The Nationals recently completed their first strength and conditioning camp for prospects at their training facility in Viera, Fla.
As I reported earlier, this camp was administered by the Nationals’ strength coaches and personnel and was focused on preparing prospects for their individualized offseason conditioning regimen.
A major factor in this camp was the importance of nutrition for each prospect, re-emphasizing the standards the organization set for its 250 players during the season and what they need to do to maintain strength by eating right.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said proper nutrition is at the core of building what the organization hopes will be a major league player. Harris is proud of Nationals ownership making proper nutrition a top priority.
The prospects are not grabbing fast food on the bus because they don’t have enough money. The organization is making sure they eat right before and after each game, and during strength building in the offseason.
“I am very passionate about this and I am very proud of what we have done,” Harris said. “We really praise ownership for really growing this thing and making a strong commitment to this. We allocate a significant amount of money to nutrition and supplemental nutrition with each ballclub.
“We do it so that every player, once they are done with batting practice, they have a full spread of food that is healthy with vegetables, fruits and some type of protein, be it chicken, turkey, things of that nature.
“Postgame, they also have a balanced meal that they are provided at every level. You think about what goes into that on a daily basis, the cost is pretty significant.”
Harris said they also provide healthy supplements that help players build core strength.
“On the strength side, we have a kind of protein supplement we provide to players every day, they have options for that,” he said.
The nutritional program is guided by the Nationals’ certified nutrition consultant, Leslie J. Bonci, who has worked with some of the biggest and most famous names in athletics at the professional and international levels. Bonci is the director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine in Pittsburgh.
“We really are very conscious of what they are putting in their bodies, the quality, the timing. We have a nutritionist on staff, Leslie Bonci,” Harris said. “She works with (Olympic gold medalist sprinter) Usain Bolt, the Pittsburgh Steelers (and several other professional teams). She is highly regarded. This is a big point of emphasis for us. We recognize the importance of it and we take it very seriously.”
The focus was reinforced at last week’s camp in Viera. Bonci worked with the players with emphasis on building proper nutrition year round.
“For example, at the strength and conditioning camp, Leslie came in and spent time with each player individually,” Harris said. “She comes in spring training and meets with every team as a whole. She goes to each of our affiliates throughout the course of the year.
“She comes to instructional league and spends several days there. At this camp, she met with every player as a whole not only to meet with the players, but also to make sure the people providing the meals are providing healthy, balanced meals.
“During this camp, we had a chef in the morning that provided a healthy meal before they went into the camp. They got a healthy lunch. They were on their own for dinner, but obviously they have meal money for that.”
The Nationals work diligently to make sure each prospect is provided the healthy food needed to maintain and build strength year round. With unprecedented success at every level these past few seasons, whether it be their power numbers all the way to wins and losses, the importance of eating right and providing the proper nutrition to the players continues to be the clear focus as the talent level rises within the organization.
Next: Bonci details what goes into a day in the nutritional system set up with the Nationals