Austin Hedges’s gig isn’t all sunflower seeds and squats. The starting catcher for the San Diego Padres has to be on the ball nonstop, in-season and off. But it wasn’t necessarily the rush of strategic defense that led him to the position.
"To be honest, I just thought the gear was cool," he says. "Ever since I started playing tee ball, I dreamt of being in the big league."
Hedges was drafted by the Padres out of high school in San Juan Capistrano in 2011, pulled up to the major league team four years later, and named the team’s starter last season.
His off-season doesn’t look all that different from a regular nine-to-fiver. There’s the 7 a.m. wakeup call, getting to "the yard"—his name for Petco Park—an hour later, and breakfast. From there, it’s training time. He meets with the team’s physical therapist, then hits the weight room and some balls. By late afternoon, he packs up his gear—everything but his personal iPad stays at "the office," aka locker room—and heads back home to Point Loma to take his dog for a walk, make dinner, and watch sports. Bedtime is usually no later than 11 p.m., with weekends off.
The in-season is a different ball game, with an unruly schedule: 162 games in six months.
"There are times you’re playing 20 games without a day off," Hedges says. "By August, some plays that were easy to make in April are tougher and might translate to you having an off night. That’s what makes great players great. They’re capable of playing at their sorest."
That grind, he says, is the hardest part of his job. Which is why preparation is key and, fortunately for Hedges, what he most looks forward to on game days.
He arrives about six hours ahead of the first pitch. A soak in the hot or cold tub, stretches, and foam-rolling ready his body, while the right music and reviewing film ready his mind.
"I love getting in the video room, preparing for two or three hours, and then going out and executing," Hedges says. "There’s no reward like it. I get to play the game I love. I get to live out my dreams."
San Diego Padres vs. Milwaukee Brewers