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PADECKY: Triathlete Eric Byrnes embraces life after baseball
Losing father made training therapy for former big leaguer

  • Eric Byrnes as a member of the Oakland A's in 2005. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

For 13 years Eric Byrnes's life was shaped by professional baseball. What to eat. When to report. How to handle failure. How to exercise. What to avoid. What to embrace. It had almost as many daily details attached to it as a presidential schedule.

And then, poof, it was gone. On May 2, 2010, the Seattle Mariners released Byrnes. Thank you for your service and there's the door to the rest of your life. His days were free of structure, and Byrnes embraced the openness of it.

“I surfed and played some golf and softball,” Byrnes said. He saw moonrises and sunsets and all his friends said the same thing: Dude, chill, you got it all.

Live the casual life. That would be fine except Byrnes doesn't do casual very well.

Byrnes got the nickname “Crash Test Dummy” for his lack of fear chasing fly balls in the outfield in the 11 years he played for the A's, Rockies, Orioles, Diamondbacks and Mariners. He bounced off walls with reckless enthusiasm and the fans loved him for it.

“That's my nature,” he said. “I'm either all in or I'm not.”

The approach almost was a necessity. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as a child, Byrnes immersed himself in the structure baseball demanded.

He loved baseball for that, it occupying his mind as well as his body. And surfing and golf and softball, well, all that was like playing bridge to Byrnes, almost sedentary if you can imagine.

“There was a missing component,” he said.

In November 2010, seven months after he retired, Byrnes gave this mini-mini-triathlon in Pacific Grove a chance to satisfy his zest. It was a 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 2.3-mile run. The results were legend.

“I almost drowned in the water and had 16-year-old girls pass me on their bicycles,” Byrnes said.

Now such an experience might discourage most people. Not the Crash Test Dummy. It intrigued him. To get where he wouldn't drown, to where he at least could keep up on a bicycle with 16-year-old girls, Byrnes did what Eric Byrnes always does — he immersed himself in structure, the structure demanded of triathletes.

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