Before Monday, 20 minor leaguers pulled from across several levels of the Nationals system traveled to the team’s spring training complex in Viera, Fla., to take part in a new effort by the organization. For five days, the players will be put through an offseason strength and conditioning bootcamp that the Nationals believe will teach them how best to take of their bodies.
Once players reach the higher rungs of minor leagues and the major leagues, they usually have developed an effective workout routine and manner of taking care of their bodies. The younger players, however, are newer to such things.
So the Nationals chose 20 players and will run through a five-day-long bootcamp that they hope to repeat. The players will be broken up into teams and compete against each other in workouts and exercises. Competition will be a part of the workouts to push players. Each will have one-0n-one meetings with nutritionists. Some teams, such as the Houston Astros, have offseason group workouts for minor leaguers, and the Nationals wanted to begin a similar initiative.
“You want to educate these guys as much as you can so they know how to train in the offseason, not only with what we’re doing but with the intensity level with which we’re doing it,” Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said. “We’re going to make it a fun thing.”
The players the Nationals chose to come to Viera weren’t singled out because of bad workout habits, Harris said. The organization selected a mix of prospects, younger minor leaguers and players from the Gulf Coast League team, which is made up of many players signed out of the Dominican Republic, and wants to instill high-level workout habits in them. Starting pitchers A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray, Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen, all among the Nationals top prospects, are taking part in the inaugural boot camp. But so are some GCL players such as Jefrey Rodriguez, a 6-foot-5 starter on the GCL team who is originally from the Dominican, and some first-year players.
“This will hopefully speed up the time because any time you can educate them and help them understand, not only the exercise, but what the exercise is intended to do and the intensity level, is probably the most important thing,” Harris said. “When guys get to the big leagues, they pretty much have a routine that they know; they know their bodies. And all of these guys, it’s not because they’re poor workers, it’s not because they don’t lack fitness, it’s just trying to help guys get over the hump and speed up the curve, if we can.”