CLEVELAND — Every offseason, many players have to find nearby facilities to do their workouts and have trainers to help them with their arm-care excises. But for
“Guys have asked Nick, ‘How do you have your wife train you?’” Ashley said. “And he’s like, ‘Oh, she knows what she’s doing. Why wouldn’t I?’”
She absolutely knows what she’s doing.
Ashley began working in sports media with the Cape Cod League, where she first ran into Nick (though they didn’t start dating just yet). She later started working as a sports information director for Vanderbilt before she decided to go back to school to get her Master’s degree in strength and conditioning.
Along with her certification in sports nutrition and a handful of other specialties, Ashley landed an internship at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida, a popular training facility for athletes. While she was there, Nick was also in the area for Spring Training, which led to the two reconnecting and dating.
“And he’s stuck with me for life now,” Ashley said, with a laugh.
So while others need to rely on local facilities and trainers, Nick just needs his wife and his gym in the garage.
“Literally when she’s not lifting or [our son] Jackson is down [for a nap] or I have Jackson, usually she’s on the computer, studying, reading up on more stuff,” Nick said. “There’s times I gotta be like, ‘Hey, babe, you can relax a little bit.’ She just loves learning. … So why wouldn’t I take advantage of that?”
After her internship, Ashley finished her Master’s degree and began working at Cressey’s a short time later. From her years at the Cape Cod League (2008-14) and her time at the training facility, Ashley already knew plenty of Major League players without meeting them through Nick.
“It was funny when I first started traveling with Nick, because I knew all of the guys,” Ashley said. “I was meeting all of their girlfriends and wives for the first time and I was like, ‘Oh I’ve known about you for years. Like, oh, no, sorry, I used to coach your husband.’”
After a year training athletes at Cressey’s, Ashley decided to leave her job in order to start a family. To be able to accommodate both of their regular workout routines while trying to maximize family time, the Wittgrens decided to transform their garage into a gym. While it was certainly convenient once Jackson was born in March 2019, it became even more essential when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It worked out that [Nick] was able to stay in shape, obviously, which worked out nicely,” Ashley said “I didn’t have to worry about his arm falling off. The poor guys that didn’t have access to anything [during the shutdown], I was concerned they were gonna have a ton more injuries this year. And we didn’t have to worry about that with Nick.”
There’s no reason to worry when your gym and your trainer are both in your house. But how does this husband-wife, athlete-trainer dynamic work? Ashley admitted that Nick’s training programs still come from her former boss, Eric Cressey.
“He can’t complain about the programs if I don’t write them,” Ashley joked. “So we did this intentionally, but I’m the one that chaperones him and teaches him the movements, and I do all of his arm care. We talked about nutrition — not that he really needs to be reminded. He actually eats vegetables now. He didn’t when we started dating, but he does now, more than I do, which is funny.”
As Ashley’s due date approached, the Wittgrens had everything planned perfectly from Ashley leaving her job and working out at home to just having Nick right down the road in Spring Training camp with the Marlins so he could be with her as soon as her water broke. But a wrench was thrown in that plan when he was traded to Cleveland.
Instead of having camp in Florida, Nick was heading to Arizona for Spring Training while his pregnant wife had to stay in Florida. When he got the call that she was going into labor around 4:30 p.m., Nick wasn’t able to get a flight out until after midnight that evening.
“Luckily I made it,” Nick said. “As soon as I came in, she was pushing. So I made it about an hour before little man came out. On the flip side, he was in the NICU for 48 hours. … I was supposed to be back that night, but Tito [Indians manager Terry Francona] told me I could fly back in the morning. … I don’t think I really let [Jackson] go that 12 hours we were at home.”
As much as anyone tries to prepare for these big life moments, so much changes once they actually occur.
“The biggest change for us was that we had something else going on in life besides baseball,” Ashley said. “Baseball has never been the No. 1 thing despite the fact that both Nick and I worked in it and our lives are dictated by baseball. … So having another little human come in, like he’s the focus all the time.”
The biggest challenge the Wittgrens now face is Nick being away from Ashley and Jackson when he’s traveling, though they try to do their best to be together as often as possible. In Jackson’s first year of life, Ashley took him on 20 flights throughout the season. When the coronavirus shut down Spring Training in 2020, the couple drove home to Florida over three days and later drove together to Ohio for the start of the season. But at the end of the year, Ashley and Jackson had to make the drive back to Florida without Nick as he finished out the season.
Now, the couple is preparing to add a second little one into the mix, as Ashley is due with another boy in May. But whether it’s training, being a baseball wife or being a mom, Ashley has proven that’s she’s able to take on any challenge.
“Honestly, it makes my life so much easier, having her understand and know how this [baseball world] works and what’s going to happen,” Nick said. “And she’s not really caught off guard, because she kind of knows what can happen, what potentially will happen, and all that, which makes it a lot easier on me to go out there and perform and do what I need to do for the team.
“It’s one of those things that I was very blessed to find her.”