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A Fight Against Pain And Doubt
Jill Lieber
July 29, 1985
After three operations and two lost years, Dennis Leonard is still trying valiantly to get back on the mound
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July 29, 1985

A Fight Against Pain And Doubt

After three operations and two lost years, Dennis Leonard is still trying valiantly to get back on the mound

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Some of Leonard's best buddies are the guys who work at Royals Stadium. On this Sunday morning, Leonard arrives with sons Dennis Jr., 11, and Ryan, 8. Both are in major Little League slumps, and Dad has promised to pitch batting practice when he finishes.

Leonard is greeted by Skip, the security guard. "Team sure misses you, Leo," Skip says as he unlocks the front door. "White Sox killed 'em." [The Royals had lost in Chicago the previous day.] In the clubhouse, he bumps into Tom, the cleaning man. Says Leonard, while sifting through the Royals' fan mail, "If these two guys weren't around, I'd never have anybody to talk to."

Leonard sets up the kids in the batting cage with their Big Barrel Bat, a bag of baseballs and a hitting tee. He retreats to the exercise room, promising to return in a few hours. He turns the dial to KFKF-FM, a country music station, and measures out a wad of Skoal. He climbs aboard the exercise bike, setting the timer to 20 minutes. Leonard stares at the clock on the wall and then looks down at the odometer.

He moves into the training room, pulling out three file folders containing his daily workout records—almost 300 pages—and begins recording today's ordeal. "I write big, all the way across and down each page, so it looks like I'm doing more than I am," he says.

Then it's off to the Cybex, the computerized machine that tests and conditions muscles. "I hate this thing," he says. "It's way too hard." He sets the Cybex at five different speeds—from the easiest range of "endurance" to the hardest, the "strength" range. He works each speed in varying repetitions.

Next, he straps a 13-pound weight to his lower left leg, lies back on a table and does 30 leg lifts, holding the leg up for four seconds each time. He then puts a chair at the end of the table, lies on his left side with his right foot on the seat of the chair and lifts the left leg under the chair 90 times. "When I first started," he says, "my left leg had atrophied to the size of my arm. I couldn't even lift two pounds without my left leg shaking."

He sets a one-inch-high block of wood on the floor, puts his toes up on the wood, his heels on the floor, and lifts up to his toes 90 times.

Finally, two hours later, he heads out to the field for his daily running routine. That will be followed by 50 trunk twists, 100 sit-ups and 15 minutes of tossing a ball against a wall.

"Most days when I look back at the workout sheets," he says, "I surprise the hell out of myself."

Cobb says that no Royals player has ever asked him for particulars of Leonard's workouts. Adds John Schuerholz, the Royals general manager, "They detach themselves. It's too real for them. It's also frightening. Some of the guys who are on the brink of making money must ask themselves, 'What if this happens to me before I sign a big contract?' "

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