Yankees health guru opens up about MLB stars’ secret games: ‘Fight Club’

It was a long way from Iowa, but Palm Beach High School could have passed for another Field of Dreams last month, when an array of All-Stars worked out as they tried to stay sharp during Major League Baseball’s lockdown.

As first reported by The Athletic, more than 30 players — including Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer — trained with Eric Cressey, who was hired by the Yankees during the offseason as the team’s director of health and performance.

Cressey runs Cressey Sports Performance and the players worked out at his gym in Palm Beach, Fla., once it became clear the shutdown of spring training in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and prolonged by a labor dispute between MLB and the union — would be extensive.

The group practiced together before playing two games at the high school last month, which were kept private to prevent a crowd from showing up.

“It just kind of came about,’’ Cressey said Thursday by phone.

Initially, he shuttered his new gym, and at first, just rehabbing players such as Noah Syndergaard and Verlander could get treatment.

As Florida opened back up, so did Cressey’s facility, mostly for pitchers throwing bullpen sessions, but that soon evolved.

“Guys wanted to throw live [batting practice] and catchers wanted to call games,’’ Cressey said. “We used Palm Beach High School for the live BPs, and then we capped the whole thing off in a cool way with the games [last week].”

Among the players in the games were Mets pitchers Robert Gsellman and Michael Wacha.

Cressey replaced Matt Krause with the Yankees during the offseason after a year during which the team had a record 39 trips to the injured list and numerous setbacks in recoveries.

He continues to run his gyms in Florida and Massachusetts, and when he was hired, Cressey said his time spent with the Yankees during the season would be limited.

The Yankees had no issue with Cressey running the drills or the games, since the state of Florida was open for business at the time.

No known cases of coronavirus were found at Cressey’s gyms during the workout.

“Safety was all that mattered,’’ Cressey said of using small groups throughout the 10,000 square-foot facility. “We were really meticulous about how we cleaned and everything we did. We joked that my wife was farm director and director of baseball ops. We made it work.”

And that meant keeping everything discreet.

“We kind of had unwritten rules that there would be no social media,’’ Cressey said. “Otherwise, a ton of people would show up and that’s the last thing we wanted. That’s why they kind of called it ‘Fight Club.’ ”

The players observed safety precautions, with social distancing observed, masks used when they weren’t playing and sliding was prohibited.

Ex-Yankee Richard Bleier saw Scherzer and Verlander throw next to each other and told The Athletic he said to himself: “There’s a lot of money on those mounds.”

Cressey said he was impressed by what was going on around him.

“A lot of unprecedented things have happened, but this was a crazy time,’’ Cressey said.

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