How popcorn helped Gorman prepare for '24

February 21st, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- Quite possibly the only thing standing between Cardinals rising star and a 35-to-40-homer season is the health of a back that repeatedly knocked him out of action in 2023. Alleviating some of that back inflammation necessitated drastic measures this offseason, even if it meant Gorman not only cutting back on his favorite Netflix-binging snack but also changing brands completely.

Gone was the same brand of popcorn that Gorman, 23, had loved munching on for years in his downtime, and it was replaced with a much healthier version that is made with coconut oil. The result, he said, is that he’s anywhere from eight to 10 pounds lighter and his oft-troublesome back is feeling better than it has in years.

“I think everything I did helped and if it didn’t, I probably wasn’t doing the right stuff,” Gorman said with a deadpan delivery. “With snacks, you find a replacement for something you love that’s similar, but better for you. It’s also about portion control and not eating too much because [the replacement] still isn’t good for you. I really like popcorn, and there are some brands that are made with better oil. I’ve never eaten terrible, but I’m just trying to eat cleaner, more organic foods and knowing what my body needs.”

Passing on the popcorn speaks to just how serious Gorman is about his craft and improving on it so that the Cardinals can count on him more in 2024. In what proved to be a breakout 2023, Gorman smashed a team-best 27 home runs in just 119 games. While some saw it as a harbinger of what might be to come from the lefty slugger with the thunderous power, Gorman’s analysis was far less impressed.

“Looking back on it, the year was fine,” said Gorman, who saw his strong start interrupted by a June where he hit just .143 with two home runs. “On a personal level, it was fine, but I have to learn how to better get out of a rut. That was pretty terrible.”

Though he’s never been one to outwardly show much emotion, Gorman’s thoughts are constantly churning about ways he can be better for a Cards club attempting a comeback of its own. Whether it’s thinking about eating less popcorn or refocusing his workouts more around load capacity and endurance rather than raw strength, Gorman has his sights set on a bigger and better future for himself.

If he figures out his balky back -- an injury that dates back to his high school days in suburban Phoenix and was made worse by a wayward deadlifting session in 2020 -- Gorman quietly wonders what heights he might be able to reach in the years ahead.

“I wouldn’t say I sit there and think, ‘Who am I going to become?’ It’s more like knowing that I have this capability and envisioning what I want to do to get there and hopefully that leads to success,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m just hoping to be one of those [superstar] guys; I know I’m capable of doing that, so I think about doing it. I’m capable of doing [a 35-home run season] and whatnot, so yes, I definitely think about that. But with me, it’s, ‘How do I get there? What do I need to work on?’ I just have to figure out how to get there.”

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol has been quite impressed with what he’s seen so far from Gorman, lauding his improved maturity and his complete dedication to his craft. Gorman’s towering home run over teammate on Tuesday is one sign of just how much better the slugging second baseman is moving and swinging the bat already this spring.

“He’s dedicated and wants to do this a long time,” Marmol said. “He had a really good offseason -- physically and mentally -- just getting prepped for what’s ahead. He looks great, he’s moving around and he’s swinging it well. Overall, he’s put himself in a really good position to have success.

“You’re looking at a really scary bat if he stays on the field, which we’re optimistic about him being able to do.”

So, too, is Gorman, who feels he’s made enough progress that he could potentially go “pole to pole,” something president of baseball operations John Mozeliak impressed upon him following last season.

“Anybody would want to be out on the field more,” said Gorman, whose lingering back pain caused him to be a late scratch six times last season. “No one wants to be hurt and on the IL not helping their team. I’m doing whatever I can to stay on the field for 150 games or even 162 games this season. That’s the most ideal situation, and I’m feeling good about it.”