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MLB

Here Come The Heavsters

And ode to baseball's big ballers.

By J.R. Gamble October 26, 2012, 06:21 PM EST

Sandoval_fielder

The Fat Boys Rock the house in this World Series.  No, they’re not doing the beat box. They’re devouring pitchers and putting this year’s Fall Classic on the map. The exploits of players who look more fit for beating Kobayashi in a hot dog eating contest than playing MLB, makes you wonder how much athleticism baseball demands.

Players like Pablo Sandoval , Prince Fielder and Tigers catcher Gerald Lair – no relation to Gerald Levert -are proof that looking like a physical fitness trainer is not required for baseball stardom. A baseball player is not scouted on looking cut like 50 Cent.  If your batting skills are phat or your fastball is heavy, how much you weigh doesn’t matter. 

Fans expect the best athletes to be ripped like ARod.  Hefty hitters like Sandoval might not be the preferred face of baseball’s marketing team, but they carry big sticks and win big games. Biggie Smalls wasn’t traditionally easy to market as a rapping/macking heavyweight; but Diddy let the music and the man shine through to platinum status.  

Lair’s protruding belly suggests he downs kegs of beer and rides with a motorcycle gang. Sandoval –  nicknamed “Kungfu Panda” for his rare combination of excessive girth and fleet-footedness – is worth his weight in gold to the Giants.  If anything, he looked like a modern -day Babe Ruth, smashing three homers in Game 1 of the World Series.

Fielder’s not shy at the dinner table. At 5-11, 275-pounds, the Tigers slugger is a compact cannon.  He’s as nimble as he needs to be to play first base and send 100 mph fastballs into orbit. He’ s as slow as you would expect him to be, and he looked like it in Game 2,  getting gunned down at home dish.  It took Fielder like 13 seconds to get from first base to home. The ball was rattling around and it took the outfielder an eternity to pick it up. Fielder’s feet were moving like a lab rat, but he wasn’t going anywhere.

 Have you looked at his Bash Brother Miguel Cabrera lately? The skinny kid that came up with the Marlins is looking like a linebacker slacking on his offseason workouts. Big burly dudes like CC Sabathia and ex- Yankee pitcher David Wells kept the wins coming and the New York rumor mills flowing because of weight problems. People felt that, because they were athletes making millions, they should look the part.  Players such as Kirby Puckett, John Kruk, and Tony Gwynn were so multi-skilled that being large only enhanced their image as happy-go-lucky fan favorites.  No one hates a guy that looks like your old English teacher, but swings a hammer like Thor.

Hitting and pitching is about mechanics, not having abs of steel.  Going on a diet is not going to improve CC Sabathia’s slider.  They are sciences that combine quickness, coordination, power, intelligence and minimal agility. Like math, some cats are just better at it than others.

You’ll get run off the court playing basketball out of shape. You’ll drop dead from exhaustion in football if your cardio is janky. The homerun, however, is the crutch for the obese baseball player.

The greatest player ever was a chubby dude named Babe. He hit 450-foot dingers and gleefully waddled around the bases.  Baseball does require a certain level of physical fitness, but it definitely accommodates chunky but funky players who don’t want to run a lot. 

Jr_gamble

J.R. Gamble writes for The Shadow League. He's been covering pro sports as a radio host and journalist since 1996. He's written for The Raleigh News & Observer, Newsday and SLAM Magazine. He has co-hosted Sportsrap Radio with A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife Dawg. Follow him @fanalyst1 & find him on Facebook.

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