'Grounding' out: D-backs' new pregame routine

April 5th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert's D-Backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

We’re a week into the regular season and the D-backs returned from their season-opening trip to Southern California with a 3-3 record. It always amazes me how quickly a team’s fortunes can change. After losing the first game of the series in San Diego and then falling behind Tuesday, it seemed like the D-backs would be limping home with a 2-4 record. Instead, they staged a late-inning rally and return home riding some momentum. The D-backs have a four-game set with the Dodgers before a three-game set with the Brewers. But before we get there, let’s get to this week’s newsletter, which has some important information on the home opener …

It was still four hours before Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers and the stands at Dodger Stadium were empty. There was no music playing and just a handful of Dodgers players on the field doing some defensive work.

D-backs outfielder  stepped out of the visiting dugout in his shorts, a T-shirt and shower shoes, cup of coffee in hand. As he reached the grass, he slipped off the shoes and began walking barefoot through the outfield, sipping the coffee.

He strolled slowly around the outfield before making his way back, taking his time. Eventually, he sat in the grass in foul territory for a bit before heading back inside.

It’s a sight you see with the D-backs players when they’re on the road. Players like Nick Ahmed and Christian Walker also spend time walking around in the outfield grass barefoot.

The practice was started by Ahmed and it is called “Grounding” or “Earthing,” which refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the earth.

“It's just connecting directly to the earth,” Ahmed said. “There's a negative electron forcefield that can be healing to your body. Being on concrete and off the earth's surface is not phenomenal for your body and getting connected back to the earth's surface can have a really positive effect on your health.”

For McCarthy, the practice is more about mental benefits.

Players arrive at the ballpark so early these days that even with all the extra work they put in, there’s still plenty of dead time.

When he first gets to the ballpark in the afternoon, McCarthy will grab something to eat, mess a bit with a crossword puzzle, hit the batting cage, then maybe go to the weight room to lift and then there’s a window of time where there’s nothing for him to do.

That means he can either sit inside and stare at his phone or he can go get some fresh air, sip some coffee and clear his mind before batting practice.

“I'm sure there's like benefits to just walking barefoot,” McCarthy said. “They call it grounding, but for me, it's just kind of like a nice relaxing part of my routine. I just think it feels good. And I feel like especially on the road, you got to take advantage of perfectly kept grass because we have [artificial] turf at home. So when the stadium's empty I just go out barefoot for like 20 minutes and leave my phone behind. I wouldn't say it's like a warmup or anything but it's just kind of nice. A nice quiet 20 minutes.”

When the D-backs are home, though, there is no grass for McCarthy to walk on, so that part of his routine changes. Ahmed, meanwhile, finds time in the afternoon before leaving home to walk around barefoot in his backyard or a park across the street.