ESPN The Magazine didn’t invite Glen Perkins to model for its Body Issue.
Too bad for Perkins they don’t have an Elbow Only Edition.
“Maybe when I’m done playing baseball, I’ll work on the rest of my body,” Perkins said. “Right now I just worry about keeping my left arm healthy. Maybe I’ll try to make the post-career Body Issue.”
Perkins left for Cincinnati on Sunday night to participate in his third straight All-Star Game. Five years ago, he had a 4.81 career ERA, no defined role in the Twins bullpen and worries about getting released from his hometown team.
He has spoken many times about the attitude change that led to his career U-turn. He changed his body along with his mind.
Perkins stopped listening to other people and started listening to his left arm, tailoring his workouts for baseball and nothing else. In the past five seasons, his ERA is 2.54. This season, he has converted all 28 of his save chances to set a Twins record, rise to No. 3 on the team’s all-time saves list and compiled a that-doesn’t-look-right ERA of 1.21.
“I certainly don’t work out like I’m worried about what I look like at the beach,” he said. “For me, the key is just to make sure I’m doing something every day. It’s all preparation so that my arm feels good.
“It might be doing something for 15 minutes, or going to the indoor playground with my kids. It might be doing a full workout. If you do something every day, it winds up taking care of itself. At 32, I feel better than I did at 31. I think that’s a good thing. That’s the barometer.”
He doesn’t lift weights and would never consider doing curls or bench presses. During the winter, four times a week he drives from his home in Lakeville to the University of Minnesota to throw. Otherwise he plays racquetball, or skates … or doesn’t.
For a couple of decades, big-league players trained liked their NFL counterparts, or boxers, or martial artists, in an attempt to hone their bodies and advance their careers.
Many of the most successful Twins have found that what looks good at the beach doesn’t always look good in the boxscore. Torii Hunter has gone away from his high-intensity workouts to concentrate more on fluid movements and flexibility. Brian Dozier was doing dead lifts one day with a trainer when he stopped and asked himself, “How does this help me hit a baseball?” He works out just as hard as he used to but tailors his workout to baseball movements.
“It’s what works for you that matters, whether it’s working out or pitching,” said pitcher Phil Hughes, perhaps Perkins’ closest friend on the team. “When you come into this game, you’re thrown into a group of minor leaguers and forced into a program where everybody does the same thing. Organizations have philosophies. Then the reins slowly loosen as you get to Triple-A and the big leagues and then you set your own program.
“I’ve tweaked what I do in the offseason every year. If I can do something that might be better for me, why not try it? I do a ton of weightlifting in the offseason and almost zero during the season. When I lifted during the season, I found that I fell off in the second half.
“Glen has his rituals. He does a lot of swimming. Everybody’s different.”
Perkins’ old-school approach has allowed him to outperform athletes whose intense routines leave them fatigued, or brittle, or injury-prone.
“Sometimes I just want to go do something with my kids, so that’s what I do,” he said. “And they’re not exactly wrapped up in baseball. This morning, as I was heading to the ballpark, I told them I’d see them later. They asked me where I was going.”
He was heading to the ballpark, then to a flight that would for the first time take him to an All-Star Game as a member of a winning team.
So the correct answer is that Perkins is going places. Just not necessarily to the gym.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On