“I tried to do my part,” Nationals bullpen coach Dan Firova said. “Days that we played in the afternoon, I’d go early to the park and walk for about an hour on the field. You do a little bit of jogging, not much. I’m not much of a runner. My average was 15,000 steps per day. I think I got to 20,000 maybe twice in spring training.”
The Nationals’ top walker/jogger/exerciser was minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator Gary Thurman, who logged one million steps in spring training. It helped that Thurman walked often from Space Coast Stadium, the major league facility, to the minor league complex about 800 yards down the road. The Nationals also outfitted their clubhouse assistants, who are on their feet all day, with Fitbit watches.
“It makes you aware how many steps you do take,” said Nationals third base coach Bobby Henley, who still wears his Fitbit and proudly displayed the resulting tan line. “I thought that was interesting because it wasn’t something I really thought about.”
But there was also a competition within the Nationals in “an effort to promote team building, camaraderie, and overall health and fitness,” the team said in a statement. The idea to hold a Fitbit competition was sparked in 2015 spring training and it came true this spring.
Fifteen teams within the Nationals were formed and designated captains picked their teams, making sure to select staff members from both the major and minor leagues. According to the Nationals, the team took nearly 50 million steps in spring training. The winning team was led by Lee Mendelowitz and Isaac Gerhart-Hines, who both work in the baseball research and development department. The group totaled 4.3 million steps in spring.
“There was awareness and trying to keep each other accountable,” said Henley, who was on a team with minor league rehab pitching coordinator Mark Grater, Class AA Harrisburg Manager Matt Lecroy and Class A pitching coach Franklin Bravo. “I think there was some bringing together aspects of it, too, where we could razz one another. We would say, ‘Hen, you need to get more than that. You kidding me?’ Just as a playful thing. If you had 10- or 12,000 and we’re trying to 15,000 a day.”