Friday, April 3, 2009

Columbus Dispatch: Arp lightens up in quest to improve

Mike Arp came to Ohio State as an infielder but has flourished since moving to the outfield. He's hitting .350 this season after producing at a .367 clip last season.

Friday, April 3, 2009 2:54 AM
By Mark Znidar

The Columbus Dispatch

The new and improved Michael Arp walked into the interview room carrying a quart bottle of electrolyte drink and a ripped body that had weight room written all over it.

It was what Arp was not carrying that caught more attention. The Ohio State left fielder is 20 pounds lighter thanks to a workout and dietary regimen that borders on the fanatical.

How fanatical? He has been known to smuggle his own tuna in to buffets to avoid fattening toppings.

"If you pay attention to what you eat and drink, and work out hard, you're naturally going to feel better, sleep better and perform better," Arp said.

The statistics speak volumes that Arp, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound fifth-year senior from Reynoldsburg, is treating his body like a temple. In 26 starts, he is batting .350 with three home runs and 18 RBI. Take the numbers to a deeper level and he has a .505 slugging percentage, .393 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 103 at-bats.

Arp is one reason the Buckeyes (21-5) are ranked 18th nationally by Baseball America going into a three-game series at No. 25 Minnesota (14-8). The first game is at 7:35 tonight in the Metrodome.

As a true freshman in 2005, Arp was a middle infielder buried on the depth chart. He took a redshirt year, but there were doubts he could become an everyday major-college player.

"We didn't think Mike had the hands to play middle infield," coach Bob Todd said. "Then we put him in the outfield and at first he struggled there, too. But Mike came here with the attitude that he could play at this level. It has all been hard work and attitude."

With the help of his father, Chris, a strength-and-conditioning coach at Reynoldsburg High School, Arp lost 20 pounds and took fly ball after fly ball year-round.

The man with no position found a home in left field last season. In 34 games, he hit .367 and had an 11-game hitting streak.

"My dad always pushed me to excellence. He toughened me up," Arp said. "My parents also told me that good things happen to good people.

"I thought I paid my dues. I've worked for this. I never give up."

The thought of changing positions midway through his collegiate career did make Arp skeptical. He lost weight to improve his foot speed and bat speed and strengthened his arm for the longer throws.

"I had to become a faster guy all the way around," he said. "At the plate, I've changed my approach to go the other way now that I have less power. I'm making more contact.

"It helped that I love to throw the ball. I've grown to like all that open space in the outfield."

Assistant coach Greg Cypret said Arp was determined to become a factor rather than a spare part.

"Mike hits as much or more than anyone we have," Cypret said. "He works on everything. He has become a confident hitter. With players like Mike we feel good about our lineup from the top to the bottom. He gives us punch. When he gets his pitch, he's hacking."

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