It was a warm evening in Phoenix last August, and the Arizona Diamondbacks were getting ready for a three-game home stand against the New York Mets. As both teams loosened up before the game, Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman
stepped into the batting cage to take his hacks at some BP fodder.
A sudden hush came over the early birds who were seated throughout Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks. Fans hurried from restrooms and vacated their spots in concession lines, scurrying back to their seats. This was not a moment to miss.
Reynolds, one of the most prominent home run hitters in Major League Baseball, was getting ready to launch some bombs into the bleachers. As Reynolds cranked the first pitch over the left field wall, a surge of excitement carried beyond the luxury boxes and into the outfield bleachers.
Reynolds was in the proverbial "zone." He was in the midst of an impressive streak of power hitting: 7 homers in 7 games beginning in late July, and 11 homers in 13 games right up to this home stand against the Mets. It seemed everyone in the stadium - even the opposition - wanted to watch Godzilla with a baseball bat.
"People always ask, 'Why can't you do that all the time, get in that zone all the time,' " Reynolds joked. "In New York [during his streak], every ball I swung at hit the barrel and went in the second deck. You can't explain it. Baseball players just go through those times where they're on fire."
And Reynolds didn't disappoint the fans on that sultry summer night, drawing "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd with each mammoth blast.
"It's fun to watch, down there in the dugout. When he hits a bomb sometimes you see it and it just keeps going," said Nate Shaw, the Diamondbacks strength and conditioning coach. "You're like, no way did that just happen, no way he just hit the ball that far."
Chicks Dig the Long Ball
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who pounded 563 dingers during his career, once said, "In the building I live in on Park Avenue, there are ten people who could buy the Yankees, but none of them could hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium."
Nothing in sports is as revered as the home run. The American public's romance with the long ball is nothing new. You know, "Chicks dig the long ball." And in only his third year in the Bigs, Reynolds is in fine company, battling behemoths like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard for the home run crown.
"Hitting a home run is one of the greatest feelings in the world," said Reynolds, a native of Pikeville, Kentucky and alum of the University of Virginia. "The moment of impact - when you know you just crushed it - is the best."
Home-run hitters have power and style. With a graceful swing, they can send a hardball bounding for the stars, something a mere mortal can only dream of doing.
Reynolds not only hits home runs, he CRUSHES the ball. Last July, he launched a 481-foot blast off Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge, making it the longest home run of the 2009 season, and the second longest home run in the history of Chase Field. His towering blasts (25 of his 36 home runs travelled more than 400 feet) are legendary. Last August, his moon shot against the Mets travelled 461 feet, the longest home run in the short history of Citi Field. With an average home run distance of 430 feet (longest in baseball), Reynolds is the undisputed Heavyweight Champ of the Homer.
From Humble Beginnings
The 26-year-old's rise to the pinnacle of his sport has been most impressive. He came up from Double-A Mobile in 2007 as an injury replacement for starter Chad Tracy at third base, and Reynolds immediately helped ignite the Diamondbacks offense. He finished the 2007 season with an impressive stat line, batting .279 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs in 111 games. Everyone assumed a battle between Reynolds and incumbent Chad Tracy for the starting third base job in 2008, but when Tracy was shelved in the spring with a knee injury, Reynolds won the third base job by default. Since that point, Reynolds has become the man in Arizona, earning the nickname, "The Sheriff."
Reynolds finished the 2008 season with even better power numbers: 28 HRs, 97 RBIs, and 87 runs. And in 2009, he became a four-category offensive machine, recording 44 homers, 102 RBIs, 98 runs and 24 stolen bases. He's now a legitimate superstar in the National League.
"I don't know what it is," Reynolds said. "Whatever it is, I'm just going to keep doing it. It's been my dream since I was little to put on a Major League uniform. And you have to go out, work hard and perform every day."
Reynolds is a product of the University of Virginia. As a freshman, he was named to the 2002 Louisville Slugger's Freshman All-American Baseball Team.
Taken in the 16th round of the 2004 draft, Reynolds jumped on the map in 2006 with both his bat and glove. With Single-A Lancaster (now a Boston Red Sox affiliate), he hit .337 with 23 homers and 77 RBIs in 76 games. At Double-A Tennessee (now a Chicago Cubs affiliate), he hit .272 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 30 games. For the season, Reynolds finished .318 with a 1.034 OPS across two levels before heading to Cuba with Team USA. He did all of that offensive damage while playing five different positions in the field. In the fall of 2006, he also played in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In 2007, the 6-foot-1, 200 pounder was hitting .306 with 6 homers, 22 RBIs and 22 runs for the Mobile BayBears before he was called up by the D-Backs.
Despite his recent success and a torrid start to his major league career, Reynolds is just enjoying the moment.
"All the chips fell in place, and I was able to get my shot," Reynolds said. "I've always heard if you get your shot, you've got to take advantage of it because it may only happen once. So that's what I'm trying to do, just staying on an even keel, not get too high or too low and playing the game hard."
Diet and Exercise
Reynolds isn't a huge dude... you almost have to do a double take when you see him to believe that he's the same guy destroying the baseball. He's not sporting the bulging biceps of Mark McGwire or the girth of a Ryan Howard. But Reynolds is a strong dude, at 6-2, 220 pounds, with a muscular base.
"If you look at any baseball player who hits the ball far, he's got a really big butt, really big legs and is usually pretty thick through the middle," said Nate Shaw, the D-backs team trainer.
Shaw oversees Reynolds' training not only during the season, but in the offseason as well. It's Shaw's job to keep Reynolds in the lineup everyday and performing at a high level. And it's Reynolds "foundation" that Shaw focuses on.
"We do a lot of functional leg stuff with Mark and a lot of core stuff, which keeps him healthy and on the field," Shaw said. "Mark plays with reckless abandon out there on third. He'll jump into the stands and into the tunnels. He goes all out. When you play with that style, it's like getting in a collision every night."
There is no denying that today's players are in much better shape than their counterparts of decades past. Today's players have personal trainers and physical therapists. Legendary slugger Babe Ruth fed off a steady diet of hot dogs, peanuts and beer. Today's baseball players pop vitamins and drink protein shakes. And it's up to Shaw, as team trainer, to make sure his troops are well nourished - which is not always an easy thing. Fortunately, Reynolds, too, understands the importance of getting plenty of protein to rebuild the muscles he breaks down with every game and every training session.
Of course, with stardom come the perks of product endorsement deals.
got involved with Reynolds, and it's been a perfect match.
approached me, and I really liked the
," Reynolds said. "They taste great, and provide a good serving of protein. I'll grab one before I go to the ballpark, like around noon as a quick meal replacement, or after a workout."
Packing 30 grams of protein and low in sugar,
Supreme Protein bars
are perfect for Reynolds' on-the-go lifestyle, especially during long road trips. "When I'm hungry," Reynolds says, " I'll eat a
Supreme Protein bar
, and be that much better off for my day."
He signed his endorsement deal with
last July. And a few weeks later, he began his assault on the home run record books. Of course, everyone in the D-Backs clubhouse was quick to take notice.
"The strength coach is all for it," Reynolds said. "I spread the
Supreme Protein bars
around the locker room too. A lot of the guys like them.
has really taken good care of me."