Drew Storen is 24 years-old, he's the closer for the Washington Nationals and, what I discovered when I went down to Florida last week, is that he is baseball's Bruce Wayne: a pitcher by day, but a Batman-loving, adrenaline junkie by night. He even has his own batmobile.
"I'm a huge Batman fan," Storen said.
I would soon find out. But when the day began, I didn't know what would be in store. I knew Storen went to Stanford, posted 43 saves last year, was one of the best young relievers in the game, and was an interesting person. I also had seen him tweeting this winter about Bikram yoga, and knew that it was becoming a trend with a lot of big leaguers, including Jim Thome.
"I think the heat helps," Storen said. "You've gotta really get after it. And you kind of have no choice but to focus, because you're just dying, because it's really hot."
Storen first started doing it when he was in college, and has continued ever since. I still found it amazing that he practices it during spring training, when he's working out every day. His teammate, roommate and Nats setup man Tyler Clippard also is a Bikram enthusiast. He says he thinks he's been doing hot yoga longer than Storen; during spring training they both attend classes together.
"I think staying flexible, and having your body work as efficiently as possible is very important, especially for a pitcher," Clippard said. "Having your body move in the right way is obviously something that's gonna keep you healthy, and staying on the field, which is the ultimate goal."
Both men are friends, but they both are also professional athletes. In the condo they both share, they have a white dry-erase board with a running tally of their NHL 2012 matchups, and when they get in the hot yoga room, the competition is just the same -- even if the purpose of the yoga is to challenge yourself. focus only on your poses. But I told Storen there was no way I could envision either of them conceding anything with the other in the room, even if one of them feels like passing out or vomiting. There's no way you'd concede that, right?
"Oh yeah, no," he said. "You're trying to get deeper in the pose, and do the cool extra stuff in the pose."
Said Jenna Lomazzo, our Bikram instructor: "This type of yoga actually is really good for athletes, and for all people, but especially those competitive type, a-type personalities, because it's pushing you to your edge, and it's asking you to do more, and more and more."
Not all of their teammates have subscribed. Ryan Zimmerman told me he's never done Bikram and only attended one yoga class. He hasn't gone back because, he said, as a professional athlete, it's frustrating when you try and do something physically and you can't master it. That made a lot of sense to me. A quick poll around the room, though, and there were plenty of guys who had done hot yoga before. But none I could find who were still practicing it regularly, and doing it in Spring Training.
I had only done one class before, so I was nervous because the first time I took a class, I nearly died. I was dehydrated and spent the rest of the night with an ice pack on my head, wanting to vomit.
You'll have to watch the video to see how I did, but yoga was not the only fun we had during the day I spent with Storen. While at Stanford, Storen majored in design -- his mother, Pam, is a graphic designer -- and Drew had always grown up sketching and painting. He showed me a painting he made this winter of Batman. Storen is a huge Batman fan and he said the painting took only about a week. He plans on framing it and putting it up in his condo. Then he told me about his batmobile, a custom-built 2010 Nissan GT-R. The thing is sick. We took a ride in it, where the engine roared, and then he let me drive it. I got it from 0 to 60 in what felt like one second.
I still have no idea why he let me drive it, but with fierce lightning in the sky and thunder booming, I got to pretend I was in Gotham for a night, with, naturally, baseball's Bruce Wayne.