As we await our first glimpse of Matt Kemp, who hopefully is in the “best shape of his life,” a look back at how Lonnie spent the the winter following his terrific 1989 campaign.
The Lonnie Smith Weight Watch has been an ongoing concern in Atlanta ever since word got out in January that Smith, the team’s 1989 MVP (.315 average, 21 homers, 25 stolen bases), had tipped the scales at 226, some 35 pounds over his playing weight and somewhat unseemly for a 5’9″ ballplayer. The term “plate appearances” had taken on a whole new meaning for Smith.
“I stopped smoking on December 3 and started snacking,” says Smith, who had been a pack-a-day smoker. “Instead of playing winter ball, I sat around the house watching TV. The most exercise I got was walking around in shopping malls. I knew I was gaining weight, but I didn’t know how much until I stepped on the scale one day and saw 225.”
Batting coach Clarence Jones strongly suggested to Smith that he enroll in the Georgia Sports Institute, and he did, embarking on an aerobics program and a new diet. “Chicken and fish, no more fettuccine Alfredo,” says Smith. “And lots of water—eight eight-ounce glasses a day.”
Smith showed up for his first day of workouts last Thursday, and naturally the topic of the day was his size. To his credit, Smith was pretty up front about his weight gain—he was also out back and spilling over the sides. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” he said, “knowing everybody was gonna ask, ‘How big is he?’ “
He was pretty big, 209 pounds to be exact, but he said losing the extra weight “won’t be a heavy problem,” no pun intended. He did have a difficult time squeezing into his size 33 uniform pants. “I’m not gonna change the pants,” he said, fingering a split seam on the inside of his thigh. “This way I’ll know that the bigger they feel on me, the smaller I’m getting.” He still has 15 pounds to lose in two weeks.