Ever the kid, Matt Holliday remains fit and strong at 35

Matt Holliday is in better physical condition today than a great majority of players.

Scott Rovak/Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. — When Matt Holliday moved his family to South Florida this offseason, he said a big reason was to give his children a chance to play outdoors year-round. With his two oldest sons already showing a love for baseball and other sports, such a move made a lot of sense.

What Holliday didn’t bring up was that relocating to the Sunshine State also would allow Pops the opportunity to play outside throughout the offseason. Even though he turned 35 in January, plenty of kid remains in Matt Holliday. Not just "kid at heart" stuff, either.

Holliday still plays more like a kid than a 30-something. He is in better physical condition today than a great majority of players, especially those who have spent 11 seasons in the big leagues.

There still is no player on the Cardinals who hits the ball harder or is stronger than Holliday. And no big leaguer his age on any team showed his durability in 2014. It wasn’t even close, really. Jose Bautista, who turns 35 in October, played 133 games in the field last season. Albert Pujols, who is one day younger than Holliday, played 117. Holliday played 150 games in left field for the second time in three seasons and played 150-plus games for the fourth time in his six full seasons in St. Louis.

He was as productive as any National League left fielder, too. Despite an admittedly disappointing first half at bat, Holliday led NL left fielders in 2014 with a .370 on-base percentage, finished second with 83 runs and 90 RBIs, and ranked third with 20 homers. Even his slugging, which was a career-low .441, ranked fifth among NL left fielders.

"I didn’t hit that well in the first half (six homers in the first 93 games, 14 in the final 63) but overall, body-wise, it was a really good year for me," Holliday said. "I was really, really healthy."

When told that he covered left field better in 2014 than in 2013, Holliday did not disagree.

"I make sure I’m running a lot to keep life on the legs," he said. "That’s always my goal. But yeah, I felt really good all year."

MORE ON THE CARDINALS

Based on his hitting in spring training, Holliday put his offseason in the sunshine to good use. He went into Wednesday’s game with a .382 batting average that, alas, included no homers but no shortage of scalded line drives, either. He is set to begin the season hitting out of his familiar three-hole.

While Mike Matheny has talked about resting Holliday more – an idea not endorsed by Holliday, of course — you wonder how much it would help to sit out more games. That his second halves have been stronger than his first halves the past two seasons would indicate a player who doesn’t weaken down the stretch.

You can be sure Holliday is taking care of himself through the marathon season. Not only does he work as hard as any player, he does the right things off the field, too. Holliday says he got into eating healthy during high school and these days, he goes with the grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish diet.

"I started really getting involved with lifting weights and eating healthy and understanding what that looks like when I was in high school," he said. "The more you learn about it, the better you get at it. I try to stay out in front of what’s the newest training and what taking care of your body looks like."

He knows the better he takes care of himself today, the longer he will be able to play like a kid tomorrow.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.