Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 11 News List

‘Nap Room’ is benefit to keep baseball players perky


The New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, right, is tagged out by the Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts while trying to steal the base in the 12th inning on Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo: AFP

Day-night doubleheaders. Cross-country travel. Rain delays and extra innings. A baseball schedule can play havoc with sleep, but some major league teams are trying to combat the grind of the long season by giving their players a place to catch some shut-eye at the ballpark, away from their noisier teammates or their rambunctious kids.

Sometimes called “recovery rooms,” the areas near the clubhouse are just quiet, dark rooms with beds, but players and team officials hope they can reduce the fatigue caused by the long and often irregular hours of the season.

“Everybody in professional sports — especially baseball, with the travel requirements of the sport — feels like sleep is something that can be a competitive advantage,” Boston Red Sox athletic trainer Brad Pearson said. “We think we can win the sleep game.”

Once a place for players to change out of their uniforms and maybe grab a cigarette after the game, baseball clubhouses are now a second home where workers often spend more time than where they actually live.

Teams have tried to make the long days at the ballpark pass more comfortably by with amenities like ping pong tables for the Kansas City Royals, a barber’s chair for the Miami Marlins or cryotherapy and float pods for the Chicago Cubs.

It is not just about killing time: Comfortable, more alert players can be more productive and teams are hoping the relatively small amount of money invested in these benefits could result in an extra base hit or shoestring catch on the field.

“They do have such a long season and it’s partly about that endurance,” Bedgear Performance Bedding Co executive Shana Rochleau said, whose company sponsors the Red Sox nap room and provided the sheets, blankets, pillows and mattresses. “To stay at a peak level for all that time is really critical.’

Pearson said he spoke to an expert at Harvard University in Massachusetts about how to help the players with their sleep, explaining how they would drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to stay up for night games and then have trouble going to sleep afterward and be groggy the next day.

Then the cycle repeated.

“What he told us is that players are really doing everything the opposite of what you would recommend,” Pearson said. “The cumulative effect really begins to affect the player, where you can’t get your head above water. You get into a deficit that you’re probably not ever going to make up for.”

With no way to change the schedule or the cross-country travel, the Red Sox decided to try letting the players sleep it off.

The San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves have also built “recovery rooms” into their clubhouse complexes, though the Padres have also been known to take a snooze in the batter’s box.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said he used to have to sleep in the umpire’s room or the training table at Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta’s new stadium that opened this year has two “quiet rooms” — one with recliners and one with two sets of bunk beds.

“It’s the best sleep I have,” said Snitker. “I’ve got a pillow and blanket I keep in my office. It’s perfect, like being at Hampton Suites.”

The Red Sox nap room was squeezed into the century-old Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, in a former storage closet off the workout room, up a flight of stairs from the home clubhouse. The team emptied it — almost — of boxes and added some insulation on the walls.

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