Bt James Renwick March 28, 2006
See the original article on 247 Sports here.
Among the myriad things Charles Euchner dissects about Game Seven of the 2001 World Series in his new book, The Last Nine Innings is workout regimens of some of the games greatest aging stars. Euchner does more than simply break down the workouts, or show what parts of the body they help, he relates these workouts directly to plays made in that game.
In this excerpt, printed with permission from Sourcebooks Inc, Euchner relates the unusual workout regime Steve Finley adopted with trainer Edythe Heus, and how it helped make Finley one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
When Shane Spencer hits the ball, Finley turns his back to the infield. He knows where the ball is going. He runs eighteen steps before turning back toward the infield to catch a glimpse of the ball.
In football, when a punter kicks the ball, you talk about “hang time” — how long the ball stays in the air before a receiver can catch it and start running down the field. Baseball people do not track the hang time of fly balls, but they should. The hang times of fly balls range from 4.3 second (a ball that lands fifty feet behind the fielder after reaching a peak height of sixty-five feet) to 4.6 seconds (a ball that reaches a height of seventy-five feet before landing in the fielder’s glove) to 5.0 seconds (a high pop-up that reaches a height of 100 fee before plopping in front of the fielder).
The hang time of this fly ball is probably somewhere around 4.4 or 4.5 seconds. From the time Spencer hits the ball to the time Finley catches it, 4.5 seconds pass. Even though he needs to move fast, Finley still has plenty of time to catch the ball if he does everything right.
Ten fee from the outfield wall, Finley looks up and sees the ball veering slightly toward right field. He twists his body, reaches up with his glove in his right hand, and catches the ball. The momentum of the run takes him another four steps into the padding of the outfield wall. He pulls up just short of the fence, gently putting both hands forward to hold the fence to break his stride.
When Finley runs, he glides. Other athletes chug-chug on the field, but Finley’s body is operating with all of his muscles and nerves contributing to the body’s movement. “I see people walking and running and ask myself, ‘Why does that not look fluid?’” says Edythe Heus. “They’re running almost as if they’re dragging an extra fifty pounds with them. It’s such labor.”
When the upper body uses all of its muscles–especially when the micromuscles along the spine keep the length of the body loose and aligned–the legs have less to do. They do not strain under the weight of the torso.
“The human body is designed to work against gravity,” Heus says. “When Steve jumps up and reaches for the ball, it’s like he stretches his whole being. He’s like an accordion. He has an ability to anchor the lower part of his body, even when he’s in the air, so that he can twist the upper part of the body.” Since his spine is strong, he can leap with his lower body and turn with his upper body. Finley is also ambidextrous, which gives superior quickness and range of movement in all directions.
His whole-body, multi-sensory training gives Finley a strong sense of where he is on the field, even when twisting and turning.
“Having to reach, to stretch–in a situation like that, because you’re running hard and looking back over your shoulders, a lot of people would get disoriented,” Finley says, “You’re looking this side you spin around. But what I love about our workout is that it helps you, your body, know where it is in space at all times. You watch figure skaters on ice, and they’re holding somebody above their head and going down the ice. And they’ll make it look super easy. Well, if somebody went out there and tried it, it’s not going to work. They’re very aware of their body in space, and that’s the same thing this workout gives me. It makes me aware of my body in space, and when I make those catches it might look easy. They’re not that easy. A lot of people couldn’t do it.”
Just as important as Finley’s speed, quickness, and flexibility is his ability to slow down. “You need really good eccentric powers, which is braking and slowing down,” says Heus. “You’re not going to drive a car eighty miles and hour if you have brakes that don’t work. You need to explode, run, stop, and explode in the opposite direction.”
Finley’s catch sets the tone for the early part of the game. The catch gives Schilling a break, arouses the Phoenix crowd, and of course prevents a run-scoring threat.
“I hit that right on the sweet spot,” Spencer says, shaking his head. “Line drive up the middle. I had good backspin on it, and it just kept carrying. if it gets over his head, it’s a for-sure double and maybe even a triple. And I have a chance, because he doesn’t play real deep. And you know, I’m always coming hard out of the box. And I was feeling pretty good. So that was a double or triple, and that’s probably a difference in the game, right there.”
Finley speed and dexterity–and the agelessness he has won by using the training regimen of Edythe Heus–have robbed the Yankees’ hopes for now.
From the Second Inning; Chapter Three: Bodies In Motion, of The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner.