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Houston Chronicle

 

Sun 12/25/2005

Crosby punching up his career

Yanks outfielder who starred at Rice a boxing believer

By DALE ROBERTSON

In the offseason, baseball players are usually found hunting, fishing or chasing golf balls. But Bubba Crosby heads to downtown Houston, laces on the gloves at the Main Boxing Gym and turns into a boxer.

"You're definitely going to break a sweat," said the New York Yankees outfielder and former Rice All-American. "When you leave here, if you've done it the right way, you're completely fatigued. And I feel there's a lot of what I learn that I can take with me onto the field."

Since taking up boxing, he has enjoyed a series of baseball breakthroughs. He associates his time spent in the ring with success on the diamond.

First, he got to the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003. Then, after being traded to the Yankees the following year, he more frequently found himself in the lineup. He started 13 games in September, winning one of them with a walkoff home run and finishing the season with a .276 average over 98 at-bats.

Crosby, 29, appears to figure prominently in the Yankees' plans for 2006.

"The fundamentals of boxing require quick feet," he said. "I've got to have quick feet in the outfield, too. Both sports are about quickness and agility. Until Jan. 1, I don't do a whole lot except box. I rely a lot on speed (for baseball). I don't lift many weights, and you see there's hardly any weights in here.

"Also, learning how to box requires learning how to relax, the same as hitting. If you've got too much adrenaline flowing, you're not going to swing the bat well. The same holds true for boxing. If you tighten up, you're going to be a lot slower."

Crosby works out with Bobby Benton, the son of the gym's owner who mostly trains professional fighters.

Crosby draws the line at sparring, though, saying: "The last thing I need is a broken finger or nose. At this point in my career, I really can't take any chances."

But after baseball, he sees himself becoming a dedicated "white-collar" boxer.

"Definitely," he said. "I'll still be doing it when I'm 50."