Pat Neshek: The vegan reliever

Pat Neshek, the baseball card trading, heavy metal loving Twins reliever is profiled in an ESPN web feature about athletes who don't eat meat. Turns out Neshek is a vegan (since January) and a juicing fanatic (the fruit and vegetable kind). Here's some of what the ESPN piece has to say:

...after reading a series of books by The Juice Master (also known as U.K. health and nutrition mogul Jason Vale), Neshek began questioning his own nutritional habits. After that came more books. They included scientific tomes such as "The China Study" and disturbing exposés such as "Slaughterhouse." Before reading those heavier books, Neshek's wife, who was already a vegetarian, had gobbled up "Skinny Bitch," a slickly packaged book on vegan diets that also propelled Fielder and his wife to give up meat.

Neshek says his sensibilities already leaned in that direction. Eating meat, he felt, wasn't doing anything for him. As a kid, his dad would often make fresh-squeezed juice for the family, having been swayed by the infomercials of Jay "The Juiceman" Kordich. Living in Florida in 2004, Neshek took advantage of the orange and grapefruit trees in his backyard, making juice for himself both at home and on the road with his portable juicer. Soon he added apples, carrots, spinach and other items to the mix to blend in other nutrients.

"It was at that point when I started noticing how my body reacted to better things going into me," he said.

By substituting items such as brown rice and beans, tofu spiced to taste like different meat dishes, and flaxseed oil and various legumes, he found that his body held up even better than expected. Though Neshek admits he's hardly a demon in the weight room, he has put on seven pounds of lean muscle since switching to his now-vegan diet and a refined workout program last offseason.

He started off this year again by averaging more than a strikeout per inning through 15 games before a torn ulnar collateral ligament knocked him out for the season. Tommy John surgery has an increasingly high success rate for major league pitchers, and Neshek's optimism won't hurt as he tries to make his way back in 2009.

Also profiled are mixed martial arts fighter Mac Danzig ("I don't want to contribute to the meat and dairy industries if it's not necessary"), Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez ("Unless you've been in a cave, you know what's healthy and what's not healthy"), and ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek ("You just have to be a little creative").

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