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Nick Castellanos takes you through grind of Tigers' road trip

Nick Castellanos said you can't understand the grind of a season unless you've been through it. Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

It's hard for anyone outside of an MLB clubhouse to truly appreciate the grind of a 162-game schedule and the physical, mental and emotional toll it takes.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos took ESPN.com through a typical West Coast trip for a professional baseball player, and the results might surprise you.

As Castellanos detailed during the team's recent six-game jaunt in California, cataloging his daily bedtimes and wake-up calls, it's not the glamorous lifestyle one might expect with parties, nightclubs and lavish dinners on the road. Sleep is a scarce commodity during the season, and players take what they can get.

"I don't think anyone can understand it unless they've played the game, gone through a span of flying 30 times a year, showing up to batting practice every day, showing up to face a good pitcher every day," Castellanos said. "It's almost like a movie. You see a movie and think that's a really good movie and you don't think of the struggles to make that movie. You don't think about the actors and the directors and the screenwriters, who are filming at all these different locations at different hours, to make the movie what it is."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus also offers a manager's perspective on the challenges of a road trip, and Dr. Meeta Singh, a Detroit-based doctor in sleep medicine who works with the Tigers, weighs in with her professional opinions.

Day 1: May 26

Team flew from Detroit to Oakland, landed at 4:53 p.m. local time (7:53 p.m. ET)

Crib Notes: Slept on the plane for about an hour. Went to sleep around 11:30 p.m. As late as I possibly could. And I was up at 7 a.m. No nap. But right now, for an hour, it'd be a great time.

"I probably feel more tired than usual, just because I'm not usually waking up at 7 o'clock for a 7 p.m. game," Castellanos said.

Skipper Says: Regarding how much time it takes for his players to get acclimated to the time change on a typical West Coast trip, Ausmus joked, "By the time you're ready to leave California, you're accustomed."

Doctor's Orders: Singh suggests incrementally preparing for the trip to the West Coast by gradually staying up later before departing (between 1 and 2 a.m. ET), and staying in bed longer in the mornings (around 11 a.m. ET). Singh also recommended players get plenty of rest on May 25.


Day 2: May 27

Day game at O.co Coliseum vs. Oakland Athletics (7 p.m. ET)

Crib Notes: Went to sleep between 12:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., up by 7 a.m. First game since arriving in California, adjusting to time zone change.

"It is what it is. You just kind of put it in autopilot, you know? Do what you gotta do," Castellanos said.

Skipper Says: On one of the positives of traveling West, according to Ausmus: "It makes day games easier for you, though, because you're used to such a night game schedule back home. You have a day game [back home] and you get kinda tired in the morning. [A] day game here is closer to when you're kind of revving up."

Doctor's Orders: Once in California, Singh suggests going to bed between midnight and 2 a.m. local time, and sleeping in until between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. local time. Singh also recommends using darkened shades in the hotel rooms, as well as sleep masks and earplugs, if necessary.


Day 3: May 28

Day game at O.co Coliseum vs. Oakland Athletics (4 p.m. ET)

Crib Notes: Went to sleep at midnight. Up at 7:30 a.m.

Did he read and/or adhere to any of the sleep tips provided to adjust?

"I have a 2 -year-old," Castellanos said.

Checking in with his son, Liam, can also be a challenge on West Coast time. "Have to do it before the game and stuff because once 5 p.m. rolls around here, it's too late [back home]," Castellanos said.

Skipper Says: Ausmus remembers muddling through his worst night of sleep in the big leagues.

"I'll never forget, I had a game in St. Louis, [and] for whatever reason I could not fall asleep," Ausmus said. "I was wide awake. It was a day game the next day [and] I watched the clock turn to 9 a.m. I said, 'Well, I've got to get out of bed now.' I was literally lying there for hours, so I was up the whole night. The next day I was playing. [I] went out and caught. I don't know if we won or lost, but I got a hit or whatever. I was exhausted afterwards, but I was fine. It was funny because it was kind of a lesson. Because from that point on, anytime I didn't get enough sleep, I said, 'Well, I can get through one day. ... I'll be tired but I can get through it for one day."

Doctor's Orders: Singh says to avoid any light exposure prior to 7 a.m. local time. If a player wakes up early and is having trouble going back to sleep, he should avoid using electronics or exercising. Instead, Singh suggests practicing relaxation techniques (lay in bed and breathe deeply).

Day 4: May 29

Day game at O.co Coliseum vs. Oakland Athletics (4 p.m. ET); flight immediately after the game to Anaheim, California

Crib Notes: Went to sleep around midnight, up by 8 a.m. Listened to music on the plane with teammate Cameron Maybin, who created his own Pandora station. Listening to all sorts of music right now. Went on a big Mumford and Sons kick after attending a concert in Kansas City during an off day earlier this season.

"But I've been listening to Drake since his new album dropped," Castellanos said.

Skipper Says: Asked if people truly understand the physical and mental grind of a 162-game schedule, Ausmus said: "Unless you actually -- it's hard to appreciate unless you actually go through it."

Doctor's Orders: "The game itself, especially the evening games, there's stimulation," Singh said. "[Those games] stimulate parts of the brain, which makes winding down more difficult."


Day 5: May 30

Night game at Angel Stadium vs. Los Angeles Angels (9 p.m. ET)

Crib notes: Went to bed at midnight. Up at 8:30 a.m.

Does Castellanos get better sleep when he's on the road, because he's not sleeping under the same roof as a toddler?

"Yeah, I guess you could say that, but do you really get your best sleep when you're away from your family?" Castellanos asked.

Doctor's Orders: One thing that makes falling asleep different for pro athletes these days? The use of cellphones. "My recommendation is not to have a telephone next to you while sleeping," Singh said, as the light can keep the brain stimulated and engaged.

And if you're using a phone as an alarm clock, place it as far away from you as possible. Get up when the alarm goes off. "Don't hit snooze!" she added.


Day 6: May 31

Night game at Angel Stadium vs. Los Angeles Angels (10 p.m. ET)

Crib Notes: Went to bed at 1:30 a.m. Woke up at 9:45 a.m. Little later than usual, just because I had a friend in town from high school who is out in California and wanted to catch up.


Day 7: June 1

The Tigers play a day game in Anaheim and then fly to Detroit for a makeup game against the New York Yankees on what was originally scheduled to be an off day.

"It's only brutal if you make it brutal. [You] try to get as much sleep on the plane as you can, get home at 5 a.m., eat something, go back to bed, wake up around 2:30 or 3 p.m.," Castellanos said.

Skipper Says: Ausmus said you can't prepare players for that brutal turnaround. "Sleep as much as you can. There's really not much that you can do," said the manager.

Doctor's Orders: "You probably will not sleep as well; however, my recommendation is, by God, sleep on the plane!" Singh said. "It may not be the best sleep ever had, but some sleep is better than none."


Day 8: June 2

Night game at Comerica Park vs. New York Yankees; makeup game for weather postponement earlier in the season (7:40 p.m. ET)

Crib Notes: Slept almost the whole way on the plane. Got home at 6 a.m. Slept until 11 a.m. Got to the ballpark at 3:30 p.m.

How did Castellanos feel?

"Tired -- a little groggy -- but fine."

Skipper Says: "It's tough to explain because from the outside looking in, compared to how people normally travel, we take a bus from the stadium, to the plane, to a bus to the hotel, and our bags are brought to our room, so it's tough to complain about stuff like that," Ausmus said. "But when you do it for six months and you're constantly changing time zones and you're going to bed at 12 o'clock because you have a day game the next day, it can be extremely exhausting at times. When you have stretches of a bunch of night games in a row, it's a lot easier, but when you have the night-day game schedule and you're traveling on a plane for three hours, it can be tiring."

Doctor's Orders: "In general, traveling East is always more difficult than traveling West," Singh said. "There can be caveats, but it's always easier to go to bed later than earlier."