Harrison Bader teaches Mets’ Drew Gilbert importance of ‘unseen’ offseason prep

PORT STREET LUCIE — Spring training exists for conversations like the one Harrison Bader and Drew Gilbert enjoyed.

Early in Mets camp, the veteran and young outfielders sat together in the Clover Park cafeteria and talked about a lot of things.

Vader recognizes a part of himself in Gilbert. Gilbert is a talented, fast and explosive center fielder, both of whom have great physical ability.

Neither of them wastes time in the weight room.

The main topic of conversation centered around taking care of your body, especially in the off-season.

If Bader could redo any part of his career, he said, he wouldn’t have flashbacks of strikeouts or errors. As a young player, he probably would have tried to find a routine that worked for him sooner.

Bader said of his message to Gilbert: “What you do behind the scenes and the unseen time in the offseason is about going out and just being an athlete and getting ready to play.” . “I don’t just get out of bed and play baseball, but I think I’m a human being. [but] I relied on all of that, my incredible athletic ability and my innate ability to go for speed and relax and play.

“As you continue down that path and work your way through a major league season, those elements get worse, so you have to do a training routine specifically designed to maintain those traits.”

The pair didn’t want to go into details about their ideal routine, but the general message got across.

Bader, a mediocre center fielder, has accepted a leadership role, and Gilbert, an exciting young prospect who could be the Mets’ future at the position, is listening, and for good reason.

Harrison Bader gave Drew Gilbert advice on creating a routine as a professional athlete. Corey Shipkin of the New York Post

Gilbert, a trade returnee for Justin Verlander along with outfielder Ryan Clifford last season, is a top prospect aiming to make it to the major leagues.

To do that, he’ll need to continue to show he can find a way to play every day on a minor league field.

Gilbert played in 10 games in his first season as a professional after being drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 2022 draft, before colliding with the outfield wall while trying to make a catch and dislocating his right elbow.

He left during the season.

The phrase that follows Gilbert is “I’m playing with my hair on fire.”

Drew Gilbert throws a ball during spring training Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Corey Shipkin of the New York Post

He always gives his best, which isn’t necessarily what you want when a season balloons to 162 games.

Gilbert bounced back a bit last season, playing in 116 games for the Astros and Mets affiliates.

“You’re choosing when to hit the wall, right? It’s a tough line,” said Gilbert, who was 0-for-2 in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. “I’m trying to make plays for my teammates and pitchers, but I also want to be in the game the next day. It’s a fine line, and I’m still learning and will continue to learn.

“That’s something I’m adapting to and would definitely choose.” [Bader’s and Brandon Nimmo’s] Your brain will explain it in more detail. ”

The Mets also want a strong, healthy Gilbert on the field every day.

The 5-foot-9, chiseled, energetic Ball posted an .868 OPS (18 home runs, 12 stolen bases) at High Level and Double-A last season.

The left-hander can hit to create power and contact while playing an exciting, offensive style of baseball in the field.

His arm, which was an occasional pitcher at the University of Tennessee, is a particularly powerful weapon.

“The first thing they told me was how hard this player plays,” Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. “It’s not just about how hard he plays the game, but also how he prepares.

Drew Gilbert is getting advice from Harrison Bader on how to approach the offseason and major league outfield. Corey Shipkin of the New York Post

“This guy has a lot of things that can help a team win baseball games.”

Gilbert finding a routine that works for his body and finding the balance of playing with both hustle and head will help him continue to develop.

His discussions with Vader are similar, with Vader wanting Gilbert to find a training routine that maximizes and maintains his strengths, rather than simply relying on them.

“[The conversation was] “I remind young kids who are clearly talented and capable that if you’re going to rely on anything, don’t rely on your natural athletic ability,” Bader said. “Rely on your ability to create that athletic ability. … The behind-the-scenes work to maintain that natural ability is what you really want to focus on. It’s those nuances.”