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Martial arts extends career for Phillies reliever Seanez

Not once in the 17 years Rudy Seanez has pitched in the big leagues has he hit a batter who then came running at him wielding his bat.

Not once in the 17 years Rudy Seanez has pitched in the big leagues has he hit a batter who then came running at him wielding his bat.

The durable Phillies reliever has no idea what would have happened if a player actually had, but chances are one of them would have ended up with a black eye.

And it would not have been Seanez.

"Knock on wood - no, it has never happened," said Seanez. "But if someone else did, there would be trouble. If someone comes at me with a bat in his hand, I am not holding back anything."

"Anything" could be nearly everything, given the self-defense skills of Seanez, who has become a pretty fair hand at a variety of martial arts - including shootfighting, Muay Thai and both Brazilian and Japanese jiujitsu. He said his conditioning has improved because of the training and it has allowed him to prolong his career, which began in Cleveland in 1989 and has taken him to nine organizations (some more than once). And he has enjoyed martial arts so immensely that he plans to pursue it more seriously when his playing days are over.

But Seanez, 39, says he still has a few years left in his right arm. Cast off by the Dodgers near the end of spring training, Seanez was picked up by the Phillies a game into the season and has pitched well. In 16 games, he is 2-3 with a 2.89 earned run average. He appears to have rebounded from the so-so spring training he had with the Dodgers. He set career highs in appearances (73) and innings (76) last year with them.

Seanez says he feels better than ever. "[Martial arts] is going to allow me to keep going another couple of years," said Seanez, who signed a 1-year deal with the Phillies for $400,000. "Overall, I have better strength and flexibility than when I just did heavy weightlifting. Now, I have what I would call more functional strength. Some of the guys I work out with are incredibly strong."

Seanez has been doing martial arts since 1997. He had dabbled in it when he was younger and was reintroduced to it by a cousin. He discovered that it not only enhanced his overall physical strength, but it also gave him peace of mind - if only because it provided him with the self-assurance that he could handle himself in potentially dangerous situations. It's that confidence factor, as he calls it, that has helped him to avoid "different situations" that come up.

"I know that if I have to, I could probably handle 90 percent of the people out there - unless they know what I know," said Seanez, who works out during the offseason at the San Diego Fight Club. "But I have nothing to prove to anybody, and I just try to avoid anything that comes up. I talk to some of the people I train with and they say the same thing: They walk again."

But it is not just self-protection that has attracted Seanez to martial arts. "I get an adrenaline rush from it," he said. "We spar at only 75 to 80 percent of top speed, but you know when you hit someone with a shot, you are going to get one back. Focus and concentration have to be there in order for you to execute your moves."

Seanez says he has become a better pitcher because of martial arts, especially in bases-loaded situations. "I reach back and instead of getting worked up, I find that I become calm," he said. "But you develop that in martial arts, the ability to be in control."

Has Seanez ever been injured in martial arts?

He laughed. "Just some minor things, but nothing serious," he said. "I love it."

Enough that he plans to do it competitively when he is done playing. "But you have to get the proper amount or training in, or you can get thrown around like a ragdoll," Seanez said. Initially, he plans to do some submission fighting, which teaches techniques and holds that force an opponent to give up, and - depending how that goes - he could possibly step up to a cage match.

"My wife tells me to be careful, but I have seen some older guys you would not want to mess with," Seanez said. "Guys in their late 40s or early 50s, which is why when you are out on the street, you have to remember: You just never know who knows what." *