By STEVE KRAH
What athletes put into their bodies can go along way in what they can accomplish.
The field of sports nutrition just keeps growing every year.
The Chicago Cubs have led the way in professional baseball circles, where each team is looking to require dietetic staffers at the big league level.
In 2016, the Cubs fulfilled Dawn Blatner’s goal when they became the first Major League Baseball organization to place these licensed nutrition experts with all of its minor league affiliates. Blatner is assisted in Chicago by Jenny Westerkamp.
Marta Scechura, who is now a Sports Nutrition Associate at the University of Notre Dame, led the dietary needs of the Low Class-A South Bend Cubs the first season. It’s been Emily Kaley in 2017.
Kaley is part of a little community that also includes the two dietitians in Chicago and four at other Cubs minor league stops.
Following the plan set up by Blatner and giving it her own flavor, Kaley keeps South Bend players on a beneficial nutritional path.
“I make sure they have access to well-balanced meals every single day,” says Kaley. “I meal plan for two meals everyday of the season (pregame and postgame).
“Nutrition is important for your performance,” says Kaley. “It can make a big difference.”
With a “plate check” chart on the clubhouse wall, the team has a chance to take in well-balanced portions of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
With about 40 mouths to feed and tastes coming from all over the U.S. and Latin America, Kaley works with a local caterer (as well as those at out-of-town destinations in the Midwest League) to mix up the menu.
“I need to make a variety of all different kinds of foods to help them stay interested in eating healthy foods and not get bored with what they’re eating,” says Kaley. “We can’t have chicken every single time.”
Kaley takes requests and provides healthy smoothies packed with nutrient-dense foods. The ingredients depend on the player’s goals — gaining, losing or maintaining weight.
“I’m right in the clubhouse doing it,” says Kaley. “They see it and smell it. Sometimes they want to help. Sometimes they want to taste test.”
If players don’t like what’s being presented to them, peanut butter and jelly is an alternative.
With clubhouse/equipment manager Terry Fellows doing the shopping with a “Costco haul” at the beginning of a homestand, Kaley makes sure her hungry crew can have healthy snacks like fruits, homemade popcorn or banana bread.
There is also access to superfood shots — Matcha for energy, beet for endurance, pickle juice as a cramp stopper, ginger for immunity, collagen for protection and tart cherry for recovery.
She is also there to answer all the nutrition questions thrown her way and troubleshooting.
Kaley went on one road trip and might go on another before the 2017 season closes. When she’s not with the squad, she has strength and conditioning coach Ryan Nordtvedt providing the snacks while she is in South Bend catching up on planning, notes and filing assessments sheets for the Cubs organization.
As a fifth-year veteran of professional baseball, Nordtvedt has also been a resource to show Kaley how things function. He also provides her with player weights so she is able to use food to help them gain, lose or maintain.
“I’m glad the strength and conditioning coach is here and locked into nutrition being an important part of professional baseball,” says Kaley, who also works with athletic trainer Logan Severson in South Bend.
Kaley, who plans to become a board-certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) this February, has a Masters degree in Sport Nutrition from University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Simmons College in Boston, where she also played lacrosse.
She grew up in Bangor and Manchester, Maine, and earned her karate black belt and played lacrosse and soccer at Maranacook Community School.
“I was raised in a healthy environment,” says Kaley, the daughter of a dietitian mother (Lori) and diabetic father (Bruce) with sisters (Lindsey and twin Zoie). “I brought lunches to school everyday. I fueled well for soccer practice. I knew how food effected me.”We didn’t got out to eat a lot and in-moderation. We didn’t have soda in the house. We had ice cream once in awhile.”
Kaley went from Simmons into a Morrison Chartwells Distance Dietetic Internship in Charlotte, N.C. While there, she got to work with elite swimmer Ryan Lochte, who was training at Queens University. She was invited to go to Colorado Springs see to the nutrition needs of Team USA Swimming and Team USA Track and Field athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in the year leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I was in the presence of Michael Phelps and gave him a smoothie one time,” says Kaley.
Those kinds of athletes are very much in-tune with their nutrition and how their bodies respond to food.
At the low levels of pro baseball, it varies from person to person and not all metabolisms are the same.
“It’s super fun to work with the 18- to 24-year-olds,” says Kaley. “They’re just starting to get it.”
Emily Kaley is the dietitian for the 2017 South Bend Cubs. The Chicago Cubs organization was the first to have registered dietitians for all of its minor league affiliates. (Steve Krah Photo)