Red Sox Star Kiké Hernandez on Spring Training, Staying Fit, and More

Red Sox Star Kiké Hernandez on Spring Training, Staying Fit, and More


Take a gander at your local newspaper (if it’s still around) between now and April 1, and there’s an excellent chance you’ll spot a sports columnist extolling the arrival of Major League Baseball. They’ll likely use lots of flowery phrases about men getting a chance to act like boys and sun-kissed summer days that stir the soul. Then the next paragraph starts. If you’re a professional baseball player like new Boston Red Sox utility man Kiké Hernandez, baseball isn’t all sunshine and roses; it’s a job that requires tons of physical and mental preparation.

 

 

That’s especially true this year: After a six-season run with the Dodgers that ended in a World Series win last year, the 29-year-old veteran is working to prove himself with a new club. Hernandez cut through the gossamer and talked to Men’s Journal about his workout routine, why spring training is a drag, and when he realized social media was affecting his game.

Men’s Journal: The days of players using spring training to get in shape ended years ago. What did you do to stay in shape during the offseason?

Kiké Hernandez: I work out Monday through Friday, and then on the weekends, I try to be a husband and a dad. I probably start working out around 9:00 a.m. and I am done by like 1 p.m. I’ve got a full offseason workout program and we divide it by phases: strength training and then explosiveness and agility stuff.

It’s not just a bicep, triceps, meathead workout. It’s a very specific baseball workout with functional exercises. We have some very good strength coaches and they’re in charge of writing our programs. Even though I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I’m not great at remembering exercises and doing them on my own. I’m pretty dependent on coaches when it comes to that.

Do you like working out or is it just another item on the checklist?

I can think of a lot of things that I enjoy more than working out. I have to; it’s part of the job. I’ve got to stay in shape and all that, but you find ways to enjoy it and find things to think about when you’re pretty exhausted and are pretty close to throwing up.

How do you get through the low points to finish strong?

I always try to go back to big moments in my career—the postseason and stuff like that. The big moments get you through it. They trick your mind into thinking that finishing the extra set is what’s going to help you have a good season.

What’s your diet like?

I’m dairy-free. I like a pretty good breakfast in the morning. For the most part, it’s three eggs over medium, breakfast potatoes, tater tots, two or three slices of bacon, and coffee. Once I’m done working out I’ll do a protein shake and in the middle of the workout I either do water or Vita Coco. I don’t really like the sugary drinks because I feel like they kind of stay in my throat and make me more thirsty. Once I get home, I have a little lunch, and then we tend to do dinner around six or 6:30.

Do you have any indulgences that avoid, or that you reward yourself with after a workout?

I love candy, man, so I’m trying to stay away from candy as much as I can. Sometimes our pantry looks like we have a few kids just because there’s so many sour candies and stuff, but it’s all mine. I try to stay away from it because it never makes me feel good. Even though my stomach is pretty happy after, I try to stay away because I know it’s not great for me. At the same time, I can’t help myself. When I’m trying to reward myself, I try to do it just like once a week. I like a Coca-Cola Slushee. That’s pretty tough to beat.

What’s the use of spring training for you?

Spring training, if you’re not in shape, it’s too late already. It’s basically getting ready for the season as far as timing. Baseball is a huge timing sport—whether it’s on the offensive side or on the defensive side. You take a week off, and that timing goes back to zero. You’re spending five months without facing pitching and stuff. Sometimes it comes back quickly. Sometimes it takes a little longer. Once you find it, you just need to do the little things to stay there. And that’s basically what we’re doing in spring training.

Right now, for me, I’m getting used to all the new things: being on a new team, all the defensive alignments, and looking at the different ways that the team approaches the offense. I mean, I’m having a blast so far and just using spring training to get to know everybody. It’s a little hard when everybody is new and people are wearing face masks. So I’m trying to learn one name a day. That’s the goal for spring training.

You’ve been batting leadoff during spring training. What’s the challenge of that?

Not a lot changes. It’s just basic: You’re the anchor of the lineup, you’re setting the table up for the rest of the guys. My first few years with the Dodgers, whenever there was a lefty on the mound, I would lead off that game.

For me, it just gives me a little bit of a bigger responsibility. I’m trying to make sure that I’m swinging at strikes and picking up balls because I tend to get a little too aggressive at the plate and swing at pitches out of the strike zone. When I’m in the leadoff spot, I can’t afford to do that. I need to either get a hit or get on base, and I need to make that pitcher work for the guys behind me who bring in the runs. It’s a good challenge because it just keeps me honest. It keeps me on my toes. It’s not a position that I want to lose. I want to do everything that it takes to sustain that leadoff spot and get as many at bats as I can this season.

Who’s your role model as a leadoff hitter?

Myself, honestly. Baseball is way too hard to try to be somebody else. You’ve just got to know your strengths and your weaknesses and adjust according to the pitcher who’s on the mound.

I played last year with Mookie Betts, who I think is not only the best leadoff hitter in the game, but also, I think, the best player in the game. If I had to say somebody that I’m going to look at their approach, it would be him. But at the same time, he’s the best player in baseball. You can’t try to be the best player in baseball. You’ve got stay within yourself and be true to yourself—and that’s what I’m trying to do.

Spring training is always framed as a time of rebirth and optimism. As a player, when you get to spring training, how do you feel?

For me, it’s a new opportunity because I’m on a new team with a whole new scenery. But, to be honest with you, you get excited the day that you’re going into spring training, and once you’re there, after a week, it gets pretty old. Games don’t count, games don’t matter, stuff you do in practice is not stuff that you do during the season. So you know, it can get a little a little heavy, a little slow.

It’s hard to focus at times, but you’ve got to do whatever it takes because the on and off switch doesn’t quite exist in baseball. Once you turn that switch off, it’s pretty hard to turn it back on. So you just have to do whatever it takes to keep it on, just like working out during the offseason: Trick yourself, fool yourself, whatever it takes to stay ready and then stay locked in for the season.

How do you get through spring training?

I just try to do everything game-like. I try to do everything with intent. You don’t want to be that guy that’s dogging stuff, just being too cool for the moment during practice. We’re all trying to tighten everything up so that once the season starts, all the things we’re practicing are not for nothing.

You’ve got to do everything the right way and be respectful toward the game. It’s really easy to get out of sync, and it’s not that easy to get it back. So I try to do everything the right way. If you put your focus into everything, and I feel like you’re going to be fine.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about professional baseball players?

Oh man, that’s a tough one. I have a big personality. I’m pretty outgoing; I have basically no shame. The way I see it, I’m just a regular dude with a really cool job. And people tend to forget that we’re just regular people playing a game. At times, people lose the human side of it.

The attacks on social media—when you play in a big market you either get used to it, don’t pay attention to it, or it eats you alive. And I’ve learned the hard way. I was pretty young when I got to L.A., and at first, those things tended to affect me pretty good.

Was there a moment where you realized you had to ignore that?

There was one time where I caught myself. It was a big situation in the game and I struck out and I’m walking back to the dugout and my first thought was, “What are people going to be saying on my social media now?” That’s not a healthy way to live and not a healthy way to play. You won’t be able to produce if you’re worried about what other people think about you or what other people are going to say about you.

Be you, be happy, and just worry about the things ahead of you instead of what people are saying behind your back.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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