Retired NFL players typically have plenty of options when it comes to using their football talents and skill sets after their playing careers are over. Many become analysts on television and radio, while others transition into coaching or front-office roles.
Green Bay Packers all-time leading rusher Ahman Green, however, found an innovative way to use his football background: He taught a young baseball player the best ways to train.
Before the 2012 Major League Baseball season, Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes was in the Dominican Republic. While waiting for contract offers to determine which team he’d join, Cespedes — now with the Oakland Athletics — was working out and preparing himself for the transition to baseball in the big leagues.
But how did Green, a four-time Pro Bowl running back who lives in Wisconsin, become Cespedes’ trainer in the Dominican Republic?
“It was through a friend of a friend,” Green told FOXSportsWisconsin.com in a recent phone interview. “I knew somebody working with him. That person invited me down to the Dominican Republic to help train (Cespedes) for a month over the summer of last year (2011).”
When the idea originally was brought up to Cespedes, he had no idea who Green was. Then Cespedes was shown football highlight film of Green, and soon the two were training.
“Once he saw who I was, he was ready to meet me and understood that I was coming there to work out with him and give him pointers here and there,” Green said. “I think I helped him. He was always thankful of my time there.”
One of the biggest goals for Green during training with Cespedes was to dispel what he believed to be a myth about working out extensively being a negative thing for baseball players.
“I know baseball players, and they don’t really train as we do as football players,” Green said. “I let him know if he trains anywhere close to how a football player trains, that he’ll be more than in shape for baseball.
“A baseball player’s mindset, it’s good, but it’s not on our level in terms of doing everything — lifting weights, running. They look at weights sometimes that it hurts that naturalness in you. They worry about that. They worry about not looking too heavy and not running so much, all those little things that actually help if you do it the right way.”
Green also helped acclimate Cespedes to certain aspects of American popular culture.
“Coming from Cuba, he wasn’t really exposed to the things that the average American youth is exposed to,” Green said. “Simple things like the Internet, TV, certain things like social networks. He’s been introduced to all that now with me.
“I was playing Angry Birds on my phone, and he’d ask me, ‘What’s that?’ Then I’d show him, and he’d be on my phone the rest of the day. The way of life in Cuba, things are so different.”
A few months after finishing his training with Green, Cespedes landed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A’s.
Though the two haven’t spoken recently, Green tracks Cespedes’ statistics on a daily basis through an app on his phone.
“I think we’re friends because we always had a good time laughing and joking,” Green said.
Cespedes’ rookie season in Oakland already has had a lot of ups and downs. He has been injury-prone, missing 32 of the A’s 91 games so far because of hamstring, knee and hand injuries. However, through 219 at-bats, Cespedes leads Oakland in batting average at .288 and is second on the team in home runs (11) and RBI (42).