SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Willie Calhoun went on a 10-day eating splurge after the Texas Rangers ended last season, with the then-rotund outfielder visiting some of his favorite restaurants at home in California and enjoying late-night snacks.
After that planned indulgence, Calhoun spent the rest of his offseason in the Dallas area focused on changing his body.
“I told myself going into this offseason that I wanted to better myself as an overall person, not just as a baseball player, just as a person in general,” the 24-year-old said. “So I just wanted to take ahold of my life, really. I got tired of looking in the mirror every day and seeing myself with a stomach.”
A slimmer Calhoun showed up at spring training after losing 24 pounds and dropping to 199.
The 5-foot-8 Calhoun, the prized hitting prospect Texas got when Yu Darvish was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers two summers ago, changed his eating habits and committed to his fitness routine.
“I really just want to take the next step in my career,” he said. “I just feel like right now is the time where I can elevate and hopefully reach my potential.”
There was no more fast food, and nothing to eat after 7:30 p.m. He hired a chef to prepare meals.
Primarily a second baseman in the Dodgers organization, Calhoun made his big league debut as an outfielder at the end of the 2017 season when he got an RBI single in his first at-bat and played 13 games. He didn’t get called up last year until late July and got sent back to the minors before returning in September. The left-handed hitter had a .222 average with two homers in 35 games for the Rangers.
“This is the best of my 24 years of my life I’ve ever been, just because last year was kind of like a reality check, and really humbled me,” he said. “I told myself I never wanted to go back to where I was mentally there. … Looking back at last year, not wanting to go back to that mental state of mind, really motivated me this offseason.”
Calhoun is hoping to earn a spot on the opening-day roster, likely as a fourth outfielder since the Rangers appear set with Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara as starters. There are two other veterans, likely designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo and three-time All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence, who is in camp on a minor league deal.
New manager Chris Woodward is familiar with Calhoun from his days in Los Angeles, where he was the third-base coach and an infielder instructor the past three years. Woodward has noticed the obvious change in the player’s approach and appearance, and seen his daily commitment both physically and mentally.
“He’s in a better place because he’s not worried about . like in the past it was always am I too heavy, there was always this kind of way about him that he felt like he wasn’t good enough. And now it’s like that’s wiped out, he’s put in the work,” Woodward said. “‘Now it’s time to play baseball, he’s excited about that.”
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