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Some one has truthfully said, that ball players, like poets and cooks,
are born, not made, though once born, their development, like that of
their fellow-artists, may be greatly aided by judicious coaching. Of
what this training shall consist becomes then a question of much

The only way to learn base-ball is to play it, and it is a trite saying
that the best practice for a ball player is base-ball itself. Still,
there are points outside of the game, such as the preliminary training,
diet, and exercise, an observance of which will be of great advantage
when the regular work is begun. The method and style of play and the
points of each position are given in the subsequent chapters, so that I
shall here speak only of those points which come up off the field and
are not included in the game proper.

But first of all, let me say, that no one will ever become an expert
ball player who is not passionately fond of the sport. Base-ball cannot
be learned as a trade. It begins with the sport of the schoolboy, and
though it may end in the professional, I am sure there is not a single
one of these who learned the game with the expectation of making it a
business. There have been years in the life of each during which he must
have ate and drank and dreamed baseball. It is not a calculation but an

There are many excellent books devoted exclusively to the general
subject of training, and a careful reading of one such may be of much
service in teaching the beginner the ordinary principles of self-care.
It will show him how to keep the system in good working order, what are
proper articles of diet, how to reduce weight, or what exercises are
best calculated to develop certain muscles; but for the specific
purposes of a ball player such a book is entirely wanting, for the
reason that the condition in which he should keep himself, and
therefore the training needful, differ from those for any other athlete.
To perform some particular feat which is to occupy but a comparatively
brief space of time, as to run, row, wrestle, or the like, a man will do
better to be thoroughly fit. But if the period of exertion is to
extend over some length of time, as is the case with the ball player,
working for six months at a stretch, his system will not stand the
strain of too much training. Working solely on bone and muscle day after
day, his nervous system will give way. He will grow weak, or as it is
technically known, go stale. This over-training is a mistake oftenest
made by the young and highly ambitious player, though doubtless many of
the instances of loss of speed by pitchers and off streaks by older
players are really attributable to this cause.

The condition in which a ball player should keep himself is such that
his stomach and liver are in good order, his daily habits regular, his
muscles free and firm, and his wind strong enough to allow him to run
the circuit of the bases without inconvenience. He must not attempt to
keep in what is known as fine condition. He should observe good hours,
and take at least eight hours sleep nightly; and he may eat generously
of wholesome food, except at noon, when he should take only a light
lunch. There are many players who eat so heartily just before the game
that they are sleepy and dull the entire afternoon. The traveling
professional player needs to pay particular attention to the kind and
quality of his food. The sudden changes of climate, water, and cooking
are very trying, and unless he takes great care he will not get through
a season without some trouble. Especially should he avoid under or over
ripe fruit, for it is likely that many of the prevalent cases of cholera
morbus are due to indiscretions in this particular.

If he finds it necessary to take some light stimulant, let it be done
with the evening meal. Never take any liquor at any other time: I do not
favor the indiscriminate use of any drink, but, on the contrary, oppose
it as a most harmful practice; I do believe, however, that a glass of
ale, beer, or claret with one's meal is in some cases beneficial. A
thin, nervous person, worn out with the excitement and fatigue of the
day, will find it a genuine tonic; it will soothe and quiet his nerves
and send him earlier to bed and asleep. The beefy individual, with
plenty of reserve force, needs no stimulant, and should never touch
liquor at any time. If taken at all, it should be solely as a tonic and
never as a social beverage.

The force of the above applies with special emphasis to the young
professional player. Knowing so well the numberless temptations by which
he is surrounded, I caution him particularly against indiscriminate
drinking. In no profession in life are good habits more essential to
success than in baseball. It is the first thing concerning which the
wise manager inquires, and if the player's record in this respect is
found good it is the most hopeful indication of his future success. Keep
away from saloons.

The amount of work necessary to keep a player in the proper form must be
determined in each particular case by the individual himself. If he is
inclined to be thin a very little will be enough, and he should not
begin too early in the spring; while if prone to stoutness he may
require a great deal, and should begin earlier. It is scarcely necessary
to say that all exercise should be begun by easy stages. Commencing with
walks in the open air and the use of light pulley weights or clubs or
bells, the quantity of exercise may be gradually increased. Never,
however, indulge in heavy work or feats of strength. Such exercise is
not good for any one, but especially is it dangerous for ball players.
They do not want strength, but agility and suppleness; besides, the
straining of some small muscle or tendon may incapacitate one for the
entire season, or even permanently. Right here is the objection to
turning loose a party of ball players in a gymnasium, for spring
practice. The temptation to try feats of strength is always present, and
more than likely some one will be injured.

The best preliminary practice for a ball player, outside of actual
practice at the game, is to be had in a hand-ball court. The game itself
is interesting, and one will work up a perspiration without noticing the
exertion; it loosens the muscles, quickens the eye, hardens the hands,
and teaches the body to act quickly with the mind; it affords every
movement of the ball field except batting, there is little danger from
accident, and the amount of exercise can be easily regulated. Two weeks
in a hand-ball court will put a team in better condition to begin a
season than any Southern trip, and in the end be less expensive to the

But whatever preliminary work is found advisable or necessary to adopt,
the player should be particular in the following: Having determined the
amount of exercise best suited to his temperament, he should observe
regular habits, keep the stomach, liver, and skin healthy, attend
carefully to the quality of food taken, and if he takes any stimulant at
all let it be with the evening meal.

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