— Laura Hambleton
When did you start to notice your game was different?
When you’re an athlete and you play every day and are conditioning yourself every year, the aging is gradual. You just don’t wake up one day and say, “I feel old.” I noticed a benchmark around 30. I wasn’t as resilient as I was in my 20s. They talk about your being in the prime of your career at 28 to 32, in that range. I got to the big leagues at 21, and things like a road trip at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, I could recover from that pretty easily as a younger guy. Then all of a sudden — well, not all of a sudden — around the age of 30, you kind of feel the effects. I think that was not only in the travel, but the physical demands of the sport. I wasn’t as resilient.
But you were in your mid-30s when you broke the record for consecutive games played.
I had one of my best years in 1991; I was 31. I made a renewed effort to work harder. I got better at my diet. I paid attention to how much sleep I got. I was always someone of routine. I became more strict.
Also, I made a renewed effort working out. [Back then, people said] weights and baseball didn’t mix. I went into the weight room right around 30 or 31. My legs weren’t as powerful [as they had been]. I liked how the weight room made my body feel. It gave me sort of an edge. There definitely was a strong effort to stop the aging process in the weight room.
Did you worry that people would think you were an old ballplayer
when you started going gray?
My dad had premature gray. I was always the one with the most energy, the one who continued to practice longer. I ran up and down the stairs of different stadiums. I didn’t feel the need to cover up the fact that I was losing my hair or it was graying. When you’re on a team, age is only a factor when you’re talking in the locker room. On the field, you’re all judged the same way.
What is your biggest complaint about being the age you are now?
I’m almost 52; put that on a record. August 24 is my birthday. I played baseball until I was 41. I had back surgery, couple of other things, so physically I have leftover issues. For me personally, transitioning from being a professional athlete to the business world, I wasn’t motivated to be in the gym anymore. I had done that. I killed myself for all those years. But eventually I started to come back to the gym.