Last Year is History ... (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2007 10:19AM; Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2007 10:19AM
"Before spring training," Boras says, "he told me, 'You know, Scott, I've got it. I feel like I have a very repeatable swing.' Everything else -- the confidence, the way he carries himself -- came because of the swing. The swing came first."
The remaking of A-Rod actually began late last summer when Boras and his team of fitness experts suggested to Rodriguez that he might improve his defense, which had suddenly become unreliable last season, if he lost some weight. In his three years since moving from shortstop to third base after his trade from Texas to New York, Rodriguez had grown increasingly thick through his chest and rear.
Rodriguez dropped 15 pounds over the winter and reduced his body fat from 18% to 10%. That he was sleeker and more nimble was immediately apparent on Opening Day, when he set up the winning run against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays by stealing second base on his own. "Last year? No way I even try," Rodriguez says of the theft. "Why? Because I would have been out by two feet."
Becoming more fit improved his hitting, too, as Rodriguez overhauled what last year had degenerated into a long, overly muscled swing. The work began with the purchase and installation of a state-of-the-art batting cage in his Miami home, complete with multiple cameras, video monitors, mirrors and a pitching machine. "It's the first one he's owned," Boras says.
Meanwhile, less than three weeks after their playoff ouster in the Division Series, the Yankees replaced bench coach Lee Mazzilli with hitting coach Don Mattingly, who in turn was succeeded by Kevin Long. It was Long's first major league job. A 31st-round pick by the Royals in 1989, the 40-year-old Long spent the previous three seasons as New York's Triple A hitting coach. Long says that Rodriguez was "one of the first people to congratulate me," and A-Rod quickly flew to Arizona to meet with Long. Over lunch at a Scottsdale restaurant in November, Rodriguez appealed to Long for help. "I want you to come to Miami," Rodriguez told him. "I want you to look at film with me, and let's come up with a game plan for the off-season."
Long studied videotape of Rodriguez's swing and in December flew to Miami to work with the third baseman. For five days Long rarely left Rodriguez's side. They would work out at the University of Miami early each morning, eat breakfast, then work on hitting for several hours at a time in Rodriguez's cage. Long would even accompany Rodriguez to his business meetings and charity work in the afternoons. "I was living the life of Alex Rodriguez," Long says.
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