The crack of the bat, the hot dogs, the ice cold beer – it really doesn’t get much better than going to a live baseball game on a sunny summer afternoon.
Some of the most fun you will ever have is watching the Saint Paul Saints take the field. One of their newest players is Devin Thaut, an infielder who is as much home in the gym as he is on the baseball diamond.
In our interview he discusses a lifetime dedicated to fitness and the lessons he learned from his father.
MMG: I always like to start at the beginning. Were you always athletic as a kid? What role did sports play for you growing up?
THAUT: Yeah, athletics has always been the biggest part of my experience growing up and everything like that.
I have three brothers, one sister, they’re all athletic. My dad is a coach. So I was always outside being active with sports, playing around.
MMG: When did baseball come into the picture?
THAUT: Ever since I was just a little toddler. My dad was a coach, like I said. He coached my brothers, who are eight or nine years older than me.
I was just a little guy and I was a bat boy so I’ve been around it basically my whole entire life.
MMG: When did you start focusing on baseball as something you wanted to pursue at a competitive level?
THAUT: Ever since I saw them [my brothers] when I was growing up and they were eighteen years old – just the passion and the dedication that they started putting in to become better baseball players and it was a love that I fell in love with and was attracted to.
So since five or six years old I knew I wanted to become a baseball player.
MMG: Were you playing on club teams or for your local high school?
THAUT: I went to T-ball for maybe a week or two. I was better and a lot further along than the other kids so they brought me up two or three ages.
And then I just kept playing from there on. I played on Varsity since I was a freshman and I’ve just kept going.
MMG: You played at the collegiate level. Tell me about that experience.
THAUT: Honestly, I wasn’t on the right track. I was a little bit troubled when I was younger and so my grades and everything like that suffered, which I regret.
I could have gone to some bigger schools but since I didn’t really work as hard I should have at certain points I had a little bit of a tougher road that I had to go down.
So I had to go down to juco [junior college] level and then I went to a NAI level. I gave myself a tougher path but all in all I think it was better for me.
MMG: How does it compare playing at the level to now being with the Saints?
Each level it gets a lot more difficult. You have to think about the game more. Slow it down. You can get away with a lot of stuff, a lot talent wise, at the lower levels like high school and college.
But everybody’s really talented, everybody’s pretty athletic, once you get up to here so all the little things separate the great from the good.
MMG: How do you describe your role on the team, both on and off the field, this year?
THAUT: I believe I’m a substitute kind of guy, utility guy. A lot of these other guys have played some affiliated ball, some triple-A, double-A ball.
I’ve never even played affiliated so to be at this point in my career, I think, is a big accomplishment. I’m fine and dandy with playing my role a little bit, but obviously if I get in the game I’m going to go as hard as I can, go balls to the wall.
That’s just the way I was bred, a little bit.
So, honestly, I don’t mind it all. My mindset is to make everyone better around me and help this team win as best I can.
MMG: Baseball has the dichotomy of being very individualized – going up at bat, one on one with the pitcher – but also clearly a team sport. What’s your approach to sport?
THAUT: Knowing your role, not stepping on people’s toes too much. If someone asks you for some advice than you give it, but other than that you go about your business and do you. Be professional. Get a routine. Slow the game down.
Help the team out as best you can without being selfish. Just try and make people better. Worry about the W. Stop trying to focus on “you, you, you”.
You worry about wins and making everyone else better, everything else will fall into play. That’s something I’ve really learned over time.
MMG: Now that the season is in full swing, what does training look like in between games?
THAUT: In the off-season, I was going two to three workouts a day. Right now, I’ll maybe get a light jog in the morning and then I’ll try and get to the gym.
Or here [at the stadium] I’ll go run a couple of laps and I’ll mix in a couple of exercises here and there and I’ll do five or six rounds of that. But I try and workout every single day.
Like three days and then I’ll take a day off or do a light active recovery that day and then go another three days.
MMG: How much of your training is dedicated to skill work compared to general overall fitness?
THAUT: It’s an everyday process. I’ll go get my little workout in the morning and then come here and do some early work hit. That’s just real nice and skilled. We’re just trying to work on some drills right there. And then my workout is mostly skills too.
During the season I’m not trying to build. I’m just trying to maintain so I work on my form, make sure my body’s nice and healthy, my range of motion’s good, my mobility’s good.
So that’s really my focus and then we’ll go back to bp and then the game. So it’s basically an all day process.
MMG: Tell me a bit more about what off-season training looks like for you.
I actually made a joke with my head trainer that I need to move a cot into our gym because I basically live there.
Usually I’ll do two classes in the morning that I teach then I’ll go back, grab something to eat, and get my workout in. And then I have another two classes that I teach and then get another workout in the afternoon.
Then I’ll probably go hit for an hour or two with my dad, come back, take a little rest, maybe a nap or two, and get another workout in right before my last class at 8:30.
I do that maybe three times a week, then a day off, and then another three times – so about six times per week.
MMG: During the off-season you are coaching CrossFit classes. Has that experienced had any effect on you as an athlete?
THAUT: Definitely. Just being a baseball coach – that’s something I do, I volunteer – you’re more a student of the game. You sit back, you watch little things; and it’s just nice to have a broader perspective of the game.
When you’re playing, it’s kind of focused in on one certain aspect – it’s just about you. Same with coaching. Little things, like motivational things or just little cues.
I’ve learned quite a bit from coaching. It broadens your eyes a little bit.
MMG: Any advice than, either from your perspective as a coach or as an athlete, for someone who’s thinking about competing?
Be patient. Don’t be so frustrated. You can’t PR every single day. That’s one thing it took me awhile to figure out. Some days you’re just not going to be able to have everything you got. You can’t be your best every single day.
There’s going to be days when you’re not going to feel good, you’re not going to have all the fluids in you or your body’s just not working with you right. So you can’t get frustrated. You’ve got to be patient.
You’ve got to keep working. You’ve got to stay with it every single day. You get into a routine because if you keep missing days, here and there, they’re going to add up over time.
And if you think you haven’t worked hard enough, go into the gym and work a little bit hard. And if you think you have worked hard enough, get back in the gym and work a little harder after that.
MMG: How do diet and sleep fit into your overall regime?
THAUT: So important, especially if you’re working out three times a day. If you don’t put the right fluids in you, you don’t put the right fuel, foods, aminos, BCAs, your proteins, it’s worthless.
You’re not going to be able to get everything out of your workouts as you possibly can get. Besides working out, the next most important thing are my nutrition and mobility.
MMG: In terms of nutrition, do you follow any specific type of diet?
THAUT: CrossFit’s real big into Paleo. I’d say I do 70% Paleo. You know I cheat a little bit here and there. It’s hard being on the road and stuff like that. I try and stay away from my dairies. I try and stay away from breads.
If I do eat breads, I’ll eat gluten free. I have a lot of fruits, veggies. I don’t really have whey protein because it has milk in it and stuff.
I’ll have my Paleo protein. It adds up thought. It is expensive to eat healthy. It’s tough, but it’s worthwhile.
MMG: In terms of mobility, how much time are you devoting to it each day?
THAUT: I take it real seriously. I think it’s a very underrated aspect of sports nowadays. I don’t think we do enough of it. I think people are lazy with it and that’s why we have so many injuries – pulled hammies, here and there.
People don’t take care of their bodies. Before my workouts I like to do a lot of stretching, a lot of mobility, a lot of range of motion.
That’s what I like about CrossFit is they really emphasize on range of motion – like a squat we hit below our knees so you get the full range of motion, which is almost like a stretch in general right there.
My hips have gotten so much more flexible just from doing the exercises, I believe, the right way. I realize how tight my hips were before CrossFit and how much looser and stronger they are now. Same with my shoulders and everything like that. As long as you work on your mobility and do it right, there’s nothing better.
MMG: Has all this time and effort you put into mobility translated into your hitting power or throwing ability on the baseball diamond?
THAUT: Extremely. It’s a night and day difference. My power’s gone up tremendously. My flexibility is ridiculous compared to what it used to be at.
Just waking up in the morning, my agility is phenomenal. It’s done me wonders.
MMG: Do you allow yourself cheat days? Do you ever rest?
THAUT: I’ve got to have a cheat day. I workout enough where I can have a cheat day here and there but a cheat day for me is not having candy bars or anything like that.
A cheat day is very light. It’s like having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something like that – having a little bit extra fruit, a little extra sugar. But my cheat day is probably not really a cheat day for other people.
I’ll go to In-N-Out and have a protein style burger every once in a while, but I don’t like to cheat, honestly. Like I said, those cheat days add up over time.
MMG: Knowing that you do CrossFit, what is your favorite WOD?
THAUT: Actually I made one up for my head trainer but she flipped it and made me do it and have everyone watch. It was a combination of Karen, Fran and Diane.
It was 21-15-9 of dead lift, handstand push-ups, and then 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups and then in between that would be 50 wall balls and then 50 more wall balls and then 50 wall balls at the end. That was probably one of my favorites.
I was about a centimeter away from puking. I felt it right in the top of my throat. That was a fun one.
MMG: That sounds awful.
THAUT: Yeah and it was two or three days before that I did “Murph” with a twenty-five pound vest on and I did puke on that one so that was a good one. Ha-ha.
MMG: So what’s your goat?
THAUT: it used to be double-unders but I got those pretty good. I would say Olympic lifting. Just my flexibility and mobility – I say my snatches, my shoulder mobility, I need to focus on that a little bit more.
Using my hips a bit more. You can always work on your Olympic lifting – that’s just something you can always perfect and you can always PR in too.
MMG: Lastly, who’s your role model in terms of your approach to training and competition?
THAUT: I’d probably say my dad, honestly. He’s a key role model. He’s just very determined, very motivated and disciplined, I’d say. He’s very disciplined and I think that’s where I get it from to just workout every single day and stay with it.
There’s lot of times you go through WODs and you want to give up. “I’m done. I’ve got a great workout in.”
But no, I’d say him teaching me that you’ve got to go from start to finish no matter what, no matter how much it hurts, no matter what you’ve got to do to get through it.
You’ve got to finish. So I’d say he’s my key role model and I look up to him. I love him.