SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's a rich history in baseball of players who have eaten themselves out of the game and, together, Pablo Sandoval and the Giants are working to make sure that doesn't happen to one of the most exciting young hitters around.
Sandoval is blessed with inordinate strength, incredible hand-eye coordination and a body that looks like it came straight from a cartoon. As he focuses on maintaining his strength but not adding weight, he's working with a nutrition company that sends meals straight to the stadium for him.
"Fish, chicken, fruit, salads," Sandoval says.
More and more clubs are working toward being smart about nutrition. St. Louis this year is re-constituting its clubhouse food all the way down through its farm system. The Giants did it a year or two ago. Other clubs are doing the same. And the days of the post-game food spread consisting of ribs and burgers in big league clubhouses are becoming a thing of the past.
Where Sandoval is concerned, the Giants list his weight as 252 but reports are that he was up over 260 last season. Given that he's just 23, that's a concern -- not just for his baseball career, but for his off-the-field future.
When I asked him what his weight was up to last season, he grinned bashfully and said, "I can't tell."
When I asked him where he's at now, I got the same bashful grin and the same answer.
But Sandoval and the Giants were smart, scheduling the Kung Fu Panda to meet with a nutritionist each Friday during the winter starting early last November. There, he learned about things like calories, portions and protein. Right now, he says he's supposed to get about 1,700 calories a day.
"Something like that," Sandoval says.
"I'm working hard," he adds. "I feel great. I'm moving well in the field, I've been running hard and I don't lose my power."
What people forget is that language isn't the only barrier for players who come over from the Latin American countries (Sandoval is from Venezuela).
"The food is different," he says. "I'm learning about how you have to eat in the off-season, too. I'm trying to eat the right portions."
The most difficult thing?
"The fast food," he says. "Especially in the minor leagues. Late in the night, after a game, you're eating McDonald's. The fast food tastes good, but it is bad for you.
"Everything is different here. You don't have your mom's cooking."
What is his favorite thing that his mother makes?
"Lasagna," he says, beaming.
"Rice and chicken."
As long as he bypasses the drive-thru windows, Panda should be on his way.
Sunblock Day? Ah, 80s in the desert.
Likes: Kay, the woman "guarding" the door to the San Francisco Giants clubhouse. A retiree, Kay is so fierce that she keeps a bowl of candy on her table for reporters to dip into on their way inside. But what caught my eye was her knitting -- she was finishing up a wash cloth when I came upon her the other day. It struck me because it was a similar style to those that my grandmother once knitted. And those are the world's best dish rags -- I've hoarded them for years. Sadly, my grandmother no longer is with us, but I smile each time I pull out one of her wash cloths to do the dishes at home after a meal. "I've read four books this spring and knitted 12 of these wash cloths," Kay said. And this is part of what makes spring training so great, meeting retirees and snowbirds who get these seasonal jobs at the local ballparks simply because they love the game and want to be close to it. Some of these folks could not be more pleasant. We've all got our places in this world, and life is a whole lot richer if you keep your eyes open to your surroundings. What a sweetheart Kay is.
Dislikes: Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico burned down last summer so, sadly, that's off the dinner circuit this spring in Phoenix. But the good news is, the same folks own Rokerij here in Phoenix (it means "smokehouse" in Dutch) and they're offering dual menus. The Rokerij menu (pronounced "Roke-a-ree") and the Richardson's menu. Thanks to Paul Jensen, a jack-of-all-trades media guru who is working as a consultant to the Camelback Ranch facility housing the Dodgers and White Sox, for pointing this out. Because of this bit of intelligence, I had as good a dinner as I've had this spring the other night: Sensational blackened mahi-mahi, green chili mashed potatoes and roasted beets. And yes, Richardson's famous Prickly Pear margarita. The Rokerij rocks.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Out here the nights are long, the days are lonely
"I think of you and I'm working on a dream
"I'm working on a dream
"Now the cards I've drawn, it's a rough hand, darlin'
"I straighten my back and I'm working on a dream
"I'm working on a dream
-- Bruce Springsteen, Working on a Dream