These are the words baseball insiders use to describe the competition at the Arizona Fall League. An elite baseball league that plays its season each October in the desert sun of Phoenix, the Fall League invites only prime, just-on-the-cusp prospects to play. Its alumni bears resemblance to a latterday All-Time All-Star squad, many of its storied participants honored with plaques gracing the walls in Cooperstown.
Each year a new cluster of stars break into the bigs and with increasing regularity these phenoms previously wore a Fall League uniform. Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Roy Holladay and countless other current and past stars all played in the Arizona Fall League. Of last year's breakout rookies, All-Star Jason Heyward and World Series winning Rookie of the Year Buster Posey both played in the Fall League.
As in the past two seasons, I again had the opportunity to profile two of the Fall League's most polished stars. Both players have demonstrated a rare combination of sheer talent, mental fortitude and maturity beyond their years. We discussed their priorities and what their expectations are for the coming season.
Jordan Pacheco is currently one of the most promising young catching prospects in minor league baseball. After playing his college ball at the University of New Mexico, the Colorado Rockies drafted Pacheco in the 9th round in 2007. Over the course of the past four seasons, Jordan has worked his way through the system. In 2009, he was named the South Atlantic League MVP and was selected as an All-Star catcher. Now prominent on the Rockies radar, Jordan has every chance of getting called up to the big club next season.
Jordan Pacheco: It has been a great experience so far. It's nice to meet the guys you have been playing against all year and see that they are not just good ball players but good people. It's also good to see some of the things these guys do that make them successful and maybe pick up a few drills that might help me in the future. I am not too worried about next year right now. I will set those expectations or goals once I am done with this season.
ProSource: How important is fitness and maintaining a consistent workout routine to succeeding as a professional baseball player? Please elaborate.
Jordan Pacheco: I feel that eating right and working out consistently is very important for maintaining strength and making it through a healthy full season. Getting in an eating routine makes sure you are supplying yourself with enough nutrients to perform at your max level on the field. A healthy workout routine keeps your body balanced and your muscles ready to perform when you need them throughout the year.
ProSource: Being an everyday catcher in the major leagues, you have to be durable. Are there any specific things you do in your workout routine to assist you with that?
Jordan Pacheco: The off season is very important for building strength and endurance to make it through a full season as a catcher. As far as workouts, I try to not only lift heavy in the off season but make sure I stay flexible and explosive. So I make sure I do a lot of ply metrics workouts that consist of jumping, running, and pushing/pulling of sleds.
ProSource: How important is getting the proper nutrition to a professional ballplayer? Also, please elaborate on the difficulty of getting proper nutrition as a professional baseball player.
Jordan Pacheco: It's very important to make sure you are getting enough nutrients as a baseball player because our sport is not only mentally demanding, it's also very physically demanding. We are on the field sometimes at 2 o'clock for a 7 o'clock game so you really have to make sure you are getting enough calories to make it through the game. It's also tough getting the proper nutrients as a baseball player because the games end around 10 or 11 at night sometimes and if we are on the road usually the only thing open is fast food. If you eat fast food all year after games, you are only hurting your body for the next day.
ProSource: What are your thoughts on the Supreme Protein bars?
Jordan Pacheco: The taste of the Supreme Protein bar is unreal compared to other protein bars. Usually a protein bar is very plain-tasting and it's tough to eat some of them. However I find it very easy to eat a whole bar of Supreme Protein after my workouts everyday. I also love the convenience of the bar because sometimes I just need a little snack before the games or before a workout. Really, the taste is phenomenal.
Hailing from the small town of Sachse, Texas, Jordan Swagerty possessed outstanding athletic abilities from a very young age. A three-sport athlete in high school, Swagerty would eventually play his college ball at baseball powerhouse Arizona State. In 2010, he led the Pac-10 Conference with 14 saves to go with an impressive 2.05 ERA and earned First-Team All-Pac-10 honors. Entering the draft earlier this year, Swagerty was selected 75th by the St. Louis Cardinals. With his combination of talent and mental toughness, Swagerty has the potential to make a big impact for the Cardinals.
Jordan Swagerty: The experience of playing in the fall league is one I will never forget. Putting on a big league uniform and going out to represent your club is special. The talent is great here and it makes for good competition.
ProSource: How important is fitness and maintaining a consistent workout routine to succeeding as a professional baseball player?
Jordan Swagerty: Maintaining a fitness program is very important. We work all off season to gain weight and put on muscle to help us play. If we do not maintain that during the season it all goes to waste. Maintaining muscle is an all-important priority.
ProSource: What types of endurance and/or other training do you do to build your stamina to pitch late into games?
Jordan Swagerty: I do few different things to maintain my stamina. For one, I love long toss which helps arm strength and stamina. Another big thing to build stamina is a comprehensive work out plan, which should mix tough workouts with some intense running.
Jordan Swagerty: Finding time to get the proper nutrition is very tough. We are at the field all day long and it is tough to get the right foods in your body to maintain a weight or help your body get the fuel it needs to perform. This is where Supreme Protein bars come into play. I can take a bar to the field and get the fuel I need to perform my best.
ProSource: What are your thoughts on the Supreme Protein bars?
Jordan Swagerty: I love the bars. They have all the nutrition and fuel I need to get through a long day or a long game. It really helps me maintain weight and get the protein needed to add muscle in the off season. Every flavor I have tried has been great and nothing is more convenient than having a box in your locker and always having them there when you need them.