'Right around the corner': Early workouts offer hint of spring

January 20th, 2023

IRVINE, Calif. -- It sounds like summer inside the Chapman Baseball Compound in Southern California, where a couple dozen big leaguers have gathered for a week's worth of workouts and events. Gloves pop. Bats connect. Ballplayers chat with ballplayers about -- what else? -- baseball.

"Just being around it, you get that itch again," said Reds reliever . "It's like you're back in the clubhouse. And you start to realize it's coming. It's right around the corner."

Indeed, the baseball season is on the horizon, mere weeks from report dates for pitchers and catchers. This week's CAAcademy was put on with the express purpose of laying the groundwork for the 2023 season.

Clients of the CAA agency were invited from around the country for a week of workouts at the Chapman Baseball Compound as well as a handful of other events in the area -- golf, dinners, photo shoots.

"Definitely meeting a lot of new people, a lot of new faces, and a lot of guys that I've played against," said Pirates right-hander . "But an event like this is good, because you can bounce things off of guys. You see how guys work, and you just learn. You see their ways of doing it, and you can try and incorporate different things into your routine."

Among the big names on hand Thursday were Cardinals right-hander and White Sox righty . Flaherty threw a light bullpen session. Giolito is slated to throw one Friday.

Said Rangers left-hander , "It's almost like light Spring Training. That's kind of how I see it."

Certainly “light.” Players arrive and depart at different times. Around 10 a.m., Tigers right-hander and his golden retriever arrive at the compound, the pup greeting each player individually.

The workouts themselves are left to the players. Some throw bullpens and take batting practice. Others stretch, do plyometrics and lift weights. The 14,000 square-foot compound has room for all of it.

"There's not one right way to get ready for a season," Crowe says. "Everybody does their own thing. Being able to bounce ideas around, talk to guys, get back into that locker-room feel, being able to be around the guys -- it gets you ready for the season, big time."

For many of these players, the CAAcademy is their first opportunity to meet some fellow big leaguers whom they’ve only previously been able to watch from afar.

"It's really cool getting to know all the guys," said Brewers infielder . "We all work together in this business. ... It's fun meeting, getting to know the guys you've played against, and I've seen some guys who were teammates before."

It's part reunion, part meet-and-greet, but most of all, it’s a haven of baseball knowledge and experience.

"We're all pushing toward the same goal," said Mets lefty . "Everybody's got their different ways of doing it. But the goal at the end of the day is the same. It's fun to share that time and preparation with those guys."

It's also a worthwhile reminder that baseball isn't a summer job. There aren’t any games on the schedule these days. But there’s plenty of work to be done.

For most players, that offseason work generally begins a short week or two after the season ends. By January, the bulk of these players have fallen back into their daily routines, building bit by bit.

"It's time off from the actual games, but there's not really off time,” Peterson said. “You might take a week or a couple weeks after the season to recover a little bit. But then it's right back to work. But it's fun. It's a little different in terms of the tasks and the intensity. But as we get closer, as we get to this time now, you start to get back into those routines."

Added Hearn: "This is all about setting the foundation for what I'm trying to do during the season.”

Of course, outside the grind of a baseball season, there’s time for the players to enjoy themselves this week. They went out to a group dinner on Tuesday night. They enjoyed a golf outing at nearby Strawberry Farms Golf Club on Wednesday. Many are slated to depart Friday, but those who don’t are invited to the CAA Suite at Crypto.com Arena for an NBA game between the Lakers and Grizzlies.

"It's just really cool to meet the other guys," Dunn said. "It helps you when you get out to the field, see those guys, there's more conversations that can happen, and you realize the family that CAA is, that baseball is."

"It's been a lot of fun," Peterson said. "This is the time where you start to get excited. Spring Training is right around the corner, and you're around other guys that are looking forward to the year. It gives you that boost going into Spring Training, looking forward and seeing what's ahead.”