Consider this: On an average game day, the players don’t have to be at the ballpark until sometime in the early afternoon. Throughout most of the baseball world, that means that guys sleep until 11:00 or even noon. But Greany tells Omaha players that they need to wake up early for some light activity and breakfast – and they do it.
They also eat well. “This is a good, health-conscious team, and they’re very in tune into their bodies and strength conditioning. It makes my job a million times easier,” Greany said. “These guys hold each other accountable. If they see one of their buddies eating a donut or something in the clubhouse, they say ‘hey, what are you doing eating that?’ And some guys are afraid to eat a cinnamon roll or something because they’re going to get yelled at.”
Chasers players are told to abide by an 80/20 guideline, meaning that 80 percent of what they eat should be good, healthful stuff, and it’s OK to have the occasional treat — but all things in moderation.
Greany describes the training facilities at Werner Park as being pretty different from most gyms or health clubs. For one, there’s nowhere to do bench presses. “If you’re laying on your back lifting weights, and then laying on your back trying to field ground balls, then you’re no use to the team,” Greany said. ” we like to do all of our exercises on our feet because we play the game on our feet.”
The most important things Greany focuses on with the Chasers are mobility and flexibility. He explains that because the human body is an “integrated unit,” pain in a shoulder might actually be tied to problems in the hips, knees, or anywhere else. A series of screens and tests show any restrictions in movement in a player’s joints, which shows Greany what to focus on during warmups and workouts.
Greany cited Irving Falu as an example of the importance of mobility and flexibility. “Falu can bend down and touch his hamstrings better than anybody. But he needs to be mobile in the ankles, and he also needs to be mobile in the hips,” he said. “If not, there’s gonna be a restriction, and there’s gonna be compensations somewhere else, and then somethings’ gonna break.”
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to train with Greany. In fact, he enjoys working with everyday people because it’s easier for them to see dramatic improvement. But with professional and Olympic athletes, he said, they can work together for a long time and only see marginal steps forward. For a doughy blogger (ahem, that’s me), it would just be a matter of working up a sweat, every day. And when Greany talks about getting fit, with the intelligence that earned him a Masters degree and the enthusiasm that motivates Chasers players to work hard, it sounds like something I want to do.