Call it a case of good things happening to good people. Realistically, perhaps we should step back, take a big-picture view, and draw the conclusion that Mike Roose is so adept at his chosen profession that no one should be shocked by the Cumberland native’s meteoric rise through the Boston Red Sox’s player support chain.
Recently Roose’s star became much brighter, Boston’s hierarchy awarding him the responsibility of coordinating the strength and conditioning sector of the entire minor-league operation. Official word of his promotion was delivered to his doorstep on Friday, Jan. 27, roughly one month after Roose presented his sales pitch for the said position in an interview held at Fenway Park.
Had Roose not received this well-deserved and most-rewarding “bump,” he likely would have returned for a third season as strength coach of the Pawtucket Red Sox. Instead, he’s now entrusted with the great responsibility of making sure every single one of Boston’s farmhands are doing their due diligence in relation to staying physically fit over the course of the season.
Certainly it’s a massive undertaking, tailoring a strength and fitness program that is unanimously practiced and adhered to by every single minor-league player, from those on the cusp of the big leagues in Pawtucket to those just beginning their professional baseball odyssey in Florida’s Gulf Coast League.
In a nutshell, that’s what makes this new endeavor so enterprising, Roose feels. It’s his vision, his execution, that he ultimately hopes will leave an indelible imprint upon the intended demographic.
“I’ll be designing a program and making sure everyone stays on task on what they need to be doing, setting goals and expectations while trying to make these guys better baseball players,” said Roose, putting all of his cards on the table during an interview last week from Fort Myers, Fla.
THE JOB ROOSE eventually landed became available after predecessor Pat Sandora was promoted by Boston to major-league strength and conditioning coach. Previously, the title was held by Dave Page, who was relieved his duties in the wake of the mushroom cloud the 2011 Red Sox let fester amidst steady whispers of portly ballplayers.
In an effort to break free of past practices and head in a fresh direction, the Red Sox brought Roose in for an interview two days before Christmas. The army of inquisitors/questioners included farm director Ben Crockett, strength and conditioning consultant Mike Boyle, and Sandora, someone Roose had a good rapport with, given he had helped Roose get his foot in Boston’s door as an unpaid assistant during the 2009 summer.
“The big thing I stressed – and this is something that I hadn’t talked about in past interviews – is that I wanted to have a more structured environment and have a higher level of accountability for the players,” said Roose, echoing words that no doubt hit all the high notes in response to Boston’s restructuring approach to the strength and conditioning department.
Roose expanded further about his choice buzzword – accountability.
“In past spring trainings, we expected Group A to work out on Mondays and a lot of guys would. Some would come in the morning, some in the afternoon or early in the evening. It’s really hard to monitor what’s going on, who’s doing what and who’s sticking to the program,” he said. “I’m trying to make it that Group A is still coming in on Mondays, but you’re coming in at set times and you’re going to be with me, going through set exercises 1, 2 and 3. The workout schedule will be posted on the wall.”
There’s a reason why Roose is a stickler for control and discipline. The four years he spent in the Air Force – a response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – helped instill life-changing virtues that can prove effective in any setting, be it on a baseball field or war zone.
“In the military, I learned how to be regimented and I’m trying to teach that approach to (the minor leaguers),” Roose. “I want to teach them not only to be accountable, but to give a high level of effort also.”
As sabermetrics has helped change the way in which on-field performance is quantified, Roose believes he’s been able to tap into some areas that can only aid a player’s quest in reaching the zenith.
“I want my program to be functional. Not to say that it wasn’t in the past, but over the last 10 years, the research has advanced in terms of nutrition, performance-certain exercises, creating better movement patterns and helping the body recover,” explained Roose about his all-encompassing approach. “We’re trying to eliminate weaknesses.
“The majority of baseball players have the same limitations just because that’s the way the game works,” Roose added. “All righthanded hitters torque and contort their bodies almost the same way when they’re at the plate. Sometimes you’re going to find that their hips are tight, meaning we’ve got to work on loosening that area up so it doesn’t create a problem down the road.”
THERE’S BEEN LITTLE wasted motion on Roose’s part since landing his new gig. The training facilities at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox’ brand-new spring training home, beckoned and needed to be gone over with a fine-tooth comb. It didn’t matter that camp wouldn’t officially open for another few weeks. Roose needed to get acclimated and fast.
Picture the scene at your local Gold’s Gym, then times it by 100. That’s how Roose described the state-of-the-art exercise rooms at Fenway South’s headquarters. “We have some really cool tools to use where we can actually put the workouts up on TVs. Everything’s right there, meaning all the player has to do is look up at a screen to see what they’re supposed to do.
“(At JetBlue Park) we have a field set aside to warm guys up and make sure they’re stretched out. Then we’ll use it for conditioning and running,” was the picture Roose painted. “It’s limitless what you can do with these extra things that we never had before.”
In less than three week’s time, Roose has compiled “a list of 8-10 exercises that will help no matter if you’re a position player or a pitcher. We understand that legs need to be strong and the back muscles are more important that your chest muscles.
“We don’t care what you look like,” Roose went on. “Your core and spine being real stable is going to help you generate more force either out of your hand when pitching or off the barrel of the bat.”
The past two seasons saw Roose shepherd two dozen or so PawSox players. He voiced absolutely zero concern when the conversation shifted to his client list expanding beyond Pawtucket.
“Fortunately for me I know a lot of these guys already. Spring training for me the last two years consisted of going to big-league camp in the mornings. After they were done, I would go to minor-league camp in the afternoon and help those guys out,” Roose said. “There are kids now in High A that were in the GCL (in ’09), so they’re excited that I’m in a position where we can work well together.”
In terms of the travel arrangements, Roose plans to visit each Red Sox affiliate (six total) along with the academy stationed in the Dominican Republic “three to four times during the season.” Certainly such a concrete schedule figures to prove a far cry from the early-morning summons to the airport or late-night bus rides that are commonplace when assigned to a particular minor-league club.
“There’s still a lot of traveling; it’s just a different type of traveling,” says Roose.
BETWEEN ALL THE hustle and bustle, Roose was asked whether he’s taken time in his private moments to realize he’s embarking on a new frontier.
“After Triple A, it’s not the same as it is for the players moving on to the big leagues. In our department, you go from that high level of Triple A to then overseeing and coordinating a whole bunch (of players) with more responsibilities … I’m happy.”
In the same sentence, Roose provided a quote that sums up why the Red Sox deemed him the right person for the job.
“I’m excited because I know what I can do for these guys.”