Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre, friends and teammates in Florida, share a strong work ethic and a disdain for shortcuts. In spring training of 2003, when Pierre was entering his first season with the Marlins and Willis was a minor-leaguer enjoying his first invite to big-league camp, they set their alarm clocks to 6:45 each morning and headed to the park together to work up a sweat well before 10 o'clock stretch.
Willis watched how Pierre went about his business – the long hours, attentiveness to detail and daily fitness regimen that might grind other players to dust – and wondered how it might translate to him on a year-round basis. So before the 2004 season ended, he asked Pierre if he could be his offseason training buddy.
"I don't know if you want to do it,'' Pierre said warily.