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More Tantra than taunting: Cubs’ T-shirts about yoga, not Cards

MESA, Ariz. – First they beat the Cardinals in the playoffs. Then they signed John Lackey and Jason Heyward from the Cardinals.

Now a handful of Cubs are sporting T-shirts at spring training with “In Blue Out Red” emblazoned across the backs.

Talk about embracing the target.

Except the shirts have nothing to do with the Cardinals or any of the fast-ascending confidence flowing through Mesa these days – despite mistaken interpretations by outsiders.

“I could definitely see how that could [be confused], especially this year,” said pitching prospect Ryan Williams, who wore shirt Sunday morning in the clubhouse before workouts.

An instagram post of one of the shirts even drew a few raised eyebrows in Jupiter, Fla., where some Cardinals were said to be wondering if the young Cubs might actually be that brash.

Not even close.

The shirts, which also show the Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.11.11 AM on the front, were a gift for some players from the club’s mental skills program director, Darnell McDonald, the former big-league outfielder.

As that department began emphasizing meditation before workouts during a January mini-camp for younger players, the color associations were prominent – taking in the more relaxed, serene “blue,” and letting go of the stressful, chaotic “red.” McDonald left shirts in the lockers of attendees at the end of the camp.

“It’s an amazing shirt,” said Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who asked for one as soon as he saw a teammate wearing one. “We’re going to have these made on tank tops and dry fits and the whole nine yards. It’s pretty amazing stuff.”

Arrieta, whose fitness routines are the stuff of clubhouse legend, takes a holistic approach to his work and has incorporated yoga since college.

“I’m much better at it now,” he said after an hour of meditation Sunday morning. “For me it’s about trying to evolve and be better, not only as a player but as a person, too.”

“It’s a great shirt. Really comfortable,” Williaims said. “And it was a cool thing, because every day we would have 15-30 minutes of meditation before we went out and stretched and threw, just to get focused for the start of the day. I definitely enjoy it.”

If it leads to the message on the back taking on a double meaning by October, that doesn’t seem to be on the minds of the guys wearing the shirts.

“Darnell McDonald, he’s our spiritual guru,” Arrieta said. “We’re just trying to expand our horizons anywhere we can.”