PEORIA – Spring training normally is a time of relaxed atmosphere around the league as players start to report for camps and get into shape to play the grueling 162-game season. For the San Diego Padres, it is also a time to bring the players together on and off the field.
Ping pong tournaments, competitions during practice, or even playing some video games in their off-time are some of the ways the Padres are bonding during MLB’s preseason.
“It’s fun, guys are competitive by nature,” Padres manager Andy Green said, “It’s why we got into sports in the first place, ping pong, cards, pool, (the type of game) doesn’t matter. Guys are competitive.”
Green mentioned that ping pong is always a popular choice, and that some ping pong tournaments actually last through all of spring training.
“It’s not a revolutionary idea for a ping pong tournament,” Green said, “I think the year before I was here Buddy (Black) was doing a shooting competition with a basketball.”
Green might be the manager, but that doesn’t mean he just tells the players to play together whether they like it or not.
“I partner with them,” Green said, “I don’t think I am doing anything unilaterally.”
The fun isn’t contained to the clubhouse. Recently, Padres players drafted teams and turned batting practice into a competition. Wil Myers’ team won the competition, but the whole process helps “bring life” and makes guys “bring the competitive spirit” according to Green.
The Padres also find their own competitions amongst themselves. Myers, after adding some muscle in the offseason, tried to challenge Travis Jankowski to a race to prove that he had gotten faster. As of Wednesday, that race had not happened, and it might not ever actually take place, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been trash talk.
“I don’t think there is any competition there,” Jankowski said. “He was slower than me last year and he put on 20 pounds; I think it’s just straight physics there, he can’t be faster than me.”
Myers, however, thinks the race won’t happen because Jankowski is “too afraid to race me.” Myers thinks he’s the best at a lot of things in the clubhouse, even ping pong.
“I’m the best at everything here,” Myers said, “I’m not gonna give any credit to the person who really is the best at ping pong.”
“We just mess around all the time, that’s just kind of what we a few of us do,” Myers added. “We just talk trash to each other on a regular basis.”
The bonding that takes place between the players isn’t even always face to face. Padres infielder Carlos Asuaje, owner of his own esports team, is a perfect example of one of the more common ways for younger generations to interact with each other — video games.
“A couple of the guys are “Fortnite” players and like gaming,” said Asuaje, who also claims he is the best gamer in the Padres clubhouse.
“Fortnite,” a battle-royale game where 100 players are all dropped on the same map and do battle until the last player, or team, remains, has become insanely popular with players across the league.
Really, anything that isn’t baseball has become a pleasant distraction for these players who will be focusing almost exclusively on baseball for the next six months.
Video games, athletic competitions, or even some good ole fashion ping pong, it doesn’t matter to the San Diego Padres, they are just looking to add some fun to their routine during spring training.