Operation Panda

***UPDATE*** Click below for a video from “Operation Panda” Camp:



SCOTTSDALE — Pablo Sandoval strips down to his shorts and steps on the scale inside the gym at the Giants’ minor-league complex. It is Wednesday, weigh-in day.

“Five pounds!” he says, his face lighting up. He high-fives Giants conditioning and strength coach Ben Potenziano and Pablo’s 28-year-old brother, Michael.

It is Day 11 of Sandoval’s personal conditioning camp – a three-week project Potenziano and head trainer Dave Groeschner have dubbed “Operation Panda.” They even had T-shirts printed up with the words “Operation Panda: Discipline-Hard Work -Perseverance.”

“We’ve never had a player do anything like this – ever,” Groeschner says of the one-man camp.

The Sandoval brothers are now on side-by-side stationary bikes for 40 minutes of cardio. They’ll follow that with 12 minutes on the treadmill at 3.5 mph and a 6 percent incline. Then they’ll do weight training, then exercises to improve balance and strengthen core muscles, then throwing or batting practice, and finally another 40 minutes of cardio on the elliptical machine.

“There are no guys who show up in November to get ready for the season,” Groeschner says. “But this is something Pablo wanted to do. He knows how important it is for him and for the team that he has the endurance to play every game. And what he’s doing is not easy. It’s an entire life-style change.”

For the first time in his life, Sandoval is lifting weights. He’s eating vegetables. He is meeting every Wednesday while he’s in Scottsdale with a nutrition professor from Arizona State University, who is teaching him about healthy food choices and portion control. He and his brother, who Sandoval brought with him for motivation and support, are eating catered meals – delivered to the Giants complex every morning in a cooler — of low-cal entrees like broiled chicken or salmon, and lots of salads, veggies and fruits.

There is no going out to restaurants or bars. The strongest beverage in Sandoval’s diet right now is green tea. Mostly he drinks water – 12 to 15 bottles a day. In the evening, after eating their prepared meals, the Sandoval brothers take a walk on a bike path near their rented apartment or play basketball to keep their metabolism up.

With the five pounds he lost during the past week, Sandoval has lost 10 pounds so far, on his way toward his goal of slimming down and building muscle for the 2010 season. (Michael is participating in every workout, working right alongside his brother, and he has lost 10 pounds, too.)

“I love this team and the way they treat me,” Sandoval says later in the afternoon, after he finishes about 10 minutes of alternating between warm and cold tubs to minimize muscle soreness.

“The fans, I love them and want them to know I’ll always be the guy who’s working hard. I know I have to lose weight so I can play this game for a long time.”

After their workout and time in the tubs, Pablo and Michael make their way to the Giants’ conference room, where they heat up their crab and spinach chowder and eat the white bean and arugula salad and the five strawberries they are allotted for dessert.

Potenziano slaps Pablo on the back and says, “Run the Embarcadero next week, right?”

Potenziano and Groeschner are going to San Francisco next week to run the winter conditioning camp for rookies, so Pablo is tagging along to continue his workout regimen.

Sandoval crinkles his nose. “Too cold!”

“You’re going to run,” Potenziano says, smiling. Pablo delights in giving Potenziano a hard time.

Pablo shakes his head and laughs. “No chance!”

Tomorrow they’re tackling Camelback Mountain, nearly a mile of trails straight up. That will make the Embarcadero seem like a walk in the park.

When lunch is finished, Pablo and Michael trudge out the door. It’s after 3.

“Long day,” Pablo says. “Time to take a nap.”


Pictures from Camelback Mountain, Thursday, November 12:






From left to right: Ben Potenziano (conditioning and strength coach), Ryan Garko, Mike Sandoval, Pablo Sandoval, Dave Groeshner (head trainer), Front: Todd Jennings (minor league catcher)

Thumbnail image for OperationPanda.JPG 



This is why everybody should love him, he’s dedicated and a hard worker. Amazing! :]

Wow, three updates in a week so far? I love it!😀 Thanks for the update on Pablo, I’ve been wondering how his “Operation Panda” has been going.🙂 I think that’s really great that his brother is doing everything with him!! That seems like crazy hard work, and especially changing his whole diet around. I’m so happy that he’s making the effort to stay in shape and I hope it really pays off for him next season. I’m really excited to see what he looks like when he’s all done! Would you be able to post some before/after pics?🙂

I think that is great that Pablo is doing this now, working out and hitting the weights. He has been a joy to observe, last off-season every day taking ground balls at 3B to prepare, this season, all this workout. If I had been blessed with the ability to play baseball at such a high level, that’s what I would have done and I wish all the ballplayers were like that.

That said, what I would like to know is why the Giants are not providing the equipment and personnel so that all their farm prospects can do this during the season and, more so, encouraged to do so. I’m a bit shocked that Pablo had never done anything like this before, particularly since his girth has been a big question mark for him throughout his minor league career.

It could be as simple as getting, say, a Bowflex system (or whatever you prefer, first one that came to mind, hey, even that Chuck Norris/Christie Brinkley machine) for every player so that they can work out at home in the off-season or wherever they stay during the season.

Or better, equip each minor league clubhouse with a workout area with equipment and at minimum, some roving instructor to come by and help all prospects who want help, or better, hire someone local to work out the players regularly, when they are at playing at home.

The team should invest more to make things easier for their minor league players to work on their craft. Raising salaries would be another good thing to do, so that their players can afford to eat better (supply a dietician or some sort of on-line system to help a player keep on track; could make it like a report card that the manager keeps tabs on).

I cannot imagine that it would cost that much money to enable your prospects to be at their physical peak during the season, and the payback should be much more in performance.

didnt realize ryan garko was attending operation panda. hopefully, thats 200 lbs gone for him…..as in not be back at first base for the giants next year!

Where can I get three Operation Panda T-shirts, ASAP?

I love that Ryan Garko managed to sneak into this picture. And that he doesn’t get a t-shirt. Anyway, I’m loving all these clinic updates on Pablo and Bam-Bam. It gives me a lot to look forward to in the coming season! The prospect that Sandoval has never done weight training makes me wonder what kind of numbers he’s capable of…


That’s a great story; Truly inspirational. We Latinos abuse ourselves during the holidays…Seeing Pablo working so hard to change his life around is just awesome.

I am drafting Pablo early in the second round next year!

Are these t shirts for sale anywhere?

You’re a HARD WORKING MAN, Pablo and we know you LOVE the game. Can’t wait ’till the next season!

Reading about the determination of these guys makes me want to spend money to go see as many Giants games in 2010 as I can. Go Giants!

This is GREAT to see!. I was worrying about his weight as the season wore on. We need his bat all year every year for a long time going forward.

Thanks for the great pictures! Looks they were rewarded with not only a good workout but a pretty nice view at the top. How did Ryan Garko and Todd Jennings end up coming along? I think it’s great that they decided to go on the hike also.

Congrats to Pablo and Mike! I just started exercising and counting calories to lose weight, too! I’m curious if we could get the menu(s), recipes and calorie counts for the foods they’re eating so we can play along, too!? Keep up the good work, and keep having fun at it!

Kung Fu Panda, we love you!

My favorite Panda story is from last year’s Giants fantasy camp when Pablo and Manny Burriss walked past after a work out. Pablo peeled off the tape around his wrist, balled it up, and threw it at Manny, who was walking ahead. Manny picked it up and threw it back at Pablo, and instead of ducking out of the way, he let it hit him in the chest and then hacky-sacked it off his feet for a little while. I’ll bet he was quite a soccer player in his youth as well, and I thought it showed amazing quickness for a biggish guy. When I got a chance to meet him I asked him what his favorite position was and he said catcher. Pretty interesting but somewhat redundant with Posey, I guess.

Anyway, I was psyched to read about Pablo’s regimen and all the hard work he’s putting in, as the Giants need every bit of offense they can get to go with that vaunted pitching.

Thank you for the update. I love reading about the panda and his progress. It’s given me a new outlook on my diet.
Go Panda and to his brother too…….good luck guys.

Can we order the T-Shirts?

It’s a real pleasure to watch Pablo play, he has so much fun playing the game it’s contagious. He has a great heart and wonderful passion for baseball. Thank you.

An idea about the Operation Panda T-shirts; you could sell them to raise money for kids nutrition and exercise awareness and programs; like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s empowerME campaign or the NFL PLAY 60 campaign

Well, I enjoyed seeing Garko there. He had a bit of a rough time after the trade, but I wish him all the best next year. Go Giants!

Hey Pablo I just wanted you to know how PROUD we are of all you have done in the Giants Organization. You have a Heart so BIG I hope the Giants realize what they have in you. And what I mean by that is not only are you a great baseball player but you have made more fans Love the game because of you, especially kids. And I can tell you Troy’s only 3 but he knows who his heroes are when it comes to baseball and I thank you and Sergio for that he will always remember you guy’s. Man you have a beautiful place to work out at. Keep up the good work and Troy and I will see you next year. Tom,Troy, and Family

Would you mind telling us which players are going to be at the rookie winter conditioning camp? Thanks!🙂
Update: Here is the list of participants:

Anders, Lucas

Belt, Brandon

Benusa, Karl (“Gus)

Biery, Andrew

Burg, Alex

Cavan, Ryan

Crawford, Evan

Dunning, Jake

Eshleman, John

Gloor, Chris

Graham, Matthew

Heston, Christopher

Joseph, Thomas

Liles, Steven

Mach, Kyle

Munoz, Luis

Rogers, Steven (“Taylor”)

Salsbury, Bryan

Sanford, Shawn

Scoma, Ryan

Stoffel, Jason

Toole, Jeremy

Vazquez, Kyle

Walls, Jason

Wheeler, Zachary

Pablo is our Future for the orange and black.. We need to get Pablo a decent 4th place slugger so he can drive in runs. as well as a veteran hitter such as Johnny Damon.. I like the 2 moves so far, however the Giants need to acquire a Adam LaRoche to this line-up.. If The Giants don’t get a decent catcher, then I would move The Killer Panda to Catcher, sign Ex-Astros Shortstop Miguel Tejada put him at 3rd base, then put Juan Uribe at shortstop.. Tejada has told some friends that he would love to play for Giants Manager Bruce Bochy. Tejada could bat 4th or 5th and he drove in over 80 plus RBIS for a bad Astros team.

Well, judging by the kind of fitness regime Sandoval is having, I must say he is really pretty much focused. After all, losing 10 pounds is no joke, to say the least. I can?t imagine the fact that he is restraining himself from going to bars and restaurants and making it to colloidal minerals . I guess he is focusing more on strengthening his core muscles as well as increasing the overall balance. I hope he doesn?t get injured anytime near soon!

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