Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

The annals of Spring Training lore are full of stories about guys showing up “in the best shape of [their] life.” That’s not to say it isn’t legit when it happens – when better to be in the best shape of your life, no? It’s just that being in the best shape of your life doesn’t necessarily translate to performance on the field in the upcoming season.

Marlon Byrd – and, by extension, Cubs fans – hopes that it does.

We’ve already heard about Byrd’s extensive offseason diet and training regimen, the result of which was an incredible 40-pound drop in weight (it’s visible). He looks good, and, even at age 34, it isn’t inconceivable that he could have a career-best year – or at least bounce back to the very good .293/.346/.429 line he put up in 2010, his first season in Chicago.

And he’s got some inspiration leading him there in the form of a veritable book now tattooed on his right arm.

Byrd had a large portion of a Teddy Roosevelt speech, ‘The Man in the Arena,’ scripted down his arm, as you can see in this picture from ESPN’s Doug Padilla:

Photo: Doug Padilla

The portion of the speech on Byrd’s arm is probably the most famous bit of the speech, which goes something like this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I guess I’ll need to be more careful before criticizing Byrd this year.

For his part, Byrd is optimistic about not only himself, but the Cubs as a whole this year, with a particular emphasis on the pitching.

“Everyone’s counting us out so I’m sure they’ll have us down with the Astros, Pirates, whoever,” Byrd said to the media this weekend. “That’s fine with us. We got a lot of guys who can throw it,” Byrd said. “With [Travis] Wood and [Chris] Volstad, those guys, you have guys you’ve faced and you’ve seen the talent they have and you’ve seen what they can do. You hope the change of scenery really helps them big time. At the same time, we have competition. We have a lot of guys here — Andy Sonnanstine, Rodrigo Lopez — to push guys. It’ll be fun and nice to watch those guys compete and develop at the same time.”

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