Hamels: Flying high on the beach
Phillies left-hander enjoyed the sand and sun as a kid
If I had to rank my favorite sports to play, I would say that beach volleyball comes in third. Obviously, baseball is far and ahead No. 1, but beach volleyball is right behind golf and baseball for me. I love getting friends together and playing some two-on-two. It's hard not to want to stay at the beach all day.
When I was younger, I played beach volleyball all the time. I had a friend, Scott Lonergan, who I played baseball with, and we always went to the beach together. We would go to the beach in the morning and play volleyball. When the time came, we would head to the baseball field and play ball. I think we did that almost every day during the summer. Now, not really having an actual summer, it's hard to do that. I miss it.
We would usually play in Del Mar or Pacific Beach in San Diego. Those places had the best games and best competition. I never had the opportunity to play up in Manhattan Beach or Hermosa Beach near Los Angeles, but I hear they're great places to play. Scott's fiancé is a professional beach volleyball player in LA He still sticks with it.
When we played together, it was always friends between us. It was the two of us against whoever we were playing. Even if we lost games, we never blamed each other. We just loved the competitive nature and fun.
In my hometown of San Diego, there were some guys there who just lived and breathed beach volleyball. I'm sure that we got smoked more than half the time we played. We played to have fun and as a great way to stay in shape. It was a good time. As weird as it is to think about it, a lot of the times, it was the smaller players who could jump the highest and were the best. They are a lot quicker in the sand than us tall, lanky guys.
I think I have watched more women's beach volleyball than the games featuring men. I have watched a lot of Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh matches. For them to be at the top of their game for so long is impressive.
The hardest part for me is trying to maneuver around in the sand. That alone keeps you in great shape. You have to be very agile to jump and get a lot of momentum going in the sand. As a pitcher, you derive so much of your power from your legs that you have to be strong in your lower half. You're on your feet 24/7, so playing beach volleyball is a great way to remain in shape. Beach volleyball hones your quick reflexes, and it's very useful when you get a comebacker right back at you on the mound.
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels enjoyed another strong season in 2011. He won 14 games and posted a 2.79 ERA and held hitters to a .214 batting average, both the lowest marks of his six-year career.
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