Winter is coming, and Noah Syndergaard is ready for it.
The New York Mets pitcher has been out of action for most of the 2017 season with a torn lat muscle, and while he’s very much anticipating getting back on the mound, the injury has had at least one benefit: Syndergaard’s been able to catch up on his favorite TV show, Game of Thrones.
“I've been watching the series over again because my girlfriend's never seen it,” Syndergaard told Men’s Fitness. “It’s the perfect binge. We're basically done with the series already. The show's incredible.”
Syndergaard hasn’t been shy about his Game of Thrones fandom, using the show's theme song as his walkout music and putting designs of characters Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Tyrion Lannister (Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage) in his glove. The producers caught wind of Syndergaard’s love of the show, offering to send the pitcher to a “middle-of-nowhere village” in Spain during the offseason. His reaction: “Hell yeah, I'd love to do that.”
It wasn’t hard to find a part for Syndergaard to play. With the “fair-haired, tall, and handsome” Lannisters set for all-out war in Season 7 of the HBO series, the flaxen-haired, 6’6”, 240-lb pitcher (nicknamed "Thor") fit right in playing a soldier.
Syndergaard caught up with Men’s Fitness while working on a new campaign for Cholula hot sauce. The pitcher is now the face of the brand’s “Order of Cholula” community, and often uses the hot sauce on his favorite dish, the protein-packed Bowl of Doom. Growing up in Texas, Syndergaard was always a fan of hot sauce and even before working with Cholula, it was his favorite brand to use.
The pitcher spoke about his favorite Thrones characters, his intense desire to get back on the mound, his favorite meat combination for Bowls of Doom, and how he trains while dealing with an injury.
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
MEN’S FITNESS: You only made five starts this season before getting injured. What makes you most excited about getting back on the mound?
Noah Syndergaard: That’s a good question, because it’s tough to be out with an injury and I’m anxious and excited to get back out there. As a competitor and an athlete you want to go out there and do your job, but some health factors are limiting that right now.
I’m excited to pitch in front of the fans and get on the mound again. Being up there on the mound, I feel like myself when I'm pitching. I feel free. It's just the most fun I could ever possibly think of, going out there and pitching in a professional baseball game, in front of, what I think, are the best fans in baseball. The amount of passion the fans have is incredible, I see it walking into the ballpark. The fans have the [blonde] wigs, the Thor hammers, costumes, everything. It’s so cool how passionate they are.
What can you tell us about your Game of Thrones appearance? What was it like working on the show?
I can't really give away anything. I can't give you too much information. It was really cool—the guys who make the show had heard I was such a fan, and that’s the reason it all happened. They offered to give me a part, a small cameo on the show. When I went and filmed it, I took my parents out there to Spain. It was a great village to be in. My mom actually was the one who really got me into the show, so that's really awkward. I watched the first season with her—I got scarred from that.
Who are your favorite Game of Thrones characters?
For one thing, I have to say Tyrion, because he's really amazing. His mind is a weapon. And Varys (Conleth Hill), the eunuch, I mean he has himself a seat on the King’s small council for a while and now is right-hand to Tyrion and Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke). I really like Bronn (Jerome Flynn), the sellsword, too. I actually got to meet him. He was the only character I got to meet. I mean Jon Snow's cool, too, but everybody likes Jon Snow.
What has your rehab been like? What types of training and workouts have you been able to do while out?
I’ve been doing a lot of programs and workouts with my trainer that were put together by Eric Cressey, who specializes in working with baseball players and athletes with injuries. Although I'm limited with what I can do with my upper body on my right side, I can still use my left side. So I’ve been doing upper body with that side, and I can still do my regular legs workouts.
It’s a little different because you don't necessarily want to be holding stuff a whole lot at a time, but we’ve been using a lot of different kinds of specialty bars to make sure I get real work done. Once I’m back to full strength, I’ll do more of my usual routine—more deadlifts, rowing stuff, free weights, squats, and the bench.
You’ve said that you use hot sauce on almost everything you eat. Have you always been into spicy flavors?
As a Texan, it comes naturally. I’ve been using Cholula way before this. It's been my favorite hot sauce to use for, basically, my entire life. During my time in the minor leagues, every clubhouse had it. Being an athlete, you have certain dietary needs and restrictions, and sometimes you want to spice up that food when eating healthy.
What did you enjoy most working with Cholula on this project?
There was an adventurer-hiker guy who lived in a Volkswagen van for two years. He cooked out of the van, and he always used Cholula to cook. There was another guy who used Cholula to help him eat right and lose 60lbs. He ended up getting a little Cholula bottle tattooed on his forearm.
What are your favorite foods to have with hot sauce?
When I have a sandwich with avocado, it’s perfect for that. It goes great on pizza, grilled chicken, brown rice, and on French fries. I’m a big French fries kind of guy—that's my guilty pleasure. It’s great for anything barbecued in the summer, with baked beans, grilled corn on the cob, on ribs mixed with the barbecue sauce.
We know all about one of your favorite meals—the muscle-building “Bowl of Doom” from Kozy Kitchen in Dallas, TX. What’s your top combination of that meal?
I had a whole lot of those this offseason [laughs]. They offer chicken, salmon, ribeye, bacon, grass-fed beef, and buffalo, but my favorite is the venison sausage. It comes with sweet potato hash, avocado, and two eggs. I love having it with Cholula on it, gives it a great spicy taste. I don't know where to get venison sausage in New York. Gotta get those guys to send some up here.
What are your expectations for the Mets for the rest of the season?
You know it's tough right now, because we're kind of down and dealing with injuries, but there's still a lot of baseball to be played. We've still got a lot of talent, and we're one game away from really turning this thing around. Last year we were in a tough spot and turned it around to make the playoffs. We have the talent to do it again.