With Major League Baseball returning this week, ESPN Playbook spoke with four of the game's brightest young stars -- Jon Jay (St. Louis Cardinals), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) and David Price (Rays) -- to see what kinds of new adventures they experienced this offseason. It was anything but a laid-back winter vacation for them.
What were your favorite trips?
Jay: "I went to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana [Dominican Republic] with my fiancée, Nikki [Stecich]. It was the first time we were able to take a real vacation. We did zip-lining, which was pretty cool. We went over like a river. We were way up there and I got to record all that. It was just cool to see the mountains. We also went snorkeling. I’ve snorkeled with sharks before, but we went to this place where it was like a shark reserve with stingrays. That was pretty cool. They’re nurse sharks and not as dangerous as the great whites or tiger sharks. I grew up in Miami and I love anything that has to do with the water.
I also went paddleboarding in Marathon [Fla.]. The Keys are one of my favorite places to go just because it’s a two-hour drive from Miami. One day, we were hanging out on the beach and I had my paddleboard, and then all of a sudden my fiancée was like, 'There’s a dolphin out there!' So I sprinted out there and got like 20 feet away from them, which was pretty cool. It was kind of like one of those random moments where I was like, 'Man, how did this happen?' I’m really looking forward to next year. I’m going to stick around and just spend the whole day out there trying to see a school of dolphins.”
Longoria: "I was at the X Games, which was really cool. I was with Red Bull because I’m a Red Bull athlete, and I was able to hang out with all their athletes. I didn’t know anything about that world, so just to be able to see what they do on a daily basis, how they prepare, that kind of stuff. Just watching them compete, all that stuff, is cool -- I mean, you see that stuff on TV -- but the behind-the-scenes preparation stuff is very interesting. I got to see snowboard freestyle, women’s halfpipe and then the men’s snowmobile speed and style. It was cool.”
McCutchen: "Something I do every offseason is a Nike trip. This year, we went to Nevis and St. Kitts, so that was kind of a nice trip. It was a good time and I enjoyed it. It was great because we relaxed on the beach for the most part. That’s what’s fun about it. Our lives are so hectic every day, doing what we do, that we don’t have the opportunity to relax and do nothing. It was definitely my first time out there. I’m not a plane rider. I really don’t like planes that much, so anything that has to do with a plane, I’m not going. We took a little plane there and that was definitely a different experience.”
Price: “Any time you get to go out to California to just hang out and shoot commercials, it’s always cool. And that’s what the MLB 2K13 people had me do in Los Angeles. It's pretty surreal to be the cover athlete for the new video game. I never really envisioned myself to be on the cover of a video game or anything like that, so to be a part of something like this is very cool. And I got to be a part of ESPN and do interviews at "SportsCenter." I was on the TV show "SportsNation" and all that. I had never done anything like that before. That was just fun. It was a blast. I also went to the Bahamas for the first time ever. It was for my buddy’s wedding and we had a great time at Atlantis. I’m taking my entire family out there this offseason. I had so much fun out there. I spent about four hours a day in the Lazy River and I really enjoy stuff like that. I also did a straight-down water slide. I was terrified, but I did it."
What was the craziest thing that happened during your travels?
Jay: "I’ve been pretty lucky, knock on wood. Nothing crazy has happened to me.”
Longoria: "When I came back from the X Games going to Phoenix, I picked up my luggage, I get home and set the luggage down for like 15 minutes; I hadn’t even looked at. Then I look at the tag and the luggage tag says 'Channing Frye' with his number on it, and I’m like, 'No way!' I picked up the wrong bag and coincidentally it’s Channing Frye’s bag from the Phoenix Suns. There was also a number on it, and it was his wife’s number. I called the number, I texted the number and no answer. She didn't respond to me until the next day. They weren't even on the same flight as me. I was flying United; she was flying US Airways, but for whatever reason her bag got on our flight. So I took the bag back and got mine, and it was the exact same bag. It was a Nike bag, but I didn’t think anybody else could have the same bag, but obviously I was wrong. It ended up that Channing gave me tickets to a game in L.A. I had never met him until then."
McCutchen: “When we had to fly from Miami to our final destination in St. Kitts, there was a storm that was passing through. It was pretty bad out and right when the plane would take off, it disappeared within five seconds. We had to go through it on this little six-seater plane, and it was an hour and a half flight. So I definitely was not looking forward to that. I was asking the pilot like, 'Hey, can we just wait like 30 minutes, can we wait for it to pass through?' And he was just kind of like: 'Nah, we’ll get through it. I’ll do my best to pass through it.' And we ended up going through it, man. It’s definitely something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Being in a regular plane now is nothing compared to that. It’s definitely a rush every time I’m on a flight. But it’s not too bad; it’s only when it’s bad out.”
Price: "When we were coming back from the Bahamas, something happened with our plane that it wasn’t going to be able to take off. And I was very impatient at the time. I didn’t want to hang out in the Bahamas airport another day. Being in the airport is the worst, so I scheduled a private flight out of there as quick as possible so I could leave. That was the one of the crazier things I did.”
Any fun fan encounters during the offseason?
Jay: “I was surprised how much they recognized me in Punta Cana. I remember my buddy Rafael Furcal told me how much the people really love baseball players over there and how genuine they are toward baseball players. They kind of shocked me, like every time I went on a tour or just walking around the hotel, Dominican locals would see me and say, 'Man, I recognize you from somewhere.' Once they put two and two together, they were super-excited. It was just great to see how humble they are and really genuine the people are. I think a lot of that came from us winning the World Series in 2011, and them paying attention to the Cardinals and the tradition we have as a team. It was really a neat experience to be received like that traveling to another country.”
Longoria: "Just for fun one day, me and my brother were sitting around the house and I was like, I’m just going to tweet out my 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 2' gamer tag right now. I told people to put a clan tag and a message together, and send it to me on Xbox. We let random people into our party and played with them. We did that for like two hours. That was pretty fun. We were playing with random 'Call of Duty' Rays baseball fans. It was the first time that I had ever done anything like that as far as doing it through Twitter.”
McCutchen: "One guy did recognize me on the island. He didn’t know my name; he just said the Pirates."
Did you pick up any new hobbies?
Jay: "I’m trying to get a DJ set as we speak. I want to start learning how to DJ a little bit. I like music a lot and I just started messing around. I got a little turntable set for my iPad, but now I want to take it to the next level where I can really try to put some good music together and just have fun with it. I’ll mess with it sometimes on the plane, like I’ll have my headphones in and I’ll mess around with it. That’s kind of what got me into it and something I want to just try to get better at. I like a little bit of everything, but mostly hip-hop and Spanish music. Being Cuban, I like Spanish music."
Longoria: "This year, me and a really good group of guys from Tampa that I’ve known for a long time are about to open a restaurant. Food is my biggest passion outside of baseball. This is definitely not my own concept, but I’m pretty excited to be a part of it. It’s going to be like a boutique sports lounge in the Tampa Bay area. It’s going to be like a really different twist on a sports bar restaurant. There will definitely be a personal touch to the menu and it will open sometime during the season. That's something that’s got me really excited. And me and my girlfriend, Jaime [Edmondson], had a baby girl. So I think this year is going to be really exciting for me and for her, and for everybody that’s going to be involved with the restaurant. The restaurant is called Ducky’s. The guys that are the concept behind the idea are friends from just being in the Tampa Bay area. And my best friend, Jovanni Cruz, will be the assistant general manager. I’ve known him since kindergarten, so he’ll be the eyes and ears of the place, so to speak. He’ll be there every day."
Did you try any new workouts?
Jay: "I took up paddleboarding, which I really enjoyed doing a lot. Being from Miami, I’m lucky that I can just jump on the paddleboard and go to beach. That’s something I wanted to do the year before, but I didn’t, so I bought two paddleboards and tried to do it as much as I could. That’s something that was fun; I could be in the water. It’s good for pool workouts, so I started incorporating that into my workouts a little bit. I used to see people doing it all the time and started to do my research. Once I started using it, I started realizing what a good upper-body and core workout it was. So I started backing off so much upper body in the weight room and really just focused on paddleboarding a couple times a week. I would do it for like an hour, hour and a half. I’ll paddle out as far as I can and then just kind of relax a little bit. If it's a little bit choppier, it’s more of a workout. It just depends on the day. I've already noticed a difference. My core is in better shape just because of the paddleboarding. I've told my teammates about it. Actually, my teammate Daniel Descalso and I went out paddleboarding for a little bit. Maybe next year I’ll have a group of guys down in Miami who want to go paddleboarding.”
Longoria: "The workout industry kind of evolves as fast as technology, so there’s always new stuff to try out and the next best thing. I had a small procedure done on my hamstring this offseason to kind of clean up some scar tissue and stuff. So I was in Scottsdale [Ariz.] for two months just rehabbing hard and working out every day, and really focused on playing injury-free -- just trying to get my body, get my legs and get everything in shape as best I can. I’m feeling really good now."
McCutchen: “I tried bike riding a little more back home in Florida. I went and got some bikes and just rode bikes around town every day on the back streets, just staying off the main roads. I really enjoyed it because it’s definitely a good workout and it’s something good, it’s something different. You have to kind of trick your body not doing the same thing every offseason, so I did that for a little bit and then my tire popped."
Price: "There’s always little things, there’s always big things to work on. Baseball is constantly evolving and you’ve got to be able to change with it. That’s the biggest thing. That’s what I was trying to do this offseason -- just focus on the things that I’ve been doing and just making them a little bit better if possible.”
Any cool new purchases?
Jay: "I got a new car this offseason. My childhood friend Omar Murray started his own auto-tune shop called Velos Designwerks. He’s been my best friend since we were 8 years old. I got the new BMW 650i Gran Coupe, two-door. This is like the first time I got a car. I was driving my Chevrolet TrailBlazer since college. After two years in the league, I finally got my car. He pimped it out and it came out super-sick, and it’s amazing, man. Everywhere I go now, people are like, 'Man, what kind of car is that?' I just got 21-inch rims, and it was chrome and we changed it to black.”
Longoria: "I bought my parents a home, so that was my big purchase. I bought them a home in Arizona that’s really close to mine. I’m excited for that. My parents aren’t retired, so when they’re ready to retire, they’ll have a house waiting for them in Scottsdale. It will be close to me and my growing family. We’ll all be able to be closer, so that’s a big deal for me.”
McCutchen: "I fixed up my truck a little bit and got a paint job on it. That’s about it. It’s a new truck. I don’t want to tell the world. I’ll put it like this, it’s definitely different than the norm.”
Who was the coolest person you met this summer?
Longoria: "The Red Bull athletes."
McCutchen: "I met Harrison Ford this offseason because he’s doing the movie for Jackie Robinson, '42,' which is really good. He’s playing the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time. I got to watch that movie early and he was there, so I got to meet him and talk to him for a little bit. He’s a cool guy. It was cool to meet him and it’s even cooler that he’s going to be in that movie.”
Price: "I was really happy to meet Shaquille O’Neal. I got to meet him at the TeenNick HALO Awards, and he’s funny just like he is when everybody else sees him. He’s that guy. He’s huge, his hands just broke my hands. He’s just a huge human being."