“I really don’t know how Cal Ripken played that many games in a row. It’s unbelievable,” Sutton said. “Especially at shortstop.”
That’s one of several positions Sutton has manned over the years as part of 12 teams at every level of the game. He knows that it takes more than just a little rest and perhaps some ice on the shoulder to get through that sort of a grind, or even one for a part-time player such as himself. Sutton still has to be prepared on a daily basis for all sorts of jobs, as well as endure the rigors of the baseball schedule.
“You’ve got to try to take care of your body as much as you can because this kind of lifestyle isn’t exactly good for your body,” said Sutton, who is hitting .318 (14-for-44) with seven RBIs in 23 games with the Red Sox this year. “Getting in at 11 at night and then turning around and trying to play a day game the next day is not exactly good for your joints. You’ve got to do a lot to get going.”
Part of that process involves some “alternative” acts. Sutton has recently taken to yoga to increase his core stability, and is a big proponent of active release therapy (ART), a form of massage that helps alleviate pain in overused muscles.
These activities have become increasingly popular with athletes over the years. The days of simply lifting weights and icing down are done.
Such alternatives, as well as mental actions such as hypnosis, can assist those who endure wear and tear either on the field or off. Simply typing on a keyboard day after day can lead to searing pain in wrists, shoulders and necks.
“Traditionally, when we think of getting prepared for sports, we think about the musculoskeletal system,” said Linda Della Porta, OTR/L, RYT, an occupational therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Sutton’s approach points out the importance of the mind-body connection, not only in preventing injuries but also in treating them.”
Porta, also a registered yoga teacher, said mindful practices, such as yoga can help improve mental focus which can enhance performance and become attuned to the body’s needs.
“Frequent practice of yoga develops core strength, flexibility and balance but its true value lies in helping to maintain the balance between mind and body,” she said.
Sutton stresses that once the year begins, it’s important to “take care of the things you can control” because of the randomness not only of the game itself, but also of its schedule. Wear and tear is inevitable, but if you have a good base conditioning and activities such as ART to handle some of what pops up during the year, it’s possible to get through the season relatively healthy.
With all of that in place, Sutton occasionally turns to some mental activities of his own. One involves listening to a relaxation app on his phone which instructs him to focus on decompressing individual body parts.
It’s just a quick 15 minutes or so, often perfectly suited for once he sits down on the plane from city to city, but it can make a world of difference.
“Sit in a chair and focus on your body … relax your legs,” he said. “It takes you through your whole body almost like a meditation drill. It’s amazing what just relaxing 10, 15 minutes out of the day can do for you.”