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Not 'In Sync With His Body,' Lorenzo Cain Finds A New Way To Run

Keith Allison
Flickr Creative Commons
Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain and third-baseman Mike Moustakas at home plate in a game against Baltimore on May 8, 2013.

If you’re a professional baseball player, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re not running correctly.  But that’s what happened to one of the star players for the Kansas City Royals.

With spring training starting this month, outfielder Lorenzo Cain is still trying to adjust his running style.

That didn’t show in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Cain’s dash from all the way from first base to home on a single clinched the second straight American League pennant for the Kansas City Royals. 

Out of sync

The Royals made Cain their starting center fielder four years ago, but the team didn’t know if he could make it from first to second without getting hurt. Royals head trainer Nick Kenney says the team faced a dilemma.

“We knew how talented he was athletically, but he wasn’t in sync with his body.”

Cain’s career was out of sync in 2012. Injuries meant he seemingly spent more time in the training room than on the field.

Cain started on opening day, but played just five games before he was sidelined. Cain missed 63 percent of the regular season schedule that year because of lingering groin and hip injuries.

A new way of running

Kenney says the Royals devised a strategy for Cain so he could train in the off-season near his home in Norman, Oklahoma. 

Credit Greg Echlin / KCUR
Lorenzo Cain training at the University of Oklahoma athletic facilities.

“We came together with an organizational plan to re-work this guy a little bit, not re-work his baseball tools but re-work his running-type tools,” says Kenney.

Cain’s running, from the Royals view, put too much stress on his hamstring muscles. So the Royals arranged for Cain to meet Tim Overman, the conditioning coach for the Oklahoma Sooners baseball team. 

“When I met Tim, he definitely helped me out tremendously. (He) pretty much taught me how to run all over again,” says Cain.

The thought of learning how to run differently didn’t sit well with Cain in the beginning.

“I’ve been running this one way all my life, then to get here and tell me I’m doing everything wrong it was definitely tough to deal with,” says Cain.  “But at the same time if I wanted to be on the field and healthy each and every day I had to listen to the instructions he was giving me.”

Overman sensed that willingness from Cain. But there was a lot of work to be done to change Cain’s running style. 

“It’s very hard to change somebody’s mechanics that they have had for 25 years, so it’s one of those things that takes thousands of reps,” Overman says.

What is good running?

“If you’re foot is not contacting in the right spot, you’re wasting too much energy to create that speed,” says Overman.  “It causes problems in the long run. We basically went back, change his foot angle, how he’s attacking the ground so that he wasn’t overreaching.  That took stress off of his hamstring.”

Cain is coming off his most successful year with career highs in batting average (.307), homers (16), doubles (34), runs (101) and RBI (72).  In the voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player, Cain finished third in the balloting.  But the most important stat to Tim Overman, one he says he wants to keep going in 2016, is 140 games played during the regular season, also a career-high for Cain.

“That’s been my goal from day one,” said Overman. “Everything else is pretty much gravy as far as how much success he has had.  As long as he’s on the field every day, I feel like I’ve done my job.”    

Cain turns 30 in April. As he gets older, his off-season workouts are already evolving because of the age factor.  Much like last year when the Royals won their first seven games, they’d like to get the 2016 season off to a running start.  

Greg Echlin is a sports reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at greg@kcur.org.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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