This winter, when Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins was working on improving his speed with Olympic sprint coaches in Texas, he met a rugby sevens player training at the facility. Goins didn’t know much about the sport, but he’d seen a YouTube video of a former sprinter named Carlin Isles who stars for the American team and is touted as the world’s fastest rugby player.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, have you seen that guy on YouTube?’” Goins says. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, I’m that guy.’”
CLOSER TO HOME: Watch Stephen Brunt’s TV special Roberto Osuna: Sinaloa to the Show on Sportsnet, April 2 at 4 p.m., following Red Sox vs. Blue Jays in Montreal
The Blue Jays infielder started picking the one-time Detroit Lions running back’s brain.
“I asked what he works on and why he’s so fast,” Goins says. “It was eye-opening to hear him talk about running mechanics, and to try to apply it to what I do.”
This season, Goins would like to not only get on base more often, but be a true threat when he’s there. He’s already a deceptively speedy player—MLB’s Statcast clocked him at 18.3 mph (29.5 km/h) while going from second to home last season. But if he can become enough of a base-stealing threat that pitchers are concerned about him at first base instead of the batter at home plate, he’ll feel like he’s added another valuable facet to his game.
“Look at our team—we have six or seven of the best hitters in the big leagues all in one lineup. So [base-stealing is] not really called for,” Goins says. “But I’d like to have that threat where guys are worried about me and not really focusing. Hopefully they make a mistake, and Donaldson or Bautista hits it out of the park.”
And if Goins can use the running mechanics he studied with Isles this off-season to swipe a few more bags, that’ll be money in the bank.
“Obviously, I’m never going to be a world-class sprinter. But there’s always room for improvement,” Goins says. “That work I did could be the difference between getting to the ball or not—or being out or safe.”