Power Hitting All-Star Second Baseman Dan Uggla is gearing up for another prolific season. Opposing Pitchers Beware!
It's a cool mid-February evening in beautiful Jupiter, Florida. Baseball fans from all over are already in a frenzy as pitchers and catchers have just reported to spring training. One team that's cause for much of the early excitement is the Florida Marlins. With a young and promising group of core players, many around the league feel the Marlins have a chance to do some real damage in the highly competitive NL East division.
By the time I arrive at Roger Dean stadium (the Florida Marlins' spring training complex) the facility is mostly dormant as most of the pitchers and catchers have already done their work and left for the day. However, though position players aren't required to report to camp for still another week yet, I find slugging second baseman Dan Uggla obliterating balls in the batting cage. Dan has already gotten in a rigorous full body workout, done speed and agility drills with his conditioning coach, and now is taking extra batting practice. For those familiar with Dan's desire to excel, this demonstrated work ethic comes as no surprise. Uggla broke onto the major league scene three years ago after playing five long minor league seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization. Since the Marlins acquired him in the Rule 5 draft, Uggla's never looked back. With his old school, blue-collar style of play, Dan has emerged as one of the top second baseman in the league. An All-Star the past two seasons, he's led all second baseman the past three seasons with 90 home runs and is second among second basemen in RBIs (270) in the same time frame. Dan's also proven he is more than mere muscle and power. He had a .360 on-base percentage last year, with 77 walks, and has consistently stayed healthy, setting a good example on a young club. Through a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication, Dan's defense has also vastly improved in the course of his tenure with Florida. Amped for his best season yet, Dan was gracious enough to share with us the detailed and meticulous fitness and nutrition routine that has helped him be so successful.
Watch the video profile on Dan to learn more.
Q. You just won your arbitration case vs. the Marlins. What are your expectations for the upcoming season for yourself and your team?
A: Well, I definitely think that as an organization we're heading in the right direction. The front office has made some moves that have done nothing but benefit our team. All I can say is that we're going to work hard, play hard, and go out there and see what happens.
Q: Everywhere you look in the majors this year, the emphasis seems to be on leaner, stronger, lighter physiques, as well as more quickness, stamina, and durability. Have you changed the way you train lately? If so, how?
A: The only change I've really made in the past few years is I've started working with a trainer to keep my speed and agility at where they were when I was a few years younger. When I was younger I didn't have too work out so much, but now that I'm getting older (29 at the start of this season), I really have to stay consistent and work out harder. But like you said in your previous question, all these athletes are so much stronger and faster than they used to be and that's really what you have to be as a professional athlete in this day and age.
Q. Observers have noted that you've made significant progress in recent years with your defense. What have you done to improve?
A: It all started when I first came to the Marlins in '06. My infield coach Perry Hill started working with me everyday and showed me some new things and just made me work everyday to get better. We started with the basics and worked our way up. I've continued with those things I worked on with Perry and I've mixed them in with some drills I work on with my new infield coach Andy Fox. So I'm just continuing the work, continuing to get better and smarter to make better decisions out on the field.
Q. You've broken a few HR / power hitting records for second basemen. How would you explain your approach at the plate?
A: A lot of people misperceive my approach at the plate. They think I just try and see the ball and swing as hard as can, but that's not the case. I don't watch a lot of video but that doesn't mean I don't study different pitchers. I'm very good about remembering how certain pitchers pitch to me. I'm good at remembering what kind of stuff they (opposing pitchers) have. I keep it all stored right up here in my head. But when I see a pitch I can hit, a pitch I can drive, I'm not gonna get cheated, I swing pretty much with everything I have.
Q. What's your greatest asset as a power hitter? Strength? Bat speed? Bat control?
A: I think with strength comes bat speed but where it all starts for me is strength. That's what I have to work the hardest at in the weight room or wherever it may be just to get as strong as I can. I was always kind of smaller when I was younger so I just worked that much harder to try to be as strong as I could be.
Q. What has been your single greatest moment in baseball so far?
A: My single greatest moment would probably have to be participating in the MLB Home Run Derby last year. (Dan was on a record breaking pace with 23 home runs at the All-Star break in 2008. He hit 6 HR's in the first round of the derby).
Q. How much weight training do you do as a percentage of your conditioning? Is weight-training a vital aspect to being a successful hitter?
A: Yeah, I believe so. Some guys are so talented they don't have to do those sorts of things. A guy like me, I have to work as hard as I can in the weight room to be successful. So again, it's been a huge part of my game for a long, long time so if I'm going to continue to be successful I'm gonna have to stick with it.
Q. Are there certain muscle groups you focus on most as a pro baseball player?
A: I personally put a lot of emphasis on every muscle group. Legs are probably the most important thing to work out as they're the strongest part of your body and pretty much where all your power comes from. But I actually focus on my upper body just as much as my legs if not, more. Your forearms actually play a big part in swinging a bat and throwing a baseball. But the legs and core are the foundation and I try and work them out at least twice a week.
Q. Briefly describe your normal daily offseason workout routine.
A: In the offseason my workout routine varies. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays I'll usually wake up and go workout with my trainer and do some speed and agility stuff and then go hit and throw a little bit to keep yourself in baseball shape. I'll then take a break to get something to eat and later around 5 or 6 o'clock I'll go to the gym and do my weight training for about an hour or so.
Q. Obviously endurance plays a huge role in playing consistently throughout the long baseball season. What specific endurance training exercises do you do to build your stamina (during season vs. offseason)?
A: I use my speed and agility days as my cardio days. The game of baseball is nine innings of short quick bursts of speed, not so much long high endurance cardio runs.
Q. How important is having a strong core and legs to being a successful baseball player (i.e. with regard to speed, range, injury prevention, etc.)? What specific exercises do you do to build a strong core and legs?
A: Legs and core are a huge part of being successful at all areas of baseball. As I was saying earlier in the interview, you've got to try and keep your legs as strong as possible, keep them in shape and keep them healthy. Your core is the same as your legs, you've got to try and keep them as strong as you can. As far as specific exercises I do for my legs, the most important and best thing to do is squats because it works every muscle in your legs. I also do a lot of hamstring and calf exercises as well as well as lunges. For core, I do a lot of sit-ups in a couple different ways and positions. Every once in a while I get the med ball out and do some exercises on that. (Watch videos to see specific exercises)
Q. How important is warming up and stretching in your regimen? What is your specific pregame warm-up / stretching routine?
A: Stretching is huge, especially as you get older. When I was younger I used to be able to just put my spikes on and run out there and go. Now it's really important for me to stretch and get my legs warmed up. I run 5 to 6 sprints after I'm done stretching to continue to get loose and warmed up. The big thing I really like to do pregame or pre-workout is high leg kicks to really get the backs of my hamstrings.
Q. Do you use vitamins/supplements of any kind? If so what products do you use?
A: Just your basic high quality protein and amino acids after I get done working out. Supreme Protein bars are my favorite supplement product by far. They're without question the best tasting protein bar on the market.
Q. I've heard you're a big fan of the Supreme Protein bars. What is about them you like so much?
A: Well first off, they taste great, just like a regular candy bar. Secondly, they have 30 grams of high quality protein, so every time you have one you're feeding your body and supplying your muscles with a great lean protein source (whey protein isolate).
Q. I've heard that a lot of guys around the league are eating these bars now. When is the optimal time (pre- or post-workout, before, during, or after a game) to utilize the superior benefits of the SP bars?
A: I eat them before a work out, after I work out, whenever. They're really a convenient, healthy way to feed your body a high quality protein and vitamin complex any time you need it.
Q. How do the bars taste? What's you're favorite flavor? I've heard there is a new flavor, Rocky Road Brownie, have you tried it yet?
A: The new Rocky Road Brownie flavor is just awesome! All the flavors are great but that one really just sets off your tastes buds a little bit. So yeah, I definitely enjoyed the Rocky Road Brownie.
Q: Care to make any predictions about the National League East this year? Any team you see that is vastly improved?
A: My prediction for the NL East is every team will be improved and it's going to be a tough division. As far as who's going to come out on top, and who's going to win, I have no real predictions on that. All I'm going to say is, it's gonna be very competitive, very entertaining to watch and it's just gonna be a fun year to be in this division and play some good baseball.