What's next for superstar Arozarena? Bulking up for '24

February 21st, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Since his international star turn for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic a year ago, has been everywhere.

He had his name dropped by Bad Bunny in the song “Nadie Sabe.” He met backstage with rapper Travis Scott. He crossed his arms with Shohei Ohtani. The Rays created “Randy Land” at Tropicana Field to accommodate his growing popularity. He posed with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He hosted the first “Randy Fest.” GQ Mexico named him one of its Men of the Year, with a splashy photoshoot to boot. The list goes on.

Apparently the only way Arozarena could get any bigger this season was physically.

Arozarena reported to Spring Training this week with a noticeably bulked-up physique, having packed on muscle with the idea that a stronger body will lead to a stronger finish than he had last year.

“My main focus during the offseason: Get stronger. I feel like last year, the second half, I kind of lost some weight at the end,” Arozarena said, with communications director Elvis Martinez translating. “Strength training was part of my main focus to come ready for camp this year.”

In some ways, Arozarena has been a model of consistency for the Rays since his breakout performance in the 2020 postseason. Each of the last three years, he’s hit at least 20 home runs and stolen at least 20 bases while playing between 141 and 153 games with an adjusted OPS+ between 120 and 129.

But Arozarena seemed like he was about to take his place alongside the game’s best hitters during the first half of 2023, when he hit .288/.401/.484 with 15 homers in 80 games through the end of June. Then he hit just .218/.323/.361 with eight homers in 71 games the rest of the way.

Some might be inclined to blame the Home Run Derby for the All-Star outfielder’s second-half swoon, but he said it was a lack of endurance. He figured he usually loses five to 10 pounds in the second half, and it caught up with him last year. That motivated his offseason training, and it takes no time at all to see the difference just in his upper body as he moves around Charlotte Sports Park.

“I'm really impressed with Randy,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Looks strong, and he is strong. He's always been strong, but that's a lot of hard work in the gym. Happy that the motivation was there for him to get after it in the offseason.”

Especially since Arozarena had quite a bit of other stuff going on outside the gym, turning him into one of the game’s most recognizable stars.

Arozarena’s one-man wrecking crew act in the 2020 playoffs made him a household name for baseball fans, but his popularity truly reached a different level after his heroics for Team Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Last spring, for example, MLB noted that Arozarena’s Instagram following grew by 299% during the tournament.

“I think they saw what I was capable of doing and how much fun I liked having,” he said. “All I want to do is just have success in the big leagues. That was the ultimate goal. I didn't plan any of this. I didn't expect any of it. It's all still kind of new to me as it comes out. But no, I just wanted to have success in the big leagues and support my team however I could.”

For Arozarena, the biggest highlights of the offseason were being referenced by Bad Bunny and meeting Scott. He was one of nine MLB players mentioned on the Puerto Rican superstar’s latest album, but he had no idea it was coming when he first heard the line, “Yo mismo me impresiono, como Randy Arozarena,” which translates to, “I impress myself, like Randy Arozarena.”

Arozarena said he’s working on a secret project with Scott -- and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., he revealed before declining to reveal further details -- so he was able to connect with him after a concert in Miami.

“It feels really good. Humbling. I've had a lot of fun this offseason. My name is on songs. I never thought about that,” Arozarena said. “Meeting artists, world-class artists out there, famous people. I'm having a lot of fun. I feel blessed, and hopefully it keeps going.

“Who knows? Maybe I'll be in a movie one of these days.”

Who would he play, and what would the movie be about?

That’s an easy one.

“The main character,” Arozarena said, smiling. “My life.”