With on-field sports in the U.S. still on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is waiting for Major League Baseball to return to action. But as hard as that wait might be for fans on the outside looking in, imagine being a ballplayer whose mission, every day for eight or nine months every year, is to be ready to play — and now not knowing when that day will come. ESPN’s Marly Rivera asked Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies about how different his experience has been during the lockdown versus his normal workday, and how he’s staying ready for the day when everyone in the game gets the call back to the diamond.
I woke up at 10:30 this morning and ate my usual blueberry oatmeal with turkey bacon. I would have followed that by a couple of episodes of “The Office.” Stick with, like, Season 2 or 5. Those are my favorites. Dwight Schrute is my favorite character. When I wake up, my mind kind of starts going toward the game, so I’m trying to put myself in a good mood.
But it’s not game day. Now thinking about it, I didn’t realize how much I missed it.
Instead of being in Denver, I’m home in California. I still keep the breakfast pretty similar. I usually stick with oatmeal because I always try to keep my body feeling lighter. It makes me feel like I’m ready to go. Like I’m gonna go attack the day. It keeps me thinking positive.
If I had been in my apartment in Denver, I would be on my balcony. I have a little mini putting green, and I try to drain a couple putts just to get outside, get some fresh air. Then I’ll start to get ready.
I start playing music. If I’m angry, I’ll play Rage Against the Machine. If I’m happy and in a good mood, I’ll play Travis [Scott], Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar. I listen to Jay Rock-Kendrick Lamar “Wow Freestyle.” That one kind of gets me locked in. I put my AirPods and my wallet in my backpack and always grab an Essential water before I drive to the ballpark.
Now I don’t have anywhere to go.
After breakfast, I’m rewatching Rockies games. I usually watch games against the Dodgers or see my at-bats against really good pitchers, like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty. I’m watching those games to see how I was against them, to remind myself that I could hang with those guys because I’m not having that feeling anymore. I question, who am I as a ballplayer right now?
I’m trying to return to that positive mindset. I watch games, at-bats, and then I’ll watch home runs just for positive reinforcement. Just to remind myself that I did that and I can still play.
Now? I go to the gym, roll out, massage my legs to stretch and get my body going. Then me, my brother Jonah, my buddy Trayce Thompson and my cousin Josh Fuentes go to the warehouse and hit. My brother throws. Everyone does the tee routine, and then we go to flips. Then we take BP, and every other day we do the [pitching] machine.
We’re trying to take up a lot of time, trying different things to stay active and motivated. We’re constantly challenging ourselves, constantly playing games. We’re always making up different hitting games. We do “Gold Glovers Everywhere.” When we’re hitting we remind ourselves that there are gold glovers at every position. We’ve got Derek Jeter at short, got Scott Rolen at third, and since Ken Griffey Jr. is at center we put Andruw Jones in left. Mookie Betts is in right, Robinson Canó at second and Albert Pujols at first.
But it’s weird. We’re not high-fiving. We wear gloves. When we sit and watch each other hit, we sit far apart from each other. These are guys I trust, but you still have to take precautions. It’s weird being cautious about not high-fiving or touching them.
I should be at Coors Field, walking in, looking at the pictures on the wall before I go to my locker. I usually get there pretty early, either right before [Trevor] Story and Charlie [Blackmon], or around the same time.
After going to the video room, I go back to the training room to activate and get my body going. Then go straight to the cage. I can see it now. Dave Magadan, our hitting coach, is there, Jeff Salazar, assistant hitting coach, Aaron Muñoz our bullpen catcher is also there.
First thing we do is we talk about what’s the approach against the pitcher. I’ll do my tee-flips routine. We’ll watch a little bit of more video of what we’re trying to accomplish. Speaking with them a lot, that’s how I go about it. I miss it. I miss it more than anything.
After I’m done, I then eat veggies, chicken, peppers and cottage cheese — it’s kind of gross, but it’s pure protein and it’s light and makes me feel good. Then I sit at my locker and see if the media has any questions for me. I won’t lie, sometimes I hide. Now I wish we had just won a game and I had a part in it and was talking to the media about it. Surprisingly, I miss that.
Instead, with Trayce and Josh, we’re doing ground balls in the cage or head to a park near Lake Forest. We’ll run sprints, throw the football around. We just try to keep our mind going. We have our good days and bad days, but sometimes it just sucks.
Todd Helton always used to tell me “focus on the process, don’t focus on the results.” I’m trying to replicate that right now, but it’s too hard.
The hardest part about it is there’s no finish line. What am I leading up to? That’s the hardest part about right now. That’s why we keep challenging ourselves right now with the machine, messing around playing games.
Playing at home in Denver, you know first pitch is at 6:40. You know it’s going to happen. It’s going to be there. That’s the hardest part, what we do now is not leading up to anything, which is making working hard.
At the ballpark, I would stretch at 3:45 and hit around 4. I’m in the first group. It’s me, Charlie, the catcher, the pitcher and one more guy. In the first round I hit the ball the other way, focus on staying inside. No rollovers. We’re pretty focused, but sometimes David Dahl gets in our group … then we’ll have some competition, like “Gold Glovers Everywhere,” or who can hit the most homers or drive the best balls.
After I’m back inside, I’ll go straight to the kitchen to eat a little bit of veggies, some rice, maybe black beans, and a little bit of chicken or steak. I learned my lesson in 2018. I would eat too much and I felt terrible. Last year, I ate lighter and felt way better.
We have a hitters meeting after batting practice. Then I’ll watch a little bit of the games on the East Coast because they would have started before us. I like to see the Yankees to see my boy, DJ [LeMahieu], Larry Bird. We call him Larry Bird because he’s a really good basketball player.
After I shower, I put on my full uniform, except the jersey. I go straight to the training room and I put a cream that heats up when you sweat, put that all over my back because it keeps my back loose throughout. Then I go back to the weight room and roll out again. Most of what I’m really trying to do is loosen up my hips. I’m getting my hips going and getting my core activated.
While I’m doing this, I have headphones on, playing music. I usually stick with Rage Against the Machine or old school hard-core rap just to get me fired up. Ice Cube. Eazy-E. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rage Against the Machine. It’s the California in me.
I start to lock in, try to focus, get my mind thinking about the game, what I need to do. When I put my uniform on, before I go on the field, I put my cleats on and read a devotion. Since I was in the minors, I started doing that.
Then I usually go out at 6:16. It’s the right amount of time for me to stretch, get whatever throws in. Then the anthem starts and I’m like, OK, we’re ready to go.
Right before we get on the field, I get together with my teammates, pump each other up. Charlie is the most intense, and literally, right before we run out, he usually yells “Here we go.”
I run to the back of the infield, say hi to the third-base coach. Check how he’s doing. I go to the back of the grass, and I’m just praying in my head again. Throw the ball across the diamond.
It’s a special feeling when you see the fans when you run out. It’s probably the best feeling. Now thinking about it, I realize how much I missed it. Then it was such a routine.
I’ve never taken for granted what I do. I know how thankful I am to play this game. But when things are taken away from you is when you realize how much you miss that time.
When first pitch happens, there’s not a whole lot of thinking about anything else other than “I’m in it now.” Early in the day, I’m constantly thinking about the game or what I need to do. At first pitch there’s no thinking, it’s just all reaction.
If it’s a fast runner, I’ll scoot up, line up with the bag, move up maybe a little in front. If we have a lefty pitcher throwing, if it’s Kyle Freeland, I’ll creep toward the line because he throws a cutter and people like to pull the ball more, if it’s a righty. If it’s a lefty, I play over toward the 5-6 hole, toward Story.
I’ll focus on the hitter. I have to know how I’m going to play him. I always look at the pitcher and once he starts his windup, I just go dead-on on the hitter. Focus on the swing plane, where he’s gonna make contact.
When we’re up to bat, I usually hit third or fourth. First batter, I’m tracking the pitcher in the dugout. I’m trying to track his windup, get the timing. After the first batter, I go on the front step of the dugout and start tracking the pitcher again. After the second batter, I go on deck. And I’m there tracking the pitcher.
When it’s my turn, I start slowly walking. And then I hear my walkout song, which usually is “Sweet Sweet” by Travis Scott because the beat’s hard and it drops good. Then I walk in, I dig in, and say hi to the catcher. I always try to pay my respects to the umpire. I know their job is not easy. I don’t try to talk too much to the catcher because I know he’s trying to get me out.
After I dig in, I tap home plate, I look at the pitcher, and I lean back to remind myself to get back and get my legs, lean back with my back just to remind myself to stay tall and keep my body out of the way. After that, it’s just straight reaction. Just trying to hit the ball hard.
Now, I’m not doing any of that. I’m just working out a little bit in the weight room. Not as heavy as in the offseason. A lot of a lot of core, a lot of hips. A lot of the things we would be doing during the season. Now we are just trying to maintain, stay strong, stay quick, stay explosive.
If it was the season, every once in a while I would mess around with a pizza or maybe a burrito. Right now, I’m not really burning as much as I am during the season so I try to keep it pretty healthy.
I always go to my local smoothie spot that I love. I want them to have my business because I don’t want them to shut down. I get a protein smoothie with fruit, peaches, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple and kale.
I’ve never been a big video game guy, but now that’s what helps me pass the time at the end of the day. I play Call of Duty and MLB The Show. I’m a pitcher in the minor leagues right now with the Marlins. I got drafted in the 17th round. I finished the season in Triple-A and had a 2.20 ERA. But I didn’t get called up. I play for a while, and then I’m over this video game stuff.
At 6:40 p.m. now, I’m either playing video games or watching “Ozark” instead of getting ready to play. The good thing about “Ozark” is that it gets your mind trapped. I need that distraction of locking in on something because during the season that’s what happens, your mind’s locked in on something.
I’ve been going to bed a little late watching really good shows, like “Ozark,” “Narcos: Mexico.” I’m a little worried about the shows ending because I start thinking of what am I going to watch. I’ll just have dinner watching shows. Lots of sweet potatoes, chicken, turkey.
I’ll watch classic games or I’ll YouTube Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday or Adrian Beltre. Holliday is a friend, and one of my favorite players growing up, the same with Albert, and Beltre is one of my favorite third basemen ever. The other day I was watching the Cardinals-Rangers 2011 World Series Game 6, when David Freese hit that home run.
Every day I think of a different guy to watch. I’ll watch Albert and Manny Ramirez highlights on the big screen just because of how good they were offensively and just how easy they made it look. Yesterday I was watching a lot of Prince Fielder because I just miss watching him play.
I don’t want to finish the day early. I want the day to last. I feel like if I get up and attack the day early in the morning, then the rest of the day I’m gonna sit at home and do nothing.
I miss baseball every day. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about it. Every day I’m hopeful that we’ll play. I checked out the schedule a few times, and I text with my teammates and coaches. Sending videos of swings, talking hitting. I talk a lot of hitting with Story, Matt Holliday, David Dahl.
I miss the grind, the fight, the competition. Baseball players, like a lot of athletes, are just addicted to competition. That’s why we make up games to play in the offseason. That’s why now we’re constantly trying to compete. That’s what I miss the most. You can’t recreate it. There’s not adrenaline that compares to facing the best in the world.
When I watch game videos, I can go back to that feeling. Still … that was a year ago. Every year you feel something different.
I’ve been trying to stay away from being super negative. I’ve been focused on that there’s something good that’s going to come out of this. I tell myself be happy, be happy that I’m healthy, be happy that my job is to play baseball. I can’t be pouting. I try to remind myself of how fortunate I am to do what I do.
I just miss doing it.