DETROIT — As the strength and conditioning coordinator, this is normally the slow part of the season for Allen Thomas.
In a normal year, with just a week to go, most players’ repetitions are limited as they prepare for a well-deserved offseason break. But this isn’t most seasons and with a White Sox youth movement already in progress, Thomas’s workload has increased considerably the past few weeks.
Consider that many of the players in the majors who have a shot at making the team’s Opening Day 2014 roster — the Marcus Semiens, Avisail Garcias, Leury Garcias and Erik Johnsons — all have two full seasons or less in the White Sox organization and are between 22-23 years old. What that means for Thomas is he needs to take these last few weeks to get potentially critical future components up to speed on strength and training. While it’s more talk at this point and limited time in the gym, Thomas knows his charges need the valuable information as they head to the offseason.
“It’s very, very intricate, especially for the guys fighting for jobs,” Thomas said. “There are some key parts for next year that we’re going to have to really, really hone in on and get them ready. … For those guys to compete at their maximum level, I’ve got to make sure they hold their maximum physical ability to do that for 5,000 reps. That comes from in (the weight room).”
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Much of Thomas’ current work is strictly communication.
He has taken down notes on what White Sox manager Robin Ventura and the coaches see and want out of Avisail Garcia in the future. General manager Rick Hahn might want Semien or Johnson to gain weight. Or athletic trainers Herm Schneider or Brian Ball might have input.
Thomas then devises a plan and goes over the routine with each party as many times as he can with several trips to the gym included. Over this period he hopes to instill what he needs from each player in the offseason. While he has the allowance to visit players in the offseason and makes routine phones calls, Thomas knows it’s on each individual to make it happen.
“It’s just conversation and trying to hold him accountable for the workload he needs to do in the offseason,” Thomas said. “The downside is, at the end of the day we can’t go home with him. I have these things I need you to bullet point and confide in it and do. It doesn’t always happen like that. … The majority relies on the player, no matter what.”
One problem Thomas occasionally runs into with young players is they don’t realize the work has only begun once they have reached the majors. What size they are at present may not be how the organization has projected them for the long run.
Therefore it's incumbent upon Thomas to work with the player on how he must improve to stay in the majors. Addison Reed said Thomas is very effective without being pushy.
“‘Yeah, you’ve made it, but how long can you stay up here?’ ” Reed said. “He wants you to be pushing yourself for more. Sometimes you’ll go out there and run and he’ll say ‘Let’s do one more. One more.’ You want to do that one more and get better and stay up here for as long as you can. … It’s never in a bad way. He motivates you. He’s awesome with that.”
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Thomas has to rely on being effective.
If he could, Thomas would have each and every youngster on the roster move in with him and his family. As tired as he is from the long season, Thomas is excited to have so many new players to shape. He just hopes they listen and use the notes he’s provided to come back prepared for 2014.
“You can see their talent level is there,” Thomas said. “My brain goes crazy — ‘How can I help this guy maximize his potential for his long career ahead of him?’ … Eighty percent of that is on the athlete because I can’t go home with them. Our job is just to make it a part of their life so that when they leave they don’t know anything better than ‘This has got to be a part of my situation.’ ”