When Jared Martin joined the Chattahoochee Valley Community College baseball program prior to the 2013 season, he was admittedly not in his best shape.
A "bad-bodied" kid, as coach Adam Thomas described him, Martin had the ability, but perhaps not the conditioning it would take to hold up as an everyday catcher. At least not one who wouldn't need the occasional spell from a backup.
Flash forward nearly two full seasons and Martin is in the best shape of his life. Thomas' description has shifted to more positive words -- lean and mean -- and Martin is playing behind the plate every time out.
He has missed one game out of 56 this season and is hitting .360. He's got a pair of home runs, 51 RBIs and the biggest hit of the season for the Pirates, a three-RBI, walk-off double to beat Alabama Southern 8-7 in the conference tournament.
The Pirates would go on to win that tournament and earn a berth in the junior college world series, which will begin Saturday in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Defensively, there are few as effective as Martin. The scouting report on his arm is out there, and he is rarely tested. Only 16 times this season has a runner attempted to steal, and he's thrown out 12 of them.
"He's just been clutch his entire career here," Thomas said of Martin. "He's a baseball player in every sense of the word. He can just hit. And it shouldn't be underrepresented how good he is defensively. They just don't run on him, and when they do he throws them out. He's a stalwart."
Martin is the type of player Thomas never wants to see leave the field. But Martin admits that may not have been the case if he didn't buy into the conditioning program when he joined the team.
That program is CrossFit, a popular core strength and conditioning program. As popular as the program is for individuals everywhere, Thomas, Martin nor shortstop John Holland knew of any others that used it exclusively as a team conditioning program.
"I've never heard of another team doing it," Martin said.
"We're unique," Thomas added. "As far as I know, we're the only ones who do exclusive CrossFit. I do it with them, (assistant coach) Dash (O'Neill) does it with them, and that helps.
"It creates a very competitive environment. We keep points from Day 1. We have an 'Iron Pirate' winner and then we have the 'Iron Pirate Games.' You've got to be an animal."
Thomas said they started working out with CrossFit in 2008-09 and, coincidence or not, that was when he said
the program progressed from good to great.
"Whether it's just coincidence, I don't know," he said. "But it's completely changed the face of our program as far as our strength and physicality."
Martin may not be the Iron Pirate -- that title goes to sophomore outfielder J.D. Perry -- but he said the impact has been undeniable.
"No doubt. You look at our team, we are by far the most in-shape team out there," he said.
"No one is overweight. Everyone is in great shape, faster and ready to do their job. It's a long and grueling season. Being in the best shape makes it that much easier. You're ready to go all the time."
Even in the ninth inning of a game you trail 7-5 with the bases loaded, in the midst of a long and grueling tournament that will make or break your season.
"You dig deep in those situations," Martin said. "The conditioning helps a lot. Who knows? Without that hit, we may be in a different situation. It's just great to have done something to help the team. Now we're here."