CINCINNATI, Ohio — New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner has been grinding all his life. Once a walk-on at the College of Charleston, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound South Carolina native has consistently been told he’s too short and too skinny. Now in his eighth season as a member of MLB’s most storied franchise, Gardner is having one of the best seasons of his career. Hitting .302 with 42 RBIs through mid-July, Gardner was named to his first All-Star team.
Gardner attributes his success in 2015 to paying more attention to what he eats and adding more calories to his diet so he can maintain his playing weight throughout the season. We caught up with him ahead of the All-Star game in Cincinnati to talk about his grind, his new diet and his first All-Star experience.
STACK: Congratulations on making your first All-Star Game, Brett. Did you get any advice from your Yankees teammates who have been here before?
Brett Gardner: It’s definitely overwhelming. The biggest thing they told me is try to slow things down and take it all in and try to enjoy the whole experience.
You’re a guy who has had to grind his whole career to get to where you are, and you seem very in-tune with the training and nutrition aspects of the game. What has helped you the most in those areas?
Just really trying to pay attention to what I eat and what I put into my body. You’re going to get out of your body what you put in to it, and I’ve always been a smaller guy and eaten whatever I can to keep weight on and eat as many calories as I can take in. That’s always worked for me, because during the season I lose eight to 10 pounds just from the daily grind of playing every day.
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Over the last couple years I’ve really tried to pay more attention to what I eat, and to drink a lot of water. I’ve cut out soda completely from my diet. That was my New Year’s resolution this year and I’ve stuck to it. Hopefully I can keep going with that and keep eating fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of protein to keep muscle on during the long season.
How many calories a day are you eating now during the season to make sure you won’t drop too much weight?
I try to stay way over 2,000 for sure. Some days you aren’t as hungry, but I need to take in as many calroies as I can. There have been times before when I’ve lost 12-14 pounds during the season. I’ve managed to keep more weight on this year, because I’ve done a better job of keeping track of what I’m eating.
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Training-wise, what part of your body do you work hardest on to help your game?
Core strength and core stability. I stretch a lot. I’m not a huge lifter with my lower body. I don’t like getting my legs too tight, because I feel like you’re more susceptible to injury. I try and stay flexible. I do a lot of speed work in the off-season, preparing for spring training, and it seems to work for me.
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You’ll be playing in the All-Sar Game at the Great American Ball Park here in Cincinnati—which raises the question: what’s your favorite place to play outside of Yankee Stadium?
One of my favorite places to go is Angels Stadium of Anaheim. I love it out there on the west coast. It’s a completely different world out there. I love it. It’s a great atmosphere, a great surface and a fun place to play.