Hot and not so hot ideas to beat the heat

INSIDE PITCH

July 16, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

When it comes to the heat, ballplayers are no different than anybody else. They talk about it, sometimes complain about it, try to combat it -- but they never beat it.

Most follow the standard procedures -- salt and potassium tablets, plenty of fluids and as little exposure to the elements as possible. But there are some tricks to the trade that stray from more common practices.

Years ago, the most popular gimmick was to soak cabbage leaves in ammonia, wrap them in light paper and use them as a liner under the wool caps that can retain heat in stifling quantities. "I remember hearing [former Orioles trainer Ralph Salvon] talk about that," said Boog Powell, the former first baseman who takes his heat in barbecue doses these days.

"We never used the cabbage leaves, but Ralph always had packs of ice soaked in ammonia that we'd use on the back of our necks. When we got into hot stretches like this, I just made sure to pound fluids the night before," said Powell, who admits he didn't always stick to diet ginger ale.

Actually, the idea of taking fluids early is part of the prescribed program. "We tell everybody to force fluids," said Jamie Reed, assistant to Orioles trainer Richie Bancells. "If you wait too long -- until you're thirsty -- it's too late."

Bancells and Reed also rely heavily on the ammonia and ice treatment, along with what Reed described as "slow-releasing" salt and potassium tablets. "We also encourage them to come in here [the clubhouse] as much as possible," said Reed.

Pitching coach Mike Flanagan, who once lost 16 pounds while pitching a game in Venezuela, says the battle with heat is as much mental as the duels between pitcher and hitter. "I always just blocked in out of my mind," he said. "The only time I was aware of the heat was when I was in the dugout."

While Arthur Rhodes was striking out 10 in seven innings Thursday night, Flanagan made sure Rhodes drank fluids between every inning. "He came and drank as much as 24 ounces of Gatorade after some innings, and that's a lot."

Most players also rely on several uniform changes during a game. Catcher Chris Hoiles said he sometimes goes through as four in a nine-inning stretch.

"I'll change my [sweat] shirt four or five times," he said. "I do the other things, too -- take the tablets and drink a lot of fluids -- but I think it helps if you can stay in dry clothes as much as possible.

"But, as much as you fight it, you're not going to beat the heat -- you're not going to get cool," said Hoiles, who actually beat the heat last night but in a most undesirable way. The veteran was forced to leave in the second inning, when he pulled up lame after a run-scoring hit off the right-center-field fence.

The most unusual hot-weather philosophy belongs to bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, and he may be the lone subscriber to the theory. A native of the Virgin Islands, Hendricks is used to heat and most of the remedies.

His idea falls into the two negatives equals a positive category. "Hot coffee," has been Hendricks' long-standing advice for unbearable weather. "Get the body temperature up, and you don't feel the heat as much."

There actually seems to be a degree of logic there. Somehow, though, it just doesn't sound too appealing.

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