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World Series has its share of heavy hitters

Published: Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Saturday, Mar. 30, 2013 - 11:21 am

Yes, they're fat. But they can play.

The World Series resumes tonight with Game 3 in Detroit, the home of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young, Tigers who together tip the scales, with their listed weights, at 750 pounds.

Heave in San Francisco Giant Pablo Sandoval, and you have a thousand pounds of major league talent putting a dent on the largest stage in the game.

Is there a place for fat guys on the field? Clearly, yes, as displayed Wednesday when Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, joining the ranks of baseball's greatest. Or by Fielder's diving near-grab of a foul ball in Game 2. Or Cabrera's triumphant season as the American League's Triple Crown winner.

As these portly players rumble around the bases and belly-flop after balls, they provide proof that you don't need a six-pack to play baseball – you can look like you just drank one.

True baseball fans know the sport has always had its share of nonathletic-looking players. In baseball, performance comes from "having good hand-eye coordination and the ability to coordinate timing," said Dr. Jeffrey Tanji, associate medical director of sports medicine at UC Davis Health System. "Being big doesn't hurt you."

That doesn't mean being a little lighter on your feet is a disadvantage either. "Prince Fielder ... trying to run from second base to score a run, weight is a disadvantage," Tanji said. Thursday night, he didn't make it.

And being big has hurt Sandoval before. His weight was a concern in 2010, leaving him on the bench for most of the World Series. Now, his 2012 World Series batting average after two games in San Francisco is a torrid .714 and he is the talk of the Series, both for his hits and his girth.

Matthew Yamzon is a bartender at MVP Sports Grill in Sacramento and hears fans feverishly discussing Sandoval's weight and marveling at how well he moves.

"When he dives for a ball," he said, "I've never seen a fat man move so fast."

Yamzon said he hears a range of comments, from "I wish he would lose weight" to "he hits home runs because he doesn't like to run."

Sandoval – nicknamed "Kung Fu Panda" – stands 5-foot-11 and is listed at 240 pounds, although he looks like he weighs much more. Sandoval would be classified as obese, according to body mass index (BMI) calculations.

Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis, noted that BMI doesn't take into account muscle mass.

"Being a fit person doesn't mean you're skinny or fit into a certain weight range," she said. Because baseball players are active, the extra chub, short-term anyway, isn't much of an issue.

"Might this pose a health problem for them when they become less active? Absolutely," she said.

She noted that professional athletes can develop high blood pressure and diabetes because they stayed overweight.

One of the players to hit three home runs in a World Series game was Babe Ruth. He did it twice. He wasn't known for being svelte.

Baseball has always had its share of large bodies. Ruth was listed as 6-foot-2, 215 pounds (although he, too, was considered to stretch his uniform with more pounds than that). Today he would be considered moderately overweight, with a BMI of 27.6.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, while anything above 30 is classified as obese.

To single out Sandoval is probably unfair. The Tigers have five players checking in at 240 pounds or more: Fielder (275); Jose Valverde (255); Cabrera (240); Avisail Garcia (240) and Young (240). Major league baseball players weigh, on average, 210 pounds, according to a review of roster data from MLB.com.

"The weight thing, sure, it's something he's going to have to keep under control, and he knows it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters this week. "But right now we like where he's at."

Sandoval, Fielder and other baseball players have company with their expanding waistlines. California's obesity rate among adults stands at 23.8 percent, while the national rate is 35.7 percent, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As local Giants fan Randy Sprinkle puts it: "It's an American tradition to be fat."

Sprinkle, who is president of the Giants Booster Club of Sacramento, thinks people should lay off Sandoval.

"If it works for him, it works for him," he said. "If it doesn't, then reality is you're not going to be playing major league baseball much longer."

WEIGHING THE WORLD SERIES

Which World Series team is fatter? Well, score this one for the team with the big name, the Giants.

With Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera on the corners, the Detroit Tigers look like the heavyweight team. But it is relatively svelte.

San Francisco only has a couple of really big players, but a lot who weigh more than a typical pro baseball player.

Major league baseball players weigh, on average, 210 pounds, according to roster data from MLB.com. Seventeen of the Giants' 25 active players weigh more than that, compared to 11 active Tigers players.

Put another way, the median weight of the Giants' active players in 220 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than the Tigers' median weight.

Looking at the teams' entire 40-man roster, the Giants are tied for the fifth-heaviest average weight in major league baseball, while the Tigers rank a leaner 15th.

– Phillip Reese

Heavy hitters

MIGUEL CABRERA

Detroit Tigers

Position: Third baseman

Height: 6 feet, 3 inches

Listed weight: 240

DELMON YOUNG

Detroit Tigers

Position: Leftfielder

Height: 6 feet, 3 inches

Listed weight: 240

PABLO SANDOVAL

San Francisco Giants

Position: Third baseman

Height: 5 feet, 11 inches

Listed weight: 240

PRINCE FIELDER

Detroit Tigers

Position: First baseman

Height: 5 feet, 11 inches

Listed weight: 275

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Richard Chang



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