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Hawpe passes down baseball wisdom

Hawpe passes down baseball wisdom

KANSAS CITY -- The strategy that Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe hopes will keep him healthy and productive throughout a long season started with a dinner order.

While Hawpe was developing into one of the National League's most productive offensive outfielders in 2008, current Royals outfielder Scott Podsednik was a teammate of his with the Rockies. Hawpe was impressed by Podsednik's discipline when they went out to eat together.

"You'd go to a nice restaurant with great food, he wouldn't get the mashed potatoes and the macaroni and cheese, even though that would be the dish that the waiter or someone would be trying to push upon us, saying, 'That's our best,'" Hawpe recalled. "He would get the good fish and good broccoli and good vegetables. I would always notice that and not understand why.

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"But a year or so I talked to him and he asked, 'How is everything going?' I said, 'I'm exhausted.' He said, 'I've never felt better.' He watches every single thing he puts in his body, diet-wise, and whenever he's hurt or sees danger signs, he knows how to take care of it. He takes what he does very seriously, as we all should, but for him it seems he's so intense about not letting himself slip."

Hawpe, who made the All-Star Game last year, wore out late in the year to the point that he was a part-time player. Hawpe retooled his offseason eating and conditioning. Entering Sunday's finale of a three-game set with the Royals, Hawpe was hitting .322 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Manager Jim Tracy gave him a day off from the starting lineup.

This, however, isn't a story about Hawpe's celebrated 10 fruits and vegetables a day. It's one about how the game is passed down.

It's not often like James Earl Jones' booming voice telling the next generation about baseball in a top-down, teacher-student, father-son fashion. It's simply one player gains knowledge, then the younger player sees the example and wants to know more. Then that player, is ready to impart knowledge to the next player.

From the other clubhouse, Podsednik said he was proud of the player Hawpe has become and happy to be part of the example. It wasn't as if Podsednik cornered Hawpe and gave orders.

"Hawpe's a professional, and you've got to tip your hat," Podsednik said. "He's put up some great numbers and had some solid years in the game, and it just shows his drive that he wants to improve."

Podsednik was in the same place as Hawpe, only worse.

"I had two hernia operations in '06 and '07, and I had some down years, and my career kind of took a right turn," Podsednik said. "It was then that I decided I needed to look into what I did in the winters and during seasons. I had to figure some things out to stay healthy.

"I've figured out all the things not to do in the 16 years I've been in pro ball. I'd be a fool not to make some adjustments."

Podsednik said he started communicating with players who were on the field for all or most of the 162-game schedule. He also did reading and studying. In addition to letting Hawpe, a neighbor of his in Texas in the offseason, know some of what he's learned, he introduced Hawpe to his trainer and nutritionist, Erick Minor.

Now Hawpe hopes to influence folks the way Podsednik has done for him.

"My favorite veterans are the ones who, when I was young, were excited for me when I did well or were willing to help me with any part of this game," Hawpe said. "I realize your window for playing this game is short. If you can help your friends figure it out a little bit sooner, it's great, and they're part of our team. Anything I can do to help somebody help us win, I'd love to help them."

A key follower of Hawpe is Rockies reliever Matt Belisle, a onetime No. 1 Draft pick who worked through some difficult years and has become a key member of the Rockies' bullpen. Belisle and Hawpe have been discussing finding ways to eat foods without chemicals and humanely raised meats. Belisle also is reading books on the subject.

In the offseason, Belisle has dabbled in ranching. He'd like to raise bucking bulls, but he's also looking into raising cattle for grass-fed beef.

"That's a wonderful thing about a good team, people help each other out," Belisle said. "With Hawpe, we talked a little bit earlier in spring about it. I noticed he was watching what he ate. I always took care of myself in that regard, but I could see he was taking it to a different level.

"Then you have the presence of a guy like [Jason] Giambi, who has been though so much. He's been asking Hawpe and everybody about it. So quite a few people are taking an interest in it, and Brian Jordan, the strength and conditioning coach, loves the fact we're interested in it and the trainers as well."

With so much interest and so much sharing, the next group of players can't help but watch, ask questions, and learn.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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