Then there’s Clint Oldenburg. When the offensive tackle — a former Patriots draft pick who’s been with the Skins since 2009 — has a free night, he goes down to Nationals Park. Not as a fan, though; as a volunteer strength and conditioning assistant with the team.
“It’s more for me than it is for them,” Oldenburg quickly clarified when I chatted with him about his experience with the ballclub. “And every time I’m down there, it’s always the same thing. I’m telling them I can hit, I can pitch, I can do all this, and they’re like ‘Yeah, I can play football.’ It’s always a good friendly competition.”
How did this all come about? Oldenburg, a 27-year old out of Colorado State, was interested in improving his own conditioning methods, so he tried to get a strength and conditioning internship through the NFL Players Association in the spring of 2010. James Thrash, the former receiver who was working with the Redskins in player development at the time, suggested Oldenburg get in touch with John Philbin, a former Redskins strength coach serving as the strength and conditioning coach with the Nats.
Philbin, a former U.S. Olympic bobsledder, invited Oldenburg to help out during Spring Training, so the tackle spent three weeks in Viera last spring and a month there this offseason, while also working with the team a couple nights a month during the season.
“I have a really good relationship with all those guys,” Oldenburg said. “And whenever I get a free evening, I go down to Nationals Park and do some work with them prior to the game: stretching, conditioning, lifting, and then I get to enjoy the game from the clubhouse.”
And Oldenburg has fit in with the team, for example, wearing Tyler Clippard’s jersey around Viera and signing autographs as the reliever, despite being more than 100 pounds heavier. He’s also struck up friendships with the players he’s helped.
“You can tell he knows what he’s talking about,” reliever Drew Storen told my colleague Adam Kilgore. “I always mess around with him, because he’s four times bigger than I am. I go in there and joke around like, ‘You ready to do some bis and tris?’ He’s cool to have around. Obviously, it’s easy to respect what he says. He’s pretty good at what he does.”
I asked Oldenburg for his impression of the Nats as athletes, and he had nothing but praise, saying “most of them, if not all of them, have the same athletic skills that could carry over to football. They were just smarter and went the non-contact route.”
As for some of the specific guys he’s worked with:
Pudge Rodriguez: “An awesome dude,” Oldenburg said. “He always thinks he can tackle me, he tries to wrestle me whenever I see him. It’s amazing, the way he works. He’s got a strict regimen and he’s been doing it for 20 years. That’s his thing and it works with him. Just to be in a crouch that long, it’s pretty amazing.”
Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman: “Those guys are workout warriors.”
Stephen Strasburg: “Great guy. If you get a chance to see Strasburg, he’s completely redesigned his body. If you saw him last year, you could tell he still had a little baby fat on him and just a great arm. He’s got like a six-pack on him now. He’s strong. Whenever he gets back, he’s gonna be a force.”
Todd Coffee: “I’ve learned so much stuff just from talking to him. We tried to do some running stuff with him, and his famous line is ‘I don’t run the ball to the plate.’ He’s joking, obviously. He works hard for us.”
I guess the only potential downside to Oldenburg’s friendships and relationships with the Nats come in the fantasy baseball realm. Hard to resist drafting your friends, even if their offensive numbers aren’t overwhelming.
“I have plenty of Nats [on my teams]; I think I average five or six,” Oldenburg said. “They’ll get it turned around.”