In honor of opening day, I thought it would be valuable to revisit Jim’s advice. He has kept in great physical shape long after his playing career. He shared how he does it with good quality nutrition and consistent workouts. He also told me plenty of great life stories from during and after baseball.
Here are some of the highlights from my 2011 interview. Or, just watch the video.
You’ve had tremendous success throughout your career in baseball. Did good nutrition play a role in your performance on the field?
I used to eat pancakes for breakfast and my nickname is Cakes so it took me a while. Back when I started playing, we got $3 a day for meal money so you are eating a lot of peanut butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. You aren’t eating tuna fish with a salad. I think when I got to the Major Leagues, I understood good nutrition better. It made sense to me that part of staying physically fit is really what you’re eating.
You’ve been able to maintain such great shape since you stopped playing baseball. How did you change your diet to accommodate your present lifestyle?
Now that I’m older I know that if you want to be in shape you have to eat in moderation, you have to eat at the right time of the day and you really have to watch what you eat. I think when you take that fork or you reach for something you’ve got to realize what you are eating.
A typical breakfast now is Greek yogurt. I usually have some almonds and some walnuts and I cut up some strawberries and blueberries. Or, I make a protein shake with a banana, some peanut butter and some strawberries and blueberries. I also have egg whites. And, if I eat bread it’s going to be whole wheat bread. It just doesn’t happen by accident.
You are on a very consistent workout regimen. What are the differences between when you were playing and your workouts now?
The great thing about playing was that when you went to the ballpark – it’s 162 games and back then we pitched every fourth day – you knew between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. there was a two-hour window you could fit in everything you could to be in shape to pitch. I played for Cal Ripken Senior. He talked about work ethic. One thing I learned from Cal is the number one reason we play baseball is because of the fans and you never want anybody to outwork you.
Now I’m 64 years old. I bike and I do all different kinds of things. I think as you get older you have to say okay: do I want to live as long as I can? The hardest thing I think for anybody is to wake up in the morning and force themselves to do that workout. I don’t care what you do. At work instead of taking the elevator take the stairs. When you’re sitting in a seat try to contract your abs. There are just little things you can do. Every day I think, what am I going to do to get into shape or maintain the shape I am already in.
Any tips for staying fit as you get older?
The tip is that it’s about you. I always talk about people being on the tomorrow diet. I’m going to start my diet or running tomorrow. Well, a month later, you find that you haven’t done anything. You just have got to get going.
Walking, exercising, it all makes a real difference. I think everything you do, you have got to do in moderation. It’s not going to happen by accident. Just get out the front door. Walk or whatever. Just start in increments. It makes it a lot easier.