There will be a lethal weapon at the hot corner for the Winnipeg Goldeyes this season.
Amos Ramon, expected to be the Goldeyes' third baseman this season, has been training in mixed martial arts to help him prepare for the 2012 American Association season and rehabilitate a nasty knee injury that knocked him out of action for the entire season last year.
"I've always been a huge fan of MMA and what elite athletes those guys all are and how much they put into it. I thought, why not do the same thing for baseball?" said Ramon, 28. "It's full-body fitness. In the boxing training, you throw a punch, it's the same thing as throwing a baseball. It's a lot of shoulders, a lot of core. Throw faster and harder, it makes you that much better as a player."
It was just the fourth inning of Opening Day 2011 when Ramon, playing with the Goldeyes, tore the anterior cruciate ligament and some cartilage in his left knee during a play at second base. He had surgery days later.
A Texas native living in Winnipeg for the past three years because wife Duong is a Winnipegger, Ramon devoted himself all winter to his MMA conditioning program.
He has been getting some of the best MMA instruction in the city. With friends like Gabe Alves (Brickhouse Gym), Ted Petz (Snap Fitness) and local MMA fighter Lindsey Hawkes, Ramon is in the best shape of his life.
He has endured some early ribbing from Goldeyes staff and teammates arriving for training camp, which opens May 5, that rumours of his toughness are already out there.
"No one will want to slide into third, they might get a roundhouse," joked Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier.
Ramon has long been a fan of MMA. Last October he met Alves, who trains several high-profile local MMA fighters, at the home a mutual friend and it all came together. He did MMA training five times a week for five months until last month, when he went home to Texas and started throwing the baseball.
"A typical workout would be Muay Thai kickboxing stuff, or boxing, and the rest of it would be all conditioning," said Ramon. "We focused a lot on mobility to get the muscles working around my knee. We did a lot of lower core work. That generates all your agility. It's perfect for hitting and throwing."
Though Ramon's competition ring is a diamond instead of an octagon, he plans to throw down some guys just the same.
"I can't wait to get out there and see how it goes," said Ramon. "Everything feels great, I feel a lot stronger than I did last year, a lot more endurance, a lot more torque.
"I want to play third base and I'm grateful Rick (Forney, manager) is giving me this opportunity. This year it's going to mean so much, especially after what happened last season."
In 2010 Ramon hit .316 with the Lake County Fielders