Strength and conditioning coach Kyle Bergman, right, works with a Toledo Mud Hens player before the Toldeo Mud Hen's game against the Charlotte Knights. Blade/Isaac Hale
It makes sense that Kyle Bergman, the Mud Hens strength and conditioning coach, worked at a local gym while in college.
It was a stroke of good fortune that pushed him along the path to becoming a personal trainer.
“I went to that gym to be a ‘porter’ — just to clean up late at night,” Bergman said. “I was waiting for an interview, and I ran into the fitness director.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to be a porter.’ … And once I got certified, I got started as a personal trainer.”
AT THE PLATE: Kyle Bergman
From that humble beginning Bergman has become a strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. He is in his seventh season in the Tigers organization and his fourth season serving at Toledo.
The Chicago Ridge, Ill. native played baseball in high school and college.
In his senior year at Benedictine University in the Chicago suburb of Lisle, Ill., he began the switch to his current off-field role.
“We didn’t have a [weight] program, so my senior year I put together a program and took guys through it,” he said. “We had nothing [in terms of a weight program] before, so anything was going to be a step forward.
“The next fall I put together some programs for other sports while I finished school.”
Bergman found that he enjoyed putting together the strength and conditioning programs and wanted to do the job full-time.
“I love fitness, but I didn’t want to do physical therapy,” he said. “I love being one-on-one with people and watching them become what they wanted to be.
“With physical therapy, people may not want to be there. With personal training, people want to get better. And working with athletes, I’m working with guys willing to push themselves above and beyond to get better.”
After graduation and certification in 2009, Bergman took a job working with the Tigers Lo-A team at West Michigan.
After one season there and one at Double-A Erie, Bergman has spent the last four seasons with the Mud Hens.
Bergman’s day begins around 1 p.m., when players start to trickle into the clubhouse and begin preparations for a 7 p.m. game.
“When guys start coming in, I’ll have the weight room open,” he said. “I will stretch the pitchers around 3:30 p.m., and then the position players start stretching before batting practice.
“After BP I will have guys who want to get a workout in, and around 6:30 I’ll go out onto the field to get guys loose and ready. During the game guys come into the weight room to get ready, or guys will get loose.
“Then after the game guys come in and do more work — and the next day, it starts all over again.”
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said he appreciates the work Bergman puts into his craft.
“The guys who are playing that day are doing one thing, the players who aren’t are doing something else, pitchers are doing something else,” Parrish said. “And you have to have a program for all of them. It can be a tough job.”
Spread those days over a 144-game season, and it becomes clear that Bergman needs to be highly motivated to do the job well over a long baseball season.
“Sure, anything you do every day for 30 days in a row can be a grind,” he said. “But it’s nice that we have a great team, so it’s not a challenge for me to want to come in and work with these guys.
“I enjoy these players, and that helps me enjoy working with them.”
While there may be no batting average or ERA attached, Bergman said measuring success in his job is simple.
“My success comes from getting guys on the field,” he said. “If a guy gets hurt, my success is getting him back on the field.
“My goal is to not get anyone hurt during the season. And if a guy comes in a little banged-up and sore, my job is to help him get ready to play that day.”
AT THE PLATE with Kyle Bergman
■ Position: Strength and conditioning coach.
■ Ht./Wt.: 5-11/205
■ Hometown: Chicago Ridge, Ill.
■ Age: 28
■ Nickname: Bergy
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the field: I like to sit by the pool and relax.
■ Baseball players you admired growing up: Ryne Sandberg and Derek Jeter.
■ Favorite sport other than baseball: Hockey
■ Favorite music: Country, especially George Jones and Garth Brooks.
■ Favorite meal: Steak and potatoes.
■ Favorite beverage: Water.
■ Favorite movie: Miracle or The Boondock Saints.
■ Favorite TV show: Family Guy.
■ Do you have a Twitter account? No.
■ Person you most admire: My mom, Heather Bergman, and my grandmother, Kathy Martin.
■ If you could meet any person, who would it be? I would really like to meet Garth Brooks, just to talk.
■ Top sports moment: Being able to go to the World Series with the Tigers in 2012.
■ Baseball superstitions: If we win, I try to park in the same spot. But if it’s not open, it’s not a big deal. So not really.
■ Something nobody knows about you: I love to write and draw. I used to write poems all the time when I was younger, and now I’d like to start writing songs.