Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Major League Yoga

Major League Yoga

            Last night I joined masses of red and white clad Phillies fans at the Ballpark to watch my hometown team slaughter the Atlanta Braves.  Up in the nosebleeds over a cheap beer my father and I stared intently at the baseball diamond, rally towels in hand.  After the fifth or sixth foul ball of the night I recalled an article I had read a few days back.  “Did you know there are 108 stitches on a baseball?” I asked my father.
            He laughed and responded with some quip about yoga and baseball.  I have to say that got my wheels turning.  I remember a few years back getting a phone call from my mother, “Lil, did you know Donovan McNabb practices yoga?  You know, the Eagle.”  In fact, I did not know that at the time but it made plenty of sense to me.  And if yoga is aiding in the agility, strength and calm of football players why shouldn’t it be a tool for baseball teams as well?
            Apparently, I am not alone in that thinking.  The practically new-born Tampa Rays, a team around only since 1998, stole the spotlight a few years back when they made it to the series to play against my precious Phillies.  And they took ‘em deep.  It was no four game sweep.  What’s more? They practice yoga.
            In 2007 the team began practicing.  Is it a coincidence that in 2008 they took the penant nearly winning the world series and beat out the evil empire that is the New York Yankees? Perhaps, but I honestly don’t think so.  Manager of the Tampa Rays Joe Maddon “believes the practice will eventually be accepted once a player has success on the field and credits part of that success to practicing yoga.” 
            Of course, skeptics abound.  Take for instance senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays and baseball legend Don “Popeye” Zimmer.  In an article reporting on the integration of yoga into the MLB’s training roster Bill Chastain writes,  “Zimmer is a baseball lifer, so it's understandable he doesn't grasp the significance of the yoga class being conducted at the Devil Rays' camp this spring. Old school baseball thinking just doesn't lend itself to embracing said practice.”
            I might ask Zimmer, given the chance, what he thinks of his teams success as informed by their adopted yoga practice.  And, further, I might ask Charlie Manuel (manager of the Phillies) why our boys haven’t been caught on the mat when they aren’t on the diamond.
            This summer Ryan Madsen, one of our late inning relief pitchers, missed eight weeks of play because after a particularly bad outing he kicked a chair with his shoes off and broke a toe.  Talk about stress levels soaring!  According to Errol Simonitsch, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins “If you can calm yourself down in the middle of those poses, you can do it in the middle of the game. That’s why, before every pitch, you’ll see me take a deep breath.
            Now, don't get me wrong. I'm proud of the phillies and I can't wait until they steal the series this year.  However, a deep breath might do those guys some good.  It is with this thought that I wish I could offer each of the players the calm of an OM run.      


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