I talked to Barney last year in Spring Training and didn’t know what kind of player he was. You watch him play and you saw he had the work ethic. One thing I thought he needed was a better routine. In the Minor Leagues, you do certain things certain ways and it works. But for some reason, in the big leagues, you try that same routine, and it doesn’t work. There’s a lot more chaos when you get up to the big leagues and start learning about the media and your meetings. Last year, when he got called up, he listened. He fought at certain times and didn’t want to listen because he had his way. I understood. Again, I’m a big believer if a guy has success in the big leagues, there’s a reason and you might want to start paying attention. You don’t have to take everything from him but take parts — I’ve said that before about passing the torch.
Coming in this year, what really impressed me, is I came out here early to work with my sprint coach. Barney came out for the entire day and all of his times — and I’ve been working with my sprint guy for a year — all of his times were better than mine. The hurdle jumps we did, sprints, everything we did, he was a lot better. And he finished the entire 1 1/2 hour workout with me and said he liked it and felt good. You compound that with his work ethic — he knows how to play. He’s a winner — back to back national championships — and then you look at his Minor League numbers and he knows how to play. You start working in the cage, and he started learning and paying attention even more. He was doing that young guy thing and sitting back and listening and taking bits and pieces. He was listening to Rudy, listening to his infield guys.
You see him as a great player and not just a utility guy but a guy who can start. I believe he can have a long big league career because of his work ethic and because of the way he learns. It transfers over into the games. Everything he’s done this Spring Training, I don’t think he’s surprised anyone and there’s a reason he has made this team. I don’t think anyone has any doubts about him because he can play the game. Everything is transferred over that he’s learned this past year in the big leagues. The biggest thing about him that I like is the fact he can play anywhere in the field and doesn’t look uncomfortable. Third, second, short — I’m sure if he was in center field he could do it. He’s that guy who is really going to help us this year.
His dad said he looks like a mini Marlon Byrd at the plate. That’s cool. A lot of guys make fun of it, but if anybody saw Mark DeRosa in Texas, they called him a mini Michael Young and there’s worse guys you can follow. Everything we’ve done, his approach, it’s Rudy’s system and he’s believed in it. There are certain things that we do similar hitting-wise. When I was in Texas, a lot of guys were like, “Oh, you want to be like Ian Kinsler?” Yes, I do. There’s nothing wrong with that. Barney is going to have his own style and it’s going to show.
I’ve been bringing him breakfast in Spring Training but that stops March 30. When he starts getting big league money, he can get his own breakfast.
The first time I started boxing was at the Boys Club and I was 12 years old. Back then, you put gloves on and you’re just swinging. You learn a one-two combination, which is a jab and right cross. Other than that, you’re throwing hooks, and it’s really wild hooks.
In 2008, I had surgery on my knee, so going into the 2009 season, I couldn’t do much running, and I worked with a Gold Glover named Angel Romero in Philly. I worked on little things — hitting the mitts, double-ended bag and a heavy bag. In 2009, I had a great season, my legs felt good, I felt more explosive. Last year, before I came to Spring Training, I did more sprinting. Everyone knows how I felt about my second half last year — I got a little bit tired. My whole thought process going into this year was to do more low impact stuff, save my legs, make sure I drop my weight and still be explosive. I talked to Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, who is a boxer in Philadelphia. He’s 19-1. The guy he trains with is Danny Davis. Danny Davis is also Bernard Hopkins’ trainer. Their gym is Joe Hand Boxing in Philadelphia. The strength coach there helped with my core work and kept my cardio up.I went there Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 o’clock, and I did my core for 30 minutes and then I went 30-45 minutes boxing with the speed bag, the upper cut bag, the heavy bag. We worked on mitts, worked on the heavy mitts, we worked on focus mitts. We also sparred a little bit and worked on the sticks for defense — they’re styrofoam sticks. If you don’t keep your hands up, they’ll hit you in the head with them.
The biggest thing about that was me being in the gym with other professionals. These are amateurs trying to become professionals, or professionals who are trying to make a name in the business. Just the mental aspect of being with these guys was big. To use a cliche, being with those guys, they have the eye of the tiger. It gave me a different sense of urgency as far as going to the gym and working out. Those guys get in, get out, and have to go work 9-to-5’s. It really got me mentally prepared for this grind. I’m a guy who always works hard, and everyone knows that. I think I can always better myself and step it up a little bit. Boxing, that thought process of being in the gym three minutes on, 30 seconds off for 30 to 45 minutes straight mentally got me right.
I worked with Danny Davis and also went to San Francisco and worked with Nonito Donaire, who is a 122-pounder. On Feb. 19, he knocked a guy out and broke the guy’s orbital bone and his jaw in a fight. I worked with one of his mitt guys on different techniques to be more explosive. We intertwined everything with my first steps in the outfield. We timed my right cross with swinging the bat, and throwing my right and bringing that back hip through. It was funny, I’ve always done baseball-specific training. The past couple years, this is the first time I’ve done nothing baseball-specific but everything transfers over to baseball.
Would I ever fight? No chance. I realized just sparring with the guys and trying to hit the guys, I play baseball. It’s like a boxer trying to come out and play in the big leagues. No chance. Not happening. If I trained for maybe a year, two years, I could do an exhibition fight. Like Mike Tyson said, everybody has a plan until they get hit. I don’t like getting hit.
Carlos, everything he’s done in Tampa, he knows how to win. We’ve bonded. We were the big dogs coming up through the Minor Leagues, got to the big leagues and scuffled a little bit. We went back and forth, Minor Leagues, big leagues, knowing we could play but we needed that one team to take that flyer on us. It was Texas with me, Tampa with Carlos. Carlos comes up, does what he does, signs that big deal in Tampa. We can feed off each other because at the same time, what we also have in common is Rudy. He was with Rudy in Texas before I was. Now we have that rapport, so we’re talking about getting his swing back to where it was. There’s a lot that goes through your head when you struggle. He struggled last year and still put up big numbers in the power category. You have to get that average back up, get that confidence back up. I had the same thing, hitting .220 in the Minor Leagues and going to Texas and working with Rudy and had to get that confidence and that feel. I knew I could hit. We started talking from day one — actually at the Cubs Convention, we started talking hitting right away. Then when we came in here the first day, we started going to the cage together, working on little things. I see things he’s doing now that I did when I first came to Texas. Having more than one eye — not just Rudy’s eye but my eye — and having that trust factor will help. He trusts me. When I see something, he says, “Hey, you’re right, I feel it.” All from that, we’re learning and feeding off each other as far as hitting. I get to feed off him as far as that winning mentality and everything he did in Tampa.
There are certain things that happen in the clubhouse. I can go to him and say, “What do you think? Do we need a meeting? Do we need a one on one?” We can go back and forth. That’s a good thing. We have all these veterans in here and we have a lot of help — Kerry Wood, Braden Looper, all those guys. Me and Carlos, being position players, he’s very vocal, just like I am. we can talk and make sure everything stays on the up and up with this team. Last year, you have your ups and downs, but you want to keep those very, very small and stay consistent. Now, we have that rapport and hopefully we can be part of leading this team in the clubhouse and on the field and carry us all the way into the playoffs.
He’s not tentative because he’s the new guy. You saw me last year when I came in here, sort of loud mouth in the beginning. Everyone was like, “Marlon talks too much.” At the end of the year, they were saying, “He talks for a reason.” Carlos, it’s the same thing. He’s talking for a reason. He’s not speaking out of turn, he’s not speaking just to talk. He’s speaking because he needs to. The time he’s put in the big leagues, the winning he’s done, the numbers he’s put up, everything, he’s earned the right for people to listen to him.