New San Francisco Giant Mitch Haniger has a team in Santa Cruz County, too

Mitch Haniger (left) and Austin Einhorn (right) begin a game of "pronation tug-of-war."
(Via on Instagram)

With Opening Day this Thursday, Major League Baseball All-Star and Bay Area native Mitch Haniger is about to begin his tenure with the San Francisco Giants. In addition to being from the area, two integral parts of his training and injury recovery path are based right here in Santa Cruz County.

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With Opening Day of the 2023 Major League Baseball season slated for Thursday, San Francisco Giants fans will see a local player beginning a new chapter in his career when he dons the Giants’ signature black and orange.

Several teams were interested in Mitch Haniger. But after five seasons with the Seattle Mariners, the Mountain View native was shooting to play in reasonably close proximity to his current home in Aptos. Further, his strength coach, Austin Einhorn, and his massage therapist, Erin Brummett, are both based in Santa Cruz County.

Einhorn is a UC Santa Cruz grad and a three-time All-America volleyball player who has long been fascinated with how and why humans move the way they do. His perfectionist approach to movement led him to start his business, Apiros. The training facility operates under a unique philosophy, one that aims to foster an understanding of how people move — and urges athletes to develop a highly attentive approach to their exercises rather than simply go through the motions.

At this point, Einhorn’s clientele consists of essentially all professional athletes. He has worked with NFL players, professional volleyball players, golfers and Olympians. NFL offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer, Olympic beach volleyball player Lauren Fendrick and even Australian footballer Travis Boak are just a few of the high-level athletes who have gone to Apiros for injury recovery, strength training or both.

Trainer Austin Einhorn at Apiros in Santa Cruz
Trainer Austin Einhorn with a client at Apiros.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Einhorn’s approach is extraordinarily thorough. He’ll closely observe his clients’ motions and pick apart the movement of each body part and determine ways an athlete can strengthen even the smallest of weaknesses to maximize their movement efficiency.

“We have a culture that values the grind as a social currency, and as long as athletes continue to do that, they are accepted and they think they’re making progress,” Einhorn told Lookout. “If more took a step back and thought about it, they’d probably realize they’re just working hard and not getting better.”

That philosophy and Haniger’s dedication, Einhorn says, helped the outfielder recover from a few injury-plagued seasons and come back to the game stronger than ever.

“Now that he’s local, it’s going to be great because I get to have eyes on him a little bit more often,” said Einhorn. “Not that he really needs it at this point, because he’s doing so well.”

Einhorn says his ultimate career goal is to eradicate non-contact injuries — injuries like sprains, tears and stress fractures that are not a result of contact between a player and another person or object. It’s a lofty endeavor, but one he believes is possible through his approach.

“In my opinion, no one just spontaneously tears an Achilles, for example. Mammals in general are too robust for us to have that big of a design flaw,” he said. “The fun of it for me is trying to figure out what those precursors are, and then deciding how to intervene.

“Our experiments either make him feel better and perform measurably better, or he moves in new ways that I have seen to reduce risk of injury.”

Lookout reached out to Haniger, 32, to get his input, but he did not respond by publication time.

A quick look through the Apiros Instagram page gives a peek into Einhorn’s somewhat unorthodox training. The facility has plenty of the usual gym fare — free weights, kettlebells, barbells — but Einhorn’s emphasis on body awareness and deliberate movements involves plenty of hanging, swinging and even scaling the facility’s climbing wall.

“Most athletes, from elite to high schoolers, have no idea where they are in space,” he said. “There is not an emphasis on bodily awareness in sports, so [athletes] need to get used to that cognitive aspect.”

In the Apiros facility in Soquel, athletes shimmy up and down the climbing wall as they twist and bend their bodies, zeroing in on a specific movement. In one video, Haniger can be seen hanging horizontally on the climbing wall, using both his feet and his arms to hoist himself upward. It’s similar to a one-arm pullup, but one that encourages synchronicity and connection among his extremities.

Trainer Austin Einhorn at Apiros in Santa Cruz
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” said Einhorn. “Mitch has to create a ton of tension throughout his whole body, hand to foot, in order to do this and not fall off the wall.”

Olympic mountain biker Haley Batten is a United States national mountain bike champion who competed in the Tokyo Games in 2021. She began working with Apiros during 2020 while struggling with knee tendonitis, and said that the cognitive aspect of the training has helped elevate her performance.

“It’s not just doing the exercises because that’s what everybody else is doing, but really understanding what I’m doing and being aware of my movement quality,” she said. “It’s a learning process of not just what we do, but how we do it.”

Batten said that since a lot of her races are livestreamed, Einhorn can tune in and flag anything that might be slightly off. “Are my shoulders all bunched up? When I pedal, is it obvious that there’s more power on one side than the other?” she said. “For us, it was rewinding and breaking down a lot of the bad movement habits that I had previously and building again from the ground up.”

Retraining is hard work, said Batten, with so much as a simple pushup requiring close attention from both herself and Einhorn in order to ensure quality, efficient movements.

“I joke with him because he makes me feel weak during our sessions, because some of the exercises dive into those weaknesses so well,” she said, adding that unfamiliar exercises have made her stronger all around. “Like, why would a cyclist do rock climbing? Once I started working out there I realized things like that were making my tendons a bit stronger, which I’d never focused on before.”

Einhorn said athletes have mentioned that they have to think more while working with him than they ever have before, but that’s something Haniger does well.

“Mitch is a thinker, so he didn’t need as much of an on-ramp period to learn about his body. He soaked it all up really well,” he said.

Einhorn isn’t the only local who helped Haniger return from injury — but by softening rather than strengthening.

Erin Brummett is Haniger’s massage therapist and founder of Kinetic Health in Aptos. Though she has a degree in early childhood development, she opted to take a different road and entered the field of massage therapy with a deep passion for helping and healing others. She began that new path at the Santa Cruz-based Twin Lakes College of the Healing Arts — which closed in 2014 — and continued her education at the Bay Area-based Five Branches University.

Like Einhorn, Brummett aims to prevent injuries rather than treat the symptoms. She and Haniger have worked together since 2019.

“If your back is hurt, it’s generally not the back that’s the problem,” she said. “I look for structural balance through the body and address it as a whole, looking for the root cause.

“It’s a lot of looking, touching and assessing questions. Pain has patterns, and once you have those memorized, you know what the culprits are pretty quickly.”

Kinetic Health founder Erin Brummett.
(Via Kinetic Health)

Brummett, herself a baseball fan, will watch Haniger play on TV and monitor his movements to guide their next session.

“I can do a little detective work and watch how his body is moving and address the muscles that I think are tight, weak or imbalanced,” she said. “As opposed to playing ‘whack-a-mole’ medicine, I look to create that balance. When you have that, things heal quickly and don’t get injured as easily.”

Brummett works with her fair share of high-level athletes, too. Olympic triathletes, former NFL players and, in Santa Cruz, a good number of mountain bikers. That said, these days she has found herself working much more with blue collar workers who sustain chronic injuries from their occupations.

“I think the ‘average’ human needs it, people who work with their bodies like I do get injured and tired. Painters, for example, can hurt their necks, shoulders and lower backs, and it’ll take away their ability to work,” she said. “I find a lot of satisfaction in helping people continue to improve their quality of life.

“Massage is not necessarily a luxury, and it really is maintenance for the body. Our bodies are worth the hour-and-a-half that we spend on a massage table.”

Even so, Brummett makes it clear that her clients need to put in their own work while on the road to recovery. That requires some tough love from time to time.

“I’ll be honest and say, ‘Hey, this is gonna hurt, do it,’” she said. “I’m not one to candy-coat things with anyone. If the job needs to be done, and you want this, get it done.”

With Haniger, though, that’s an easy ask.

“He is a quality person, he is focused, and he works hard,” she said. “I think the Giants are going to love him.”


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