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8 things we learned from Kilkenny's Jackie Tyrrell's time playing baseball in Miami

Tyrrell is part of a documentary that airs on TV3 tonight.

Tyrrell recently spent time with the Miami Marlins.
Tyrrell recently spent time with the Miami Marlins.
Image: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

JACKIE TYRRELL’S SPORTING career took an unexpected turn a couple of months ago.

His Kilkenny hurling career was parked briefly when he got the call up to partake in the documentary ‘The Toughest Trade’ which sees Tyrrell go try out with the Miami Marlins while ex-baseball player Brian Schneider sampled life hurling with Tyrrell’s club James Stephens.

Tyrrell flew to Miami the day after last month’s league clash with Dublin and spent a week immersing himself in the world of baseball. The results will be aired tonight at 10pm on TV3 but Tyrrell spoke to us yesterday about his baseball sojourn.

1. Brian Cody and the Kilkenny players were pretty envious

“Jealousy and envy (was how they reacted). Everyone was asking a lot of questions — a lot of it I didn’t know myself – but they were supportive and were anxious to see how I got on in the documentary.

“I’m hugely focused and I know exactly how to look after myself so I think Brian knows me at this stage and there was no problem (missing training).

“They were probably looking at it whether a GAA player could survive in that environment. People have really bought into it and it’s got a lot of reaction in social media.”

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. Baseball can be boring

“The game is very dragged out, lethargic, even some of the local baseball players were saying it can be boring at times — three or four hours sitting and not a whole lot going on. It doesn’t really capture the imagination.”

3. He tried to figure out what drives baseball stars

“Guys like Giancarlo Stanton, he had an aura about him and I wasn’t sure if I’d go up and say hello, but I did. I was thinking to myself – ‘ here is this guy, 24 years of age, you’d want to see the physique on him, an elite athlete with all the money in the world, what is going on in his head?’

“He could walk away from the sport at any time and I wonder what was it that made him tick? The only thing I could think of is that in every GAA player, there’s that burning desire to be the best.  That’s all I could think of and it’s the same thing with us. That burning desire he has inside him, I have that same thing as well.”

Marlins Spring Baseball Giancarlo Stanton Source: Jeff Roberson

4. Striking the ball is like chopping firewood

“The dynamics are totally different. It’s very much about mechanics. your footwork, your hip alignment, your shoulders, anything from having your chin down there to up there.

“It took a while and when you’re striking a ball in hurling, you lean forward and put all your momentum in it; in baseball you have to lean back and it’s like chopping wood. It wasn’t so much the speed of the ball I struggled with as those spins they put on the ball.”

5. GAA club teams do as much physical training as baseball teams

“We did a conditioning day one day and at club training would do more. It was six 100 metre shuttles, 16 seconds with a 20 second break in it. Our club at home would do more.

“Now you have the elite guys like Juan Carlo, but the majority of guys wouldn’t be in the best of shape either, so I wasn’t surprised really. Even in the warm-up like, standing around chatting. They’d be jogging out, there was a strength and conditioning coach there ‘right guys, jog out.’

“It might only be 20 yards, some of them would be walking, some of them jogging. It’s just something completely different because in GAA you would have a guy barking at you. You would have 50 press-ups to do if you gave that kind of an attitude.”

6. Elite hurlers could convert to baseball

“After the first day, I was really struggling. By the end of it, I’d progressed nicely on it. Definitely hurlers would take to it if they went over there and you gave them a month of intensive training. The way guys in our game hit the ball so well. My hand eye co-ordination was as good as theirs.”

7. Baseball players found it difficult to understand hurlers catching a sliotar

“I brought a hurl and a ball. A few of them had actually heard of it. But they couldn’t believe that the players were amateurs. They catch the ball with the glove and at one stage I was pucking with a guy only 20 yards away into his hand but the coach came over and told him to stop pucking because he feared he would break a finger.

Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

“Over there I was trying to catch the ball with the glove and I just couldn’t do it, the ball kept popping out. You have to catch it up high in the glove rather than in the palm of your hand. So I took off the glove and they thought I was crazy. They were saying ‘you won’t catch it, you won’t catch it’ but it was just like catching a hurling ball.

“It just shows GAA players put their bodies on the line whereas they are a lot more padded, they are wearing gloves and things like that.”

Jackie Tyrrell celebrates at the final whistle Jackie Tyrrell celebrates Kilkenny's All-Ireland final win. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

8. And he’s happy enough with his hurling career

“I know this might sound crazy but why would you leave to play baseball if you’re an elite hurler? I actually wouldn’t. I know you might think I’m crazy in that but the buzz you get out of hurling compared to baseball is chalk and cheese. He (Brian Schneider) is obviously financially an awful lot better off because of it but no I wouldn’t (change). I love hurling, I love the buzz of the game, putting yourself up there against the best.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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