MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher Travis d’Arnaud grew up in California not far from the ocean and his father Lance d’Arnaud, 53, was a surfer and still surfs on occasion.
So it is not too surprising that d’Arnaud admitted that his weight training program during the 2009-10 offseason involved trying to develop more of a beach body than a baseball player’s physique.
But d’Arnaud, 22, took his training this past offseason much more seriously. He had to, after sitting out approximately half of last season with two bulging discs in his back. He said the discs were close to rupturing.
“It was probably from me not training hard enough that one offseason — not really focusing in on my core,” d’Arnaud said. “I wasn’t doing the right baseball workouts I should’ve been doing and when baseball season came around I wasn’t in the shape I should’ve been in.”
D’Arnaud completely changed his offseason workout training program this past offseason and is back to full health.
A first-round draft pick in 2007 who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, d’Arnaud entered New Hampshire’s game Friday batting .320 with 12 homers, 42 RBIs, a .387 on-base percentage, a .537 slugging percentage and a .924 OPS.
He certainly is one of the most exciting and talented minor league players in this area.
“We would have liked to have seen him take his offseason conditioning a lot more seriously (in 2009-10) and go with professional (trainers),” his father said. “He eventually learned on his own that without the (proper) supervision and direction it is possible to hurt yourself with some of these weight lifting techniques. And that’s about what happened, I think. … That taught him a big lesson. Now he’s on board 100 percent. He’s been to a lot of experts in the field and he’s really receptive now to keeping that body of his in top shape. It was a horrible thing to miss some time but then again there’s a silver lining to that.”
d’Arnaud said his back injury was one of the toughest experiences he has ever faced.
“Everything you do involves your back: walking, hitting, throwing,” d’Arnaud said. “It was one of the worst things I’ve been through in my whole life. … There was just pain going all around your back. There was one point where I just couldn’t take it and I had to stop.”
D’Arnaud spent this past offseason in Arizona — instead of at home in Long Beach, Calif.
He worked out with Brett Fischer of Fischer Sports, a physical therapy and conditioning center in Phoenix.
“Every day was a different core strengthening activity,” d’Arnaud said. “Like even when you’re doing an arm workout, you have to use your core.”
Once d’Arnaud returned to full strength this season, then it was time to improve his swing.
“I added a little leg kick for timing purposes to make sure I’m always ready for when the pitch comes,” d’Arnaud said.
Lance certainly is glad to see Travis taking his training more seriously, partly because Travis is living out his father’s dream. Actually, Lance has two sons living out his dream.
His other son, Travis’ older brother, Chase d’Arnaud, 24, is in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lance never played beyond youth baseball although he wishes he had. He said his dad never was really into baseball and things didn’t work out for him to continue his baseball career past 12 years old.
“I wanted to keep playing” said Lance, whose dad lived on the beach and encouraged other activities, including surfing, playing tennis and riding motorcycles.
“My baseball career was very brief but all I really ever wanted was to have two sons and coach Little League because I felt like I kind of got denied getting to play baseball,” Lance added.
When his two sons joined Little League, Lance started coaching their teams.
“We got to spend a lot of time together and, as they grew older, 13, 14, 15-years-old, it just became a year-round schedule for us with travel ball,” Lance said. “Most every family vacation we took had to do with their baseball.
“Now I get to watch Chase on the T.V. every day and listen to Travis at the same time on the radio. I love it. I live and die by their success.”
Lance said all his sons ever wanted to do growing up was play baseball, including hitting the berries from the trees in their yard into the gutters and onto the roof.
“They always had a bat in their hands,” Lance said.
And Travis always could hit, even before joining Tee Ball.
Lance would pitch Travis Whiffle Balls during Chase’s Tee Ball games when Travis wasn’t yet old enough to play Tee Ball.
“He would just knock the ball so far,” Lance said about Travis. “Most of the parents who were watching Chase’s Tee Ball game would turn around and be more entertained by watching Travis hit his bombs at 3, 4 years old.”
Travis certainly has the potential to be a power-hitting catcher while Chase, an infielder, is more of a line-drive, base-hit type hitter.
When they were kids and played Whiffle Ball together, Chase tried to hit line drives up the middle in the driveway while Travis would try to hit long balls.
Travis and Chase d’Arnaud actually attended different high schools growing up and faced each other in baseball back then when Chase was a senior and Travis was a sophomore.
“I was catching and the first pitch in his (Chase’s) first at-bat the pitcher hit him,” Travis said. “We were trying to go inside fastball and he always still says, ‘You tried to hit me that day. I won’t forget that.’”
The two have a fantastic relationship, despite the beaning. They remain best friends and call each other on the phone almost every day.