Andrea Hayden Twins’ strength and conditioning coach | Minnesota Twins

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Andrea Hayden isn’t too accustomed to having Twins players upset with her. But she was thrilled about it.

Several players had seen Hayden featured in a television segment that highlighted her as the first female strength and conditioning coach in Major League Baseball, and they approached her in the weight room, aghast that they hadn’t already been aware of Hayden’s place in league history.

“How did we not know?” they asked her.

“I wear that as a badge because you’re not supposed to know,” Hayden said. “‘Good. I’m doing my job, because you shouldn’t be aware. You need to focus on what we’re doing and where we’re headed as an organization.'”

Hayden officially became a member of the Twins’ coaching staff last November, when strength and conditioning director Ian Kadish promoted her to assistant coach following a year-long fellowship during the 2019 season. Nobody was really aware of it at the time, but that made her not only the first female strength and conditioning coach in MLB history, but also the first full-time female member of a Major League staff.

It was only later on that Kadish and Hayden got curious and looked through the MLB staff directory to see if there was anyone else. There wasn’t. (Gabe Kapler and the San Francisco Giants have since hired Alyssa Nakken to their Major League staff.)

“OK, cool,” Hayden told Kadish. “Let’s move on. We have work to do.”

That workmanlike attitude defines how both Hayden and the Twins’ organization have approached this move. Kadish offered her the job because he saw her personality as a great fit on his staff and he felt a strong connection to her working philosophy. Kadish considers Hayden to be more of an expert than himself in Olympic lifts and has given her a lead role in the Twins’ performance-testing initiatives.

Hayden is here to contribute her knowledge to the championship push of a 101-win team, and that’s a responsibility she takes very seriously.

“She’s got a great personality, she’s got great knowledge in her field, and she’s adapted to the Major League clubhouse, it feels like effortlessly,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It didn’t take very long for a lot of our players to come forward and say that they really enjoyed working with her, and it was a pretty straightforward, pretty easy decision for us to want to have her here and have her here full-time and do her thing, which is great.”

Hayden laughs as she reflects on what her life was like just one year ago, when she was very happy in her role as an athletic performance coach at Lindenwood University, near her hometown of St. Louis. Even without considering her budding Major League career, she’s the first to admit that her professional career has been anything but traditional.

Her interest in the field stemmed in part from her own experiences of looking for any competitive advantage when she played basketball, softball and soccer when she was young. (“I’m five-two-and-a-half with shoes on,” she says with a laugh.) Academics didn’t come easily to her, so she started her career as an 18-year-old as a physical trainer and managed some gyms around the St. Louis area until she “got burnt out of training soccer moms.”

That gave her important, hands-on experience with developing people skills and sharing her knowledge with a wide variety of people. When she found that she needed the scientific background to bring out her full potential in the field, she went to college at age 24 and emerged with degrees in exercise science and human performance. Her career has since seen stops at EXOS, the University of Louisville, USA Hockey and Team China Women’s Hockey.

“I think it’s just a love of what the weight room means and the power that it can have in the culture that is kind of driven out of that, where we work hard and we see the benefits of it on the field,” Hayden said. “And not to say that that’s everything, but it is something really powerful.”

One day last February, a former colleague, Aaron Rhodes, told her on the phone that a friend had an opportunity in baseball. He asked her to call and just to listen to what the friend had to offer. That friend was Kadish, and he and Hayden immediately had a strong connection as the pair discussed an opportunity with the Major League team.

Except, well, Hayden thought she was missing something.

“I remember being like, a third of the way into our conversation, he hadn’t brought up one time that I was a girl,” Hayden remembers. “And I’m like, ‘Does he not know?'”

“So, do you have any more questions?” Kadish asked at the end of the call.

“Yeah, like, I’m female,” Hayden recalls. “Where do you see that as being an issue or a problem?”

She remembers Kadish laughing.

“Look. Your job is the same as my job,” Kadish told her. “The only way it’s going to be difficult is if you do it differently than I do it. I’m not viewing it at all any differently than what I have to do.”

“He never once flinched at it,” Hayden said. “It never was an option. Like, it never was a disadvantage because of being a female. He only saw it as an advantage.”

Five days later, Hayden was in her car, driving down to Spring Training in Fort Myers. She left a full-time job with benefits and her hometown behind when she left Lindenwood for the fellowship with Kadish and the Twins.

“A personal motto is ‘courage over comfort,’ and choosing the things that maybe are unknown and scary and taking that leap,” Hayden said. “It’s always paid off. And I’m really fortunate that it has.”

It’s a reflection of Hayden’s personality and the seriousness with which she takes her role on a winning team that she’s never really looked to carry herself as any sort of figurehead — and there’s nothing about her day-to-day life that really makes her feel the need to do so. She calls the players her “brothers” and gives and takes friendly jabs with the best of them as she works the weight room.

She jokes that the only difference is that all of her team shirts are in men’s sizes.

“She wants to be low-key,” Kadish said. “She wants to lay low and do her job to the best of her ability and let her work speak for itself. I commend her for that in every aspect. I have no problem blowing her tires up and bumping her up, because she deserves it.”

“I think my success in my career, it’s secondary to [the players] and our success as a team, and I feel that I’m part of them,” Hayden said. “So I’d never want to make myself feel as if I have an individual platform. I have a platform with the Twins. And I really take that seriously. So every win, every loss, I wear that.”

Whether fairly or not, she knows the expectations for her — at least, looking from the outside in — might be higher than they would be for others in her position. She is aware that her success and how she carries herself in this position could open or close the door for other women to follow.

With that in mind, Hayden also said she feels that Kadish, Baldelli, the Twins’ organization and her network also deserve the acknowledgment for putting her in this position and giving her the well-deserved opportunity.

“I attribute a lot of it to a really powerful network of people,” Hayden said. “I’m so humbled that they put their name on me. I say I wear a jersey with a lot of people’s names on my back that have taken a risk on me, whether that was when I was 18 or currently in the big leagues. People have taken a risk to allow me to do what I love, and so I take that really seriously.”

Still, she’s careful to acknowledge the fact that other women around the industry may not have the strong base of support and understanding to facilitate such an easy transition into the industry. Hayden understands that there could be uphill battles and double standards for others in her position.

But that’s not the path she’s forged in the Twins’ organization. And for that, she remains encouraged — and grateful.

“It’s a direction that is obviously needed in the game, and one that nobody sits and stops, and really, it’s what times have evolved into, for the better,” said veteran starter Rich Hill.

“My story has just been awesome,” Hayden said. “And it’s so good and so supportive and being with all these dudes is awesome, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So that’s honestly the best part.”

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

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How NFL players spent early-season byes – Wedding planning, hockey and more

Through six weeks of the season, eight teams have already had a bye week. How do players spend the off week that early in the season?

Our NFL Nation reporters asked around locker rooms, gathering downtime activities from Weeks 4-6, including wedding planning, deep-sea fishing and NHL games.

Planning a wedding during a grueling NFL season can be tough, but a Week 5 bye week can certainly help. Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow thought his off weekend would be filled with visiting various wedding venues after proposing to his fiancée, Lucy Rogers, earlier this year. But when the couple returned to their native Minnesota, they only visited one on Friday — a vineyard and apple orchard in Waconia, Minnesota, about 30 minutes from where they grew up.

“I told Lucy right away that you can pick everything. It’s your day,” Ragnow said. “I really, I will marry you wherever you want to get married. But I just want to pick the food. The only thing I really care about is the food so far, that’s about it.”

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But because the Waconia venue requires use of its own caterer, Ragnow would be taken out of the food game if they choose it. So he has already started giving her a hard time about the vineyard, though mostly joking.

After the shortened wedding planning, Ragnow went to Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska, Minnesota, where his mom, Marty, works. Marty recently met a student, Evan Connolly, wearing head-to-toe Lions gear and, after starting a conversation, learned he recently lost his father.

“My mom knew I was coming home for bye week and found out it was his birthday on Friday,” Ragnow said. “So she set it up, and I came by the school and surprised him, wished him a happy birthday, got to know him, signed a few things for him and talked for a little while. Met his mom, gave her a big hug and talked to her. Really, my mom set everything up, she’s an angel. It was pretty cool being able to see a big smile on his face.”

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Ragnow can relate. His father, Jon, died in 2016 when Ragnow was in school at Arkansas. Connecting with children who have lost parents at a young age has been a large part of the foundation he’s still working to set up.

Otherwise, it was a low-key weekend for Ragnow and Rogers. They went to a Chanhassen High School football game Friday night and celebrated Rogers’ grandmother’s birthday on Sunday before heading back to Detroit on Sunday night to pick up their dog, Bear, who spent his bye weekend at Camp Bow Wow in Ann Arbor. — Michael Rothstein

New York Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon, voted a team captain in large part because of his indefatigable work ethic, devoted his Week 4 bye to … well, working. He returned home to Atlanta and spent the time at his training facility — Team MVP (McLendon Vision Performance) — which is set to open after the season. McLendon owns the facility, which includes a field house and indoor track, and has four employees. McLendon used his days off to get the weight room up and running. He describes himself as a hands-on owner.

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When he wasn’t working at his facility, McLendon simulated a typical NFL week, making sure he did his daily workouts in the weight room. That included a game-day workout, which he did on Saturday because of family obligations on Sunday. His credo is, “The gym is always open.” Asked why he didn’t escape to a tropical beach on the bye week, McLendon said, “My beach is in front of that iron. That’s my beach. I’m built different.”

But Jets safety Jamal Adams? He used the off week to escape to Turks and Caicos. He didn’t watch football and tried not to think about football. He totally unplugged, although he admitted he kept his phone with him on the beach. “Had a glass of wine and relaxed,” he said. “That’s all I did.” — Rich Cimini

Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer spent his Week 6 bye at his Florida home with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Aliyah. An avid angler, Poyer made sure to take advantage of Florida’s ample coastline and fishing opportunities. It’s something he did while growing up in Oregon, but his passion for it really took off once he moved to the Sunshine State.

“I do [a lot of fishing], especially since I moved to Florida,” Poyer said. “It’s kind of something that everybody does down there. The first time I went out deep-sea fishing was one of the first weekends I was in Florida, and I fell in love with it.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques

After the team’s London game, Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs was in Las Vegas on Saturday for the Week 6 bye to coordinate a charity event and meet with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak when the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights heard he was in town and reached out. Jacobs had already played in a charity softball game this summer with Knights players, so he was familiar with the NHL team to a degree.

“They hit me up and was like, ‘We heard you was in town, we want you to come to the game,'” Jacobs said Monday. “I was like, ‘Sure, I ain’t never been to a major hockey game.’ And they were like, ‘When you get here, we’ve got some stuff for you.’ I’m like, all right, they’re just going to sit me somewhere, let me meet the players again. But they were like, ‘You’re going to start the game off with the siren.'”

Indeed, Jacobs was the celebrity guest to sound the pre-puck-drop, old-school-sounding siren to rally fans before the Knights’ showdown with the Calgary Flames.

🚨 @iAM_JoshJacobs IS IN THE BUILDING!!!! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/HywLn6ehZX

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“Then they gave me my own jersey and everything,” Jacobs said. “It was dope. And the atmosphere was crazy. Production? Crazy. They had a whole five-minute video before they played. I was like, this is lit. I didn’t think it was going to be fun, honestly. It’s hockey. But this is lit. I will definitely go to another game. Definitely.” — Paul Gutierrez

Three former Ohio State Buckeyes turned Miami Dolphins — linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker and offensive tackle Isaiah Prince — spent their Week 5 bye back on their old stomping grounds in Columbus, attending Ohio State’s 34-10 win over Michigan State.

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“Them boys are looking good,” McMillan said. “We got a chance to make some noise this year.”

He played for the Buckeyes from 2014-16 before being drafted in second round by the Dolphins in 2017 and said he goes back once a year, usually during the bye. Baker and McMillan both have much of their immediate family living in Ohio, so they split bye-week time between hanging on their old campus and seeing friends and family.

“It’s always a great vibe. Got a great chance to catch up with coaches and just be fans,” said Baker, who played at OSU from 2015-17 before becoming a Dolphins third-round pick in 2018. “This team got something real good brewing. It didn’t even seem like [Michigan State] had a chance.” — Cameron Wolfe

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