MF: How has your MMA training made you a better catcher?
RM: What I’ve gained the most from MMA that applies to baseball is balance—using both sides of my body more. Baseball can be so one-dimensional, unless you’re a switch hitter; for me, it was always right-handed repetition—throwing the ball right-handed, hitting the ball from the right side. I felt like there was an imbalance in my body, and MMA training, with the [bilateral] kicking and punching, counteracts that. I’ve always been pretty agile and quick—my best assets as a catcher. I have more control and my core is so much stronger. It has helped me defensively as a catcher, no question. My hips are looser, I’m more flexible, and it’s easier to move side-to-side.
This past offseason, what did you do in the gym to prep for your first season with the Pirates?
I started with a good 30 to 40 minutes of warm-up: a lot of stretching and range of motion exercises for my hips, core, shoulders and arms. I did hip drills with resistance bands mixed in with regular stretches and glute-firing exercises. Then I’d get into a powerlifting phase and would circuit that in with other movements—one day focus on pushing, the next on pulling.