Powers: Perk conquers Perry’s Peak; more to come?
By Tom Powers
St. Paul Pioneer Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Glen Perkins is king of the hill.
“By default,” Perkins noted.
It’s true that he rules over a very small tribe of hill people. But Perkins, by virtue of being the first man to charge up the new “agility hill” here at the Lee County Sports Complex, is the reigning monarch. It is not known whether he planted a flag upon reaching the peak. But it took courage. Almost everybody else looks at that hill as if it were a spaceship that has landed in their midst.
Brian Duensing soon followed Perkins. Then Matt Guerrier and Phil Hughes declared their allegiance by running the hill and working out in the adjacent sand pit.
The large, grassy conditioning hill is the brainchild of strength and conditioning coach Perry Castellano.
“Perry’s got us out there, and that’s kind of his little baby,” said Hughes.
“I think Perry has slept up there a few times, to be honest with you,” Perkins said.
“We’re getting back to be trying to become more athletic,” Castellano said. “Over the course of time, we’ve seen players become so skill-oriented. Players have a tendency to focus on just one thing. So what we want to do is incorporate stuff that you did when you were back in recess. We’re looking at lower-half explosiveness and being outdoors and having some fun doing it.”
So far, not too many players have opted to partake in the fun. But several days ago, Perkins hopped in a golf cart and rode over to the hill. Under Castellano’s direction, he had his first workout there.
“I think I always struggle with the repetition of doing things and whatnot,” Perkins said. “So it’s something different.”
“One becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes 16,” Castellano said. “It’s exponential. But there has to be ownership for the players to do it. If it’s not something they want to do, it’s not something they are being forced to do.”
Privately, there is quite a bit of tongue-clicking and head-shaking. After all, this isn’t football. Why would baseball players run up a hill? I’ve seen minor league coaches try not to make eye contact with the hill as they walk past. Baseball people never have been quick to embrace different ideas.
“But the reviews have been good,” said Castellano, 54. “The reviews were a little nervous in the beginning. But it is something new for this generation of ballplayers. This is stuff that we did when I was growing up. We did use a lot of hills. We did do sprints in the sand.”
Of course, Castellano knows he will be handing out food samples at the Costco for a living if a key player pulls a hamstring on that hill.
“And Bill will have his parking spaces back,” he said with a laugh.
The complex is undergoing a multimillion-dollar makeover under the direction of former Twins general manager Bill Smith. A lot of prime parking spots were gobbled up by the creation of Perry’s Peak. And this bump on the horizon, eight feet at its apex, is considered quite controversial.
“There’s no official position on the hill,” Castellano said, noting that most people have declared their neutrality.
The players may be slow in warming to the conditioning hill, but everyday people marvel at the grassy lump that sits in what used to be part of the parking lot. They give daily tours of the Twins’ baseball facilities, and the newest stop is the big, green knoll. Why, it’s just the second of its kind in all of baseball, the fans are told. Only the Cincinnati Reds have anything like it.
“I like that. I like doing it,” Perkins said. “It’s something different. (Castellano) talks about how each side of the hill has a different angle, so you can do different stuff, different things. Jump up it, lunge up it, just a lot of different elements of exercise that’s been fun.”
“It’s been good stuff, especially in this heat,” Hughes said after his three-inning stint against the Red Sox on Thursday.
Not far behind the hill is the barracks-like side wall of the minor league locker room. By summer, that wall is going to be painted blue, and then a 3-D image of Kirby Puckett making “the catch” in the 1991 World Series will be created in front of it. Puckett’s glove will extend above the roof of the building. It should be a very cool sight for anyone near the hill.
Meanwhile, before Thursday’s game, a 4-3 loss to Boston, Perkins could be seen doing lunges up the hill and then running zig-zags in the sand pit. Most of his teammates remain wary. But it’s a start. Perry’s Peak could turn out to be the next big thing. Or if it doesn’t work out and somebody gets injured, it could just as easily become Perry’s Pile.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.