A veteran who has been in the game for a while, has success, you just assume you’re going to go out every single year and the numbers are going to be there. When you start slow like I have — I think I have three hits in 40 plus at-bats — it’s something you never forecast, you don’t see it coming. You keep working hard. When I was younger, if this would’ve happened, I would’ve been sent down and been in full panic. I keep my routine the same. It’s one of those things where you don’t get confidence until the ball starts falling. You have to keep working, I have to keep doing my thing in the outfield to help my team win when I’m not helping at the plate. I have to wait for that day to come when I find my swing. When guys struggle, they either come out of it or they don’t. Guys who have been around long enough and have had success, they come out of it. You just don’t know when.
I’ve tried to explain to guys like Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Chris Volstad what it’s like to play at Wrigley and to be a Cub. You come into town and love playing at Wrigley but it’s completely different when you’re an actual Cub and have 39,000 cheering for you. It takes me back to some things that Derrek Lee was telling me when I first came in about the excitement and what Billy Williams has told me — there’s nothing like being a Cub. You don’t know until you actually put the uniform on and get to run out there and hear the fans cheering out there. I was explaining how I sort of salute left center field, center field and right center field, and I told them they need to come up with a salute or something to acknowledge the bleacher bums. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain that feeling until you’re actually out there. These guys get to go through that this year.
This is going to be a hustling team. I’ve been on teams where my hustle stood out and it’s not going to stand out on this team. That’s a good thing. It shouldn’t be that way; it shouldn’t be, “That guy hustles, that guy hustles.” You should say, “Oh, my gosh, that team is always coming. The Tampa Bay Rays, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Texas Rangers, the Philadelphia Phillies are always going hard. We’re going to be that team, too.
I told those guys, being in Chicago, on and off the field, there’s nothing like it.
Dave has his style, and it makes sense why the Cardinals and the A’s were the best baserunning teams in baseball, why their outfield was fundamentally sound and they never made mistakes. Playing quality baseball is what he’s about. He simplifies everything. There’s certain things he does at first base that I’ve never heard of first base coaches doing but it makes so much sense. On singles or doubles, he’ll be in front of us instead of being out in the coaches’ box. On ground balls. we know when they’re hit to us, nobody’s on, we’re supposed to catch and throw it in. But, hey, catch it like an infielder, and not just that, let’s reinforce it, let’s work on it every single day, and that’s the first thing we do is ground balls, catch it like an infielder, catch it like an infielder. You might not see one error this year from an outfielder where the ball with nobody on base, the ball is hit right to him, regardless of the field, how fast it is, how slow it is, how much it snakes. Baserunning, hitting the base with your right foot. It’s very simple but at the same time, do you really do it? With him, its reinforcing it, doing it over and over and over again. Yesterday, I hit a pop fly and I was running around and I was caught in between and hit it with my left foot and I ran by him, and he said, “You hit it with the wrong foot.” We’re learning. That’s what I think the staff is about. He brings that quality of baseball to this team. We have a lot of young guys but we have older guys like me and we get to learn. I love learning new things and that’s what he brings to the table.
Note: Marlon will resume posting on his blog when Spring Training begins. In the meantime, check out what he’s doing to get ready for 2012:
A little background: The family of a young Atlanta man, Brett D., wrote to the Cubs in hopes of reaching out to Marlon Byrd. Brett was suffering from compartment syndrome, which is something Marlon also had to deal with in college. Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow. Brett had undergone three surgeries, and was having a difficult time. Marlon wrote a letter to Brett, and then met him in Atlanta last August during the Cubs’ series. The two talked about their experiences and compared scars. Brett’s family was moved by Marlon’s generosity.
Here, Marlon talks about his experience with compartment syndrome. At Thanksgiving, it’s the perfect time of year to give thanks — to family, to doctors, and to pro ballplayers who take time to inspire fans.
I started having pain in my leg in November 1996. It was my sophomore year at Georgia Tech. After three days of pain, I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally went to see a specialist at St. Joe’s. I went in, and the same day, they had emergency surgery and they cut open my leg and found out I had an infection called compartment syndrome. What happens is, it’s an infection and your muscle starts to swell and it cuts off the circulation to the nerves that run underneath. Your muscle stops getting the blood flow. If you don’t catch it or release it to let the muscles breathe, it dies. I got very lucky. I had Dr. George Cierny. His specialty is everything, and you usually don’t see that with surgeons. He’s an amazing, brilliant man. He went in, removed the muscle, put beads in my leg to kill the infection.
He didn’t say, “You’re done, we need to go ahead and cut the leg off, we can’t do anything with it.” He put the beads in to kill the infection, and said, “Let’s wait a day or two and let me think it through.” After thinking it through, he said, “We’re going to wait, clean this up, make sure the infection goes away, close it back up. We’ll have you rehab all the adjacent muscles and see if we can get you to walk again.”
I had the first surgery, and the whole thing was, OK, first we’re going to get rid of the infection. The second surgery was, Let’s clean it up, close it up, and get him on his way and see if we can strengthen all the adjacent muscles around and go from there. It went from November ’96 when they cleaned it all up, and in January ’97, I had my final surgery when they reconnected all the tendons to adjacent muscles. I had to rehab my leg, and make it strong again — strong enough so by the time I came back from having the cast and having it held in one position for so long, it wasn’t so weak. That was Jan. 31, ’97. From all of that — having the surgery, having to learn to stand up, being able to balance, learn to walk again, underwater treadmill, pick it up — gosh, from that point, my last surgery, I tried playing in June or July of ’98, and couldn’t do it, couldn’t move. It was terrible.
At the same time, I was overweight. I went to the doctor, and said, “I don’t know if I can play.” He said, “Marlon, this is a career-ending injury. Second, we did this for you to walk. Third, if you ever want to be anything athletically on the field, you have to drop weight.” I went on a diet, dropped 90 pounds in five months. I think that’s how I got my work ethic coming back from this. I played one year of junior college ball after not playing for two years, and ended up being drafted in the 10th round by the Phillies. I hit like .460 and 16 home runs and had a great season. I think it’s because I enjoyed baseball, there was no pressure. I wasn’t trying for anything else. It was play baseball, finish your college career and then move on. I got lucky and got drafted.
I came close to having my leg amputated. I don’t know if this would’ve happened, but I believe if I went to a doctor who didn’t think outside of the box like Dr. Cierny did, I would’ve been dead, and they would’ve amputated.
I meet people when I hear stories and talk to them and just try to be there, that positive influence. The kid I met, Brett, was like, “Man, I wake up with pain every day,” and I said, “So do I.” Everything he said, I’d say, “So do I.” I pulled up my pants leg and he saw my leg. All of a sudden it hit him. He said, “You have the same scar as me.” It was the same injury. How many professional players do you see lose a muscle in their lower body and continue to play sports? It’s supposed to be career-ending.
Dealing with the injury made me realize that I could do anything I put my mind to. First off, they said, “You’re done playing,” and I didn’t believe that. Second, they said, “Drop the weight and I believe you can play.” I believed that and did it. Then I got a phone call from this scout and he said, “The Phillies are thinking of drafting you.” I realized I could play professional baseball. That’s pretty cool. That wasn’t my thought process — my thought process was play baseball, have fun and whatever happens, happens. I thought I’d be done after college.
I believed in me. I was never, “Why did this happen to me?” That never happened. It was one of those things — wow, this happened, now I have to deal with it, so what do I do?
I can’t really talk about the culture of winning because I haven’t been on a team that’s been to the playoffs. But at the same time, I was on teams that were on their way. I saw the beginning and I saw right before the teams started to win. I was on the Phillies coming up and got traded in ’05. In ’06, they were one game away, and ’07 was the first trip to the playoffs and that started their dynasty now. I saw the culture change over there. I saw them building within. I saw the young guys — we would have second- and third-rounders who would come in, high school kids who got paid big bucks, and their first year in Spring Training, and if they came in and weren’t in shape, they got rid of them. There was no b.s. involved in that organization as far as teaching and development. If you weren’t their type of player you had to go, it didn’t matter what they paid you.
Of course, nowadays, guys are getting paid more but at the same time, it didn’t happen that way. That culture in Tampa, they don’t mess with their top pick. When they had the first pick overall, they didn’t miss. And they produce. Same thing in Texas. That culture over there completely changed. In 2007, I came in and it seemed like it was a good team but the team really didn’t come together like you wanted, didn’t really have that chemistry. It was a great group of guys but it didn’t come together. Then, there was the influx of Mike Maddux and an influx of Ron Washington and an influx of Nolan Ryan, and they brought in all the right players. That was a huge step they made. From ’07 to ’08 to ’09, from 2007-08, getting beat down by the Angels, then us almost making the playoffs in 2009. But dominating the Angels changed everything in the AL West. You saw that last year in 2010. How the Rangers played, they weren’t scared of anybody.
It starts at the top. That’s automatic. I like what Pat Gillick says: “I’m not here to rebuild, I’m here to remodel.” That’s what he does and that’s what he did in Philly. That’s what Nolan did in Texas. It starts at the top but you have to put every single piece together. Ron Washington comes in and he says, “I need a Ron Washington team.” What did they do? They gave him a Ron Washington team — a team with speed, a team with defense, a team with pitching, a team with timely hitting. Now it seems like all the guys they have there are superstars.
What Pat Gillick did in Philly, he kept bringing in the right players and not just big name players, but players who are big names and they produce at the same time. Changing that culture, it’s not an easy thing to do. You need the right people in place at the top. Then you have to pick the right people all the way down.
The season’s over, but I’ve got work to do. I’m different. I’m big on having my body ready. Playing center field, especially at my age, I have to make sure I can go out there and just run around like crazy for nine innings. The first two weeks after the season ends, I’ll eat nothing but raw vegetables. I do a detox and cleanse my whole body. Do steam showers every day. I do epsom salt baths for six minutes every night, just to draw out everything. Once a week, I’ll do dead lifts, as heavy as possible, probably like 415 pounds, one rep, six sets of that.
I don’t shut down. There’s no such thing to me. I feel if you shut down, then you have to rev back up. I don’t want to start back up further down from where I started. After a two-week span, I start doing my lifting, about the middle of October, and start getting into it slowly. In November, it’s more getting my core strength and flexibility back along with my lifts and I’ll do a lot of kettlebell stuff, kettlebell movements. In December, I start boxing and get my sprinting in and go a little heavier and start work on getting my strength up. That’s when I start doing my traveling and go to San Francisco to work with Victor Conte and his group. I go down to Florida and work with my trainer there, Terrence Thomas — I’ve been with him seven years, going on eight years now.
I have to talk to Rudy about when I should come out and start hitting. Usually I start hitting Jan. 1. This year I might start a little earlier and get a week with him sometime in December, probably right before the Christmas holidays.
In January, I ramp it up. January is full power moves and I do my heavy workouts and transfer it more into my in-season routine. I’m hitting, throwing, doing my boxing, doing my sprinting. That’s it, all day long.
In Spring Training 2002, I had lunch with Doug Glanville right after one of our practices. People who don’t know, Doug played in Chicago, but he was the center fielder in Philly before I was there. He took me to lunch. I didn’t know what he wanted to talk about. We sat down, and the first thing he said was, “It’s inevitable.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s inevitable. You’re going to come and take my job and I will go somewhere else. My job right now is to make sure, as much as possible, that you’re ready to come to the big leagues.”
He said, you’re the young guy. What happens in baseball, he explained, is the young guy comes up and take the older guy’s job, and the older guy goes somewhere else to play. Then, someone comes up and takes center field from you. It’s the cycle of baseball. It’s just the way things go in life.
I had the chance to do that in Texas. I did that with Julio Borbon. I wish I had another year with him to make sure he was fine, but at the same time, he was ready. I have a similar chance to do that here with Brett. You don’t know how long until he’s ready. I don’t know long I’m going to be here. That word “inevitable” — it’s going to happen. He’s a great talent out there, five tools, very explosive. But at the same time, you can’t come up here and dominate at the big leagues. You have to have that baseball I.Q., and I think it’s important for veterans like me to pass the torch and make sure whoever comes in behind me is 100 percent ready.
I’ll take him out to lunch. At the end of 2009, every road trip, Julio and I went to lunch. We sat and talked. Andruw Jones, too. We’d sit and have conversations. It’s one of those things where I don’t have to look over my shoulder because I know there’s always somebody coming.
That’s the way it works. When Brett’s ready, I’ll move on. That’s just the nature of the game and I accept that and I understand that. I want him when he comes up to go through all the good times and know everything negative that I’ve gone through in baseball — being outrighted, being designated — I don’t want him to have to go through that. I want him to come here ready.
First of all, what a great baseball man. I had the chance to spend almost two years with Jim and loved everything about him. There aren’t many guys like him in the game who are completely honest with their players, they love their players, they love their team. What impressed me the most is not him bringing three division titles here — ’03, ’07 and ’08 — or almost getting to the World Series, or everything he’s accomplished in this game, being here for 17 years. I have even more respect for him because of how he handled this situation. Knowing he was going to be out, handling the trades, doing what’s best for this organization, signing all the guys he signed from the Draft, working as hard as he did. He signed our first rounder 15 minutes before the deadline. He worked hard for the Cubs knowing he’s not going to be the GM — that’s something that is so impressive to me.
There are probably a lot of fans happy that he’s gone and are mad at Jim and mad at the Cubs but at the same time, it’s not his fault. You have to look at the moves he made over the years. You have to look at the hard decisions he had to make, like trading Sammy Sosa, and the good decisions he made, giving guys money who really deserved it, making trades to bring guys over here like Aramis Ramirez — you can’t forget about that. Working with no money like he did this year and going to get Matt Garza and Carlos Pena and bringing back Kerry Wood. He signed Mark DeRosa, and traded him because they wanted a left-handed bat, and brought in Milton Bradley. He thought he was the guy and it didn’t work out. At the time, it was the right move and everyone agreed it was. He put all that together.
He’s a good baseball man. Regardless of what anybody says about him, he did his job the right way. He worked harder than any GM I’ve ever known and I’ve been around a few. It’s a credit to him how he came into the game, 17 years with the Cubs, and how he ended up with this organization. I think Tom Ricketts and his family have a lot of respect for him. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he takes over another organization and we’ll see what he does over there.
The dude was trying to break up a double play. Holliday plays hard. You have to appreciate the way he plays. He’s not labeled as a dirty player. He didn’t go spikes up. The only thing that made it look bad was that he slid late. That’s it. Whether he could reach the bag or not, I don’t know. If I’m in that situation, and I’m playing to win, trying to get to a pennant race, I’d do the same exact thing. Even though we’re second to last and in fifth place in this division, I still try to flip infielders. It’s as simple as that. I try to play winning baseball, and that’s all that is.
You call a play dirty when a guy is going out there trying to hurt somebody and that’s not what he did. If Holliday wants to go in and hurt somebody he will. He’s 6-4, 235, 240 pounds. That’s him playing hard. The way we take it when we see it is we want to defend our players at the time. When you go back and really look at it and how the game is played and how it should be played, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the umpires want to make their call and say he was too far off, so be it. Being dirty or being malicious, it’s not even close.