The Los Angeles Dodgers are on the cusp of their first World Series title in nearly 30 years.
Their 104-win regular season and rampage through the National League was in part fueled by a decision made nearly three years ago. In 2015, the team, spearheaded by Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler, implemented a health-conscious, organic-oriented menu at every level of the organization. In a sport where minor leaguers had long survived on Denny's and PB&J, the move was revolutionary.
"One of the things we've talked about is becoming the healthiest organization in professional sports," Kapler told the Orange County Register in 2015. "We are devoted to that. We will be relentless in becoming that."
Now, the big league ball club is seeing the benefit. A number of key contributors on the Dodgers' World Series roster have spent significant time in their minor league system, learning and practicing the tenants of smart nutrition. Examples include Cody Bellinger (a favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year Award), Austin Barnes (who's been the team's starting catcher for much of the postseason) and Chris Taylor (an outfielder sporting a 1.004 OPS this postseason). Is the top-to-bottom healthy eating approach totally responsible for the most impressive Dodgers' season in recent memory? Of course not, but it's a perfect example of a marginal gain that can help a team distance itself from the middle of the pack.
Perhaps no player has benefited from the focus on good nutrition more than Bellinger. Entering the 2015 season, he was a rail thin 6-foot-4, 180-pound prospect. Around that time, former MLB scout Bernie Pleskoff wrote that Bellinger's MLB future "may be dependent upon adding strength and muscle to get beyond being a good hitter for average to becoming a dangerous hitter with home run potential. His current weight and thin frame are a concern in long, hot, humid summers." Bellinger has since put on 30 pounds, bulking up to 210. He cranked 39 home runs this season, the most by a rookie in franchise history. You don't add that much muscle and power without eating the right way.
"With the Dodgers organization, everything is organic, so that's great. Even when we're on the road, our home chef cooks all organic, so it's lots of organic chicken, rice, and salmon. We get pretty lucky over here," Bellinger recently told Men's Health. "I think the biggest thing, for me at least, is staying on top of what you put in your body. You don't want to put any junk in your body.
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