St. Louis Cardinals' latest training technique: chess

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Cardinals finally reached their home clubhouse after six weeks in Florida for spring training and a week on the road, there was a new piece of furniture in the room: a chess table.

It was a gift from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, an organization founded by Cards manager Mike Matheny's friend Rex Sinquefield, a local philanthropist and political activist. Matheny said he picked up chess when he researched how to combat the effects of concussions while he was still catching.

Matheny was hoping it would catch on with the team -- and it has. By Thursday morning, there were three chess boards in the clubhouse, players had organized a tournament and several of them spent a big chunk of their pregame playing silently at the tables.

Two of the most accomplished players are Aledmys Diaz and Brayan Peña, both of whom started playing in their native Cuba.

"It's fun to watch these guys," Matheny said. "It's causing some cohesiveness, too, the same reason we brought the pingpong table in. So guys aren't just sitting at their lockers, staring at their iPads."

One player who has yet to engage in the craze: outfielder Stephen Piscotty, a Stanford graduate.

"It makes my brain hurt," he explained.