Kovacevic: Athletes’ prep will suffer but at scant cost


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Jameson Taillon heads out the Pirate City fields last month. - DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS

My back blew out about a decade ago. Easily the bottoming out of my life. Couldn't sit. Couldn't stand. Could barely function. And easily worst of all, I couldn't afford any of that, needing to work, to write, even to travel.

Frank Velasquez, the Pirates' head strength and conditioning coach at the time, always had the answer: Find a place, any place in which I could perform the needed rehab, and make it feel like home.

So there we'd be at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, atop the stairwell leading to the visiting clubhouse, and he'd point to the top step and instruct me to do two dozen calf-dips. Or he'd offer up one of the players' rubber mats for me to drop and hold a plank for a full two minutes. Or he'd illustrate water-based workouts I could do in any hotel pool, large or small.

It was a success. A year later, in large part because of the strengthening of muscles in around the injury, my back was 100 percent. And it's been that way ever since.

Frank's now the director of sports performance at Allegheny Health Network, moving there after nine years with the Pirates and continuing a lifetime of instructing and advising athletes. And yet, his reflexive reply when I asked him last night how athletes could possibly maintain themselves through the ongoing coronavirus lapse was all of two telling words:

"Good question."

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