by Alan Hoskins
KCKCC sports information director
While the entire Royals fandom reveled in the success of Lorenzo Cain in helping the Kansas City Royals win the American League Division Playoff, it was even more significant for Rodney Christensen and Al Hobson.
Christensen is in his 17th year as head athletic trainer at Kansas City Kansas Community College; Hobson is in his 18th year as head track coach and both played major roles in Cain getting healthy and becoming a much quicker and faster outfielder and base-runner – of which Cain gave credit during a national telecast of the Royals’ four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.
Royals announcer Steve Physioc was the first to make note of Cain’s relationship with Hobson and KCKCC during a national telecast and two local television stations followed up with taped interviews on the college campus.
Following injury-plagued seasons of 2011 and 2012 in which he played a combined 67 games, Cain underwent three months of workouts under the direction of Christensen and Hobson at KCKCC and while it would be pure folly to suggest their rehabilitation was the main reason for his recent success, the facts are that he played in 133 regular season games this year, led the Royals in hitting with a .301average and was named the Most Valuable Player in the ALDS after hitting .533 and starring defensively.
“We use the same doctors as the Royals and specifically Dr. Vincent Key, who I’ve known for several years,” Christensen said. “Lorenzo had been having a series of nagging injuries, hamstrings, groin injuries and hip flexors so I asked Dr. Key to send videos of him. I must have watched 2-2½ hours of video.”
At the same time, Christensen referred Dr. Key and the Royals to Hobson, who has coached several Olympic sprinters, the most notable former Olympic 100 and 200-meter dash champion Maurice Greene. Coinicidentally, Dr. Key’s father-in-law was a teammate with Hobson at old Sumner High School.
For three months in the fall of 2012, Cain came monthly to KCKCC from his home in Oklahoma to work out with Christensen and Hobson.
“The first day he came I got in about 6 a.m. and he was sitting in the parking lot ready to work,” Christensen said. “I knew right then he was serious about getting better. Lorenzo is a great athlete but he just had some flaws.”
Cain came monthly for three months, working out four or five days each visit. Christensen designed a series of exercises and workouts to strengthen his legs to reduce the chance of injury. He also came up with specific warmup exercises for use before game.
“Sometimes between innings you’d see him doing them,” Christensen said. “We also gave him exercises to do at home and when he’d come back, we could tell the difference. You could tell he was doing his homework.”
Hobson, on the other hand, worked on improving his running.
“He told me he wanted to be the best and he wasn’t going to stop until he was the best,” Hobson said. “I don’t know what he considers the best but he’s sure getting there in a hurry.”
Hobson’s first step was to analyze the way Cain ran.
“I wanted to find out what was keeping him from running faster,” said Hobson, who focused on body position, how Cain’s feet touched down and how to get quicker starts. “His body position was not good at all. If you can eliminate as many negatives as you can, you can make a lot of progress”
He also worked with Cain to use strategic stretches to prevent injury and helped him get in “sprinter shape” with lunges and double leg bounds up and down steep hills near Wyandotte County Lake.
“I was hard on him, about killed him,” Hobson said. “But he wanted to learn and was willing to learn – the hardest working baseball player I’ve ever trained.”
Cain and Christensen continue to talk on a semi-regular basis and Hobson spent time with Lorenzo while watching batting practice from the Royals dugout prior to a late-season game.
“He’s going to be a superstar. He is a superstar,” Hobson said. “I’m just proud to see him doing so well and having the success he’s having. Every time he does something now, I’m pumped up. That’s the thrill I get, seeing him doing so well.”