The Baseball Recruiting Process is Failing Us

In the early 2000’s TV series “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” Drew Carey used to open every show by saying, “a show where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.”

Drew Carey’s repetitive opening line could be applied to much of baseball’s recruiting and player development landscape today as majority of it simply doesn’t matter. The structure of the seasonal baseball schedule from youth to college is broken.

Money has been a driving factor in year-round play and “elite” travel teams where winning is placed at the highest importance. Many teams are marketing “developmental programs” where they play 5 plus showcase events through the course of a season.

Though these programs are marketed as developmental, it is the last point of focus for the coach or organization.

Showcases, invite-only tryouts, all-stars, All-American games and rankings are all designed as incentive based reasons to pay more money for a better chance at getting recognized as elite.

In some cases, these opportunities can be useful but majority of the time just as Drew Carey used to state, “everything is made up and the points don’t matter.”

 

It Starts at the Youth Level

Athletes at the youth level today are simply playing too much. It happens from a combination of parents’ desires for their kids to be on elite teams and teams desiring to grow profits or build into organizations with year-round tournament play.

Individuals, leagues, organizations and cities are profiting off the high volume of teams playing in these events, so more are hosted.

Special events are designed to sound like they are more elite such as “All-American games, invitationals, select tournaments or teams… etc.”

These are simply another opportunity to continue to generate revenue for the event hosts and allow the parent or player to feel as if they are continuing in the right direction for future success of the athlete.

Future success of the athlete at the youth level though is built around the development of skill and overall athleticism, not the number of trophies held on a mantle.

As the athlete matures and the lack of focus on skill development continues, many athletes find themselves injured or behind the curve in the recruiting process to reach the next level.

Natural maturity with proper focus of skill development can catapult an athlete’s career once both have been given time to work together. Often, these will be most noticeable within the early years of high school.

 

Showcase/Tournament Marketing

With a continually growing competitive recruiting circuit, college coaches are competing for younger and younger talent. Freshmen in high school for most college coaches are the youngest to receive notice.

Showcases are a place in which an athlete with adequate talent can “show off”. Tournament and showcase organizations claiming you can be seen at events are not lying. College coaches do attend events nation-wide to find unknown players.

However, what these events are not advertising is what it actually takes to receive the interest of a college coach.

For pitchers, it is clear that you must first pass the radar gun test. When a college coach sees a player who may be a “prospect”, the first thing they do is pull out a radar gun to determine if they fit the velocity they look for at the level of their college.

D1 schools look for 90+ mph, D2 schools look for 85+ mph and D3, NAIA will look for 80+ mph. Junior colleges will differ by region.

For example, Florida junior colleges will look for guys who can compete at the D1 level as most of the major D1 transfers will end up at Florida JUCO’s. This is different in northern JUCO’s though where 80 to 85mph may allow you to receive a scholarship.

 

The First Step in Recruiting

The first step in setting a plan to get recruited is determining your current skill level as a player and deciding if your talent level lines up with the caliber school you are looking to be recruited by.

If you are shooting for an SEC or ACC school at the D1 level then you are going to need to be very refined as a pitcher to catch the interest of one of those coaches.

Before wasting your money to attend events in which you hope those schools will be attending, it is best to decide if you are currently someone that coach may be interested in.

First impressions can be everything to many recruiters. Just like a job interview when you first present your skills you want to provide a “wow” factor.

If you are hoping to attend a high level D1 school and you showcase yourself for that coach throwing 75 mph you are likely going to be passed over or crossed off their list.

It is better to skip these events and spend this time developing your skills and developing yourself physically. Once you have developed the skills needed to provide the “wow” factor for a coach at the level you desire you can take these skills and then begin to showcase them effectively.

 

Showcases Are Not the Only Way to be Recruited

Showcases today look like a herd of livestock. Roaming around a field in the masses, numbered and asked to perform specific tasks in which they are rated for their performance.

Showcases can be an opportunity but in today’s world there are an abundance of opportunities in which a player can drive his name to the top of a coaches recruiting board.

From attending specific school camps (as mentioned previously) to sending schools video of your skills, there are ways aside from showcases in which a player can be recruited.

We recently had a player who added a coach on twitter, messaged him, got a call and received a scholarship offer. You do not have to pay thousands of dollars for an opportunity to receive a scholarship. You simply must understand the level at which your talent aligns and be consistent in your approach to show a school you fit their needs.

To get the most out of the recruiting process, here’s how the baseball community can offer guidance:

  1. Make your time as a youth purposeful in skill and physical development.
  2. Understand what coaches look for at each level and do not buy into the event marketing.
  3. Make your first step as a player to reach the needed skill level of your desired school.
  4. Avoid getting lost in the shuffle of showcases by being practical in your approach with recruitment.

3 Ways Baseball Pitchers Can Use a Radar Gun to Enhance Performance

One of the simplest, yet most effective training aids for any baseball pitcher is a radar gun.

At one point in time, I was actually against having youth baseball pitchers use a radar gun too often and focus on velocity, but I actually think that there are a few great benefits.  And with recent advances in technology of radar guns, people can easily get an affordable pocket-size radar run, like the Pocket Radar, to use at home.

One of the key differentiators I see between amateur and professional baseball pitchers is often just intent.

What I mean is, our pro ball pitchers tend to throw with much more intent than our younger pitchers.  Sure, this could be that pro ball pitchers are older, bigger, and stronger.  But intent isn’t just an output of mass and strength.  It’s also an output of intensity, which is something many youth need to learn.

Even in our sports performance programs at Champion, our early focus with people new to training is developing intent when training.

So while I don’t necessarily want our amateur baseball pitchers focusing solely on velocity, I still think there are a bunch of great uses of a radar gun during training.

Here are my top 3 ways baseball pitchers can use a radar gun to enhance performance.

 

Enhance Power Development

Have you ever used a radar gun to check your velocity?  No matter what your velocity was on the first throw, what did you every time on that second throw?

Try to throw harder, right?  Of course you did, we all do!

In the motor learning world, this is a form of extrinsic feedback referred to as “knowledge of results.”  This can be used to give immediate feedback to the player to enhance technique, but also motivation.  We see this all the time, especially in athletes who are competitive in nature

We know that using external feedback and knowledge of the results in the sports performance world helps increase power output.  For example, in one study using external feedback of results was shown to help improve vertical jump performance.  In a 2014 study the Journal of Human Movement Science, it was shown that using feedback of vertical jump height performance results in an immediate increase in vertical jump performance, as well an 18% improvement in jump height over a 4-week training period.

One way that we apply this knowledge with our baseball players is with medicine ball power drills.  In this video, you can see we are using a radar gun set up to monitor the ball velocity.  The athlete is encouraged to ramp up his intensity on subsequent throws until he reaches his maximum velocity.  We’ll record this and try to improve over the course of his program, just like we would by recorded weights during his lifts.

 

Monitor Throwing Intensity

Another great use of a radar gun for baseball training is to monitor throwing intensity.  This is important for a few situations:

  1. A player returning from an injury that wants to slowly develop load to healing tissue
  2. A player preparing for a season that wants to slowly build capacity of the arm to handle stress
  3. A player inseason that wants to manage his workload more specifically

Monitoring the number of throws performed or pitch counts during a game is important, and something that we have shown to correlate to predicting both injury and performance.  However, using the quantity of throws on its own is too simplistic.  Overuse is more of a combination of quantity and intensity.

Compare one player playing light catch for 30 throws versus another long tossing for 30 throws.  Which one do you think was more stressful on the body?

By using a radar gun, you can document and build gradual progressions more appropriately.  Distance becomes less of a factor, and intensity becomes more specific.

Here’s an example of how we use a radar gun to ramp up a throwing session.  In this video you can see a few throws that slowly ramp up to the max intensity that we want that day.  The athlete then does his best to remain right around that velocity to get his work in for the day.

 

Improve Pitching Velocity

Using a radar gun to help improve pitching velocity is probably the most obvious.  When it comes to actually training to enhance pitching velocity, it has been shown that if pitchers know the speed of their pitch during their training, the have a larger increase in velocity.

In a recent study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, it was shown that if players were able to see their throwing velocity, the players were able to enhance their velocity by 4x more than if they did not know their speed.  That’s pretty amazing to me, and based off the same mechanisms of motor learning discussed above.

Another past study compared the throwing velocity of youth when instructed to “throw the ball hard” vs the same instruction with radar gun results.  Again the study showed that simply instructing the athlete to throw the ball hard does not increase velocity as much as when they can visually see the results.

In another interesting study in tennis players, it was shown that training for 6-weeks with feedback of serve velocity had a significantly greater improvement in velocity than a group that did not know their results.  But what is most interesting, is that this same group stopped training with external feedback of their velocity and still showed that the velocity improvements were retained 6 weeks after the program.

What this could mean is that training with the knowledge of your velocity not only helps motivate you to throw harder, but perhaps also trains you to continue to do this even when external feedback is removed.

So while I don’t think amateurs players should always be focusing on enhancing their velocity, I do think there are a few good reasons why the should focus on knowing their velocity.  Just like anything else, is the focus is on what is more important, a radar gun can not only be helpful to enhance performance, but also to control and monitor workload.

 

What Radar Gun Should You Use?

There are a few options when looking at purchasing a radar gun.  As you can see from the above examples, I value the convenience of having one on me.  So I value one that is portable and easy to use.  I’ve personally been using the Pocket Radar and think it’s perfect.  We’ve compared it to the more expensive guns, and it’s always just as accurate, but so much easier to use.

The new Smart Coach model is awesome, it can connect to an app on your phone or tablet via bluetooth, or even an external display.  This is what we’ve been using at Champion and everyone has loved it.

 

 

3 Keys to Building Mental Toughness on the Baseball Field

The underdog is often times one of the most exciting parts of sporting events to this day. We all want to root for the guy or girl who is not the favorite because as human beings we are wired to love the upset. Each one of us has an inner dog within us that comes out in the most drastic of times. When our backs against the wall, how are you going to respond?

Ray McIntire has battled the uphill battle that all underdogs must face to get to where they want to be. As an 18-year-old kid, Ray was told that he was number 36 out of 35 baseball players at the University of Nevada, Reno. Shocked with his back against the wall, his future was over. All his hopes of becoming a college baseball player, winning a national championship, and suiting up as a member of the Wolfpack were shattered.

“Coach Powers called me into his office and told me ya know Ray, you battled your butt off all fall but I’m sorry to tell you that you’re the 36th guy on our list.” Ray was stunned when he was informed by Hall of Fame Coach Gary Powers that he did not make the team. Most guys would have quit. They would have thrown in the towel, waved the white flag, and surrendered to adversity as the common athlete would. But Ray is different. He looked at this as an opportunity to work on his craft. Ray worked his tail off to come back the next year and make the team.

“That coaching staff gave me a shot and I’ll forever be grateful for that.”

One year after being told he wasn’t good enough to play division 1 baseball Ray McIntire was informed that he indeed had made the team and will be competing for a starting spot. The underdog rose to the occasion and stared adversity in its face, conquering the moment.

This displays incredible perseverance. The ability to come back after being told you are not good enough defines mental toughness. Ray’s work ethic is incredible as I was able to witness this for 4 years; 2 as a player and 2 as a coach. To say he is a “gym rat” is an understatement. This guy lived and died at the field and put every ounce of energy into achieving his dreams, hopes of playing collegiate baseball.

Mental toughness is something we preach at Major League University because we believe it’s what separates the average from the good and the good from the great. So let’s dive into a little bit about what we mean by “mental toughness.”

 

Control The Controllables

Controlling the controllables is a frequently used term in the athletic world. Coaches and peak performance experts often say to their athletes “control the controllables!”

But what does this actually mean?

Controlling what you can control, such as your emotions, body language, work ethic, and response to success and failure.

Are you the guy who sits in the corner of the dugout after you make an error or are you the guy always on the dugout rail supporting your teammates? These are easy actions to control.

Each day we have a new opportunity to contribute to our team. Don’t be mistaken; helping the team doesn’t always come from a grand slam home run. We can help our team win games by being a good teammate, making a play in the field, or driving in a big run late in the game.

 

Attitude

Our attitude ultimately determines how we perform on and off the field, not vice versa. But often athletes allow their attitude to impact their performance on the field. We always have control over our attitude.

We dictate our attitude, not the other way around.

Carrying a positive attitude not only looks good in the coach’s eyes but in the eyes of your teammates. Understand that only you are in control of your attitude when you show up to the field. Leave yesterday in the past, and do not worry about the future. Stay in the present moment, be where your feet are, and make the most out of the day in front of you!

 

Be a Good Teammate

“Building a culture isn’t an overnight thing,” Ray McIntire said in our previous podcast.

What does he mean by this?

Culture is an interesting subject because it ties into being a good teammate. As a team, we want to focus our attention on the common goal: winning a championship. In order to win a championship, we must do the little things on a day-to-day basis that are going to help get us to that point.

Just like culture is not an overnight deal, neither is winning a championship.

Championship teams begin the process of competing from the very beginning of fall ball. We have the opportunity every single day to push the guys next to us to become better than they were the previous day. This is something to take pride in because being a good teammate is not a hard thing to do if we put our focus on the team aspect. The more you help the guys around you, the better the culture will be, resulting in more success for everyone!

All good teams have great people in the organization. Look at the New England Patriots. They have a solid foundation and a game plan that sticks to their strengths. As ballplayers, we should understand what makes us GREAT and how we can help the team win a ball game.

Mental toughness is not an overnight deal, just like culture is not an overnight success. But if we focus on what we can do on a daily basis to make the team better, we will ultimately be rewarded with more success personally and collectively!

Check out the full podcast episode below with University of San Diego’s assistant coach Ray McIntire. Be sure to subscribe, like, and share with your friends so we can bring you more amazing wisdom from the best in the game!

 

Byler Bombs – The Dog Within

www.soundcloud.com/bylerbombs/the-dog-within

Two Pitch-Calling Mistakes that Cause High Pitch Counts

Many young pitchers struggle to get deep into games, instead racking up high pitch counts on long at-bats caused by ineffective pitch-calling strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss common pitch-calling mistakes that cause pitch-counts to inflate too quickly.

 

Mistake #1: Pursuing Strikeouts on Every Two-Strike Count

The 0-2 count is the right time to pursue a strikeout, as a pitcher is way ahead and eliminates all unlucky outcomes when he strikes a hitter out. On all other counts, however, pitchers should pitch to contact knowing that when they do, strikeouts will still happen–but they’ll end at-bats more quickly and keep pitch-counts low.

Amateur pitchers tend to pitch to unhittable locations when they get into any two-strike count. What often happens is 0-2 becomes 1-2, 1-2 becomes 2-2, and 2-2 becomes 3-2 as a pitcher misses repeatedly. Attempting to throw the perfect strikeout pitch ends up creating long at-bats that become more favorable to hitters over time.

The reality is that hitters aren’t that good, and pitchers fall into the mindset of not wanting to throw a pitch in the strike zone when in a two-strike count. Hitters swing and miss on pitches on the white of the plate all the time, especially at the amateur level.

Watch the video below for an explanation of how curveball locations change in different counts.

 

Do This Instead: Pitch to Thirds of the Plate on 1-2 and 2-2

A simple solution is sticking with thirds of the plate on 1-2 for all hitters, and 2-2 if the hitter is good enough to warrant it. A pitch located on the outer or inner third is not easy to hit yet still gives a pitcher enough margin for error to throw more strikes and force hitters to swing and put the ball in play.

 

Mistake #2: Failing to Utilize Halves of the Plate

Most youth pitchers only pitch to two main lateral locations:

– The middle of the plate

– The corners of the plate

 

Pro and even Major League pitchers slice the plate up into four lateral locations:

– Middle

– Halves

– Thirds

– Corners

 

The easiest way to use each slice of the plate is by assigning it to common sets of counts:

Middle: first pitch or behind

Halves: even counts like 1-1, 2-2, 3-2

Thirds: 0-1 and 1-2

– Corners: 0-2

 

Jumping straight from the middle to the corners of the plate leaves the pitchers who are least in command of the baseball (amateurs) with the smallest margin for error. Pitching to the corners of the plate will yield many more well-located pitches that fall just off the plate for balls. Youth pitchers especially need to take aim at more of the white of the plate than the black, giving themselves a better chance of missing their spots yet still getting effective strike calls.

 

Do This Instead: Utilize the Halves of the Plate Early and Often

Watch the video below for a deeper explanation of how high-level pitchers use the halves of the plate effectively to set themselves up for success later on in the at-bat.

 

Keep Pitch Counts Low and Earn More Innings

Starters need low pitch counts to get deep into games, and relievers need quick, thrifty innings to bounce back quickly for the next outing. No matter a pitcher’s role, utilizing smart pitch-calling strategies will help him get contribute stronger, longer, more effective outings for his team.

 

Read Coach Dan’s New Book

If you enjoyed this article, check out a sample chapter of Dan’s upcoming book, Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir.

Dear Baseball Gods is the true story of how Dan Blewett grew up from a walk-on at a small school to a successful pro pitcher. Two Tommy John surgeries couldn’t keep him from growing into a Two-Time All-Star pitcher. Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook on April 9th.

EBook readers can save on the cover price now, with a limited-time pre-order price.

Four Exercises to Increase Power for Baseball Players

Power is the rate of doing work or the ability to be explosive. When it comes to being successful in sports, performance is closely linked with power.

In baseball, power can impact your throwing, hitting, base stealing, and fielding.

When you combine a strength base and move effectively, you are more likely to fully tap into your power potential. Just like increasing strength, there are many ways to increase power…

 

Here Are 4 of My Favorite Exercises to Increase Power for Baseball Players

 

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are a great exercise that takes the power of the jump and uses that to propel a weight.

The swing is a total body movement that builds strength, while also requiring power, speed, and endurance.

 

Band Resisted Broad Jumps

Adding bands to some of your jumps, like broad jumps, are a great way to increase your force production.

The broad jump is a great measure of pure power output and is often tested inside gyms, combines, and athlete intake.

 

Trap Bar Jumps

Trap bar jumps are generally performed with low weight so that peak power can be achieved.

With too much load, the velocity will drop, which defeats the purpose of the lift. With the trap bar, the weight is now closer to your center of mass, with the arms down by the sides in a neutral position. Similar to a squat jumps, kettlebell swing, or broad jumps.

 

Weighted Seated Vertical Jumps

Similar to trap bar jumps, you want to choose a weight that will not make you too slow.

When you start seated on a box, you are eliminating the eccentric (lowering) aspect of the jump. You will not have the rubber band effect to help you.

You must provide all the power on the way up.

 

If you are adding these types of exercises into your training program, make sure your takeoffs and landings are optimal.

I typically program these types of exercises after a full warmup, but before your main lifts.

Stay in the 2-4 set range of 3-5 reps.

Focus on one rep at a time, similar to one pitch at a time, one swing at a time mindset. Make that specific rep the best you can.

4 Steps to Building a Winning Mindset for Baseball Players

We have all heard that we need to build from the ground up.  If we try to build a pyramid from the top first, it would not be sustainable.  The pyramid will collapse and you will have to restart from scratch.  This concept holds true for building a winning mindset.  As a player, we can have all the tools we need physically, but if we do not have the right mindset, it will be very tough to reach our ultimate goal.

There are many components that go into a winning mindset, but there are four that stick out the most.  Having played baseball for 20+ years, from tee ball to affiliated ball, it is interesting to see who makes it and who does not.  There are many players that seem destined to become a big leaguer from the time they were 12 years old, and there are many players that looked like they had no chance of playing past high school.

If the game were based on skill alone, it would be fairly easy to see who would make it to the “Big League” and who would not.  As we all know, that is not the case.  A ballplayer’s mindset becomes the separator between the best and the average.

Luckily, our mind is like a muscle.  We can work on it just as we would any other muscle group.  Developing a winning mindset takes the same amount of time and effort that you would put into working on perfecting your swing or your pitching.  Here are a few tips to build your winning mindset:

 

Always Looking to Learn and Grow

You are never too old to learn.  It does not matter if you are in Little League or in the Big League, every great player understands that they must grow.  There is an abundance of resources out there now, which makes learning much easier.  Those who take advantage of that are the ones who will move onto the next level of the game.  They make it because once they learn something new, they implement it into their game and become a better player.  Every ballplayer must understand that if they are not trying to grow, other players will catch up and surpass them, potentially stealing their starting role or their spot on the team.

 

Having Drive

Having drive means that you are willing to do what it takes to reach your dreams.  If you want to be a big leaguer, you will do everything in your power to accomplish them.  One thing that separates the best from the average is the drive and the player’s willingness to do what is necessary regardless of how they feel.  The best players build discipline into their daily lives so that if they do not feel like getting in the cage or the weight room, they do it anyway.  Their drive keeps them going and does not allow them to relax.

 

Develop Confidence

Confidence is one of the biggest key components that every successful athlete has.  Without confidence, especially in baseball, chances of success are very slim.  Confidence is believing in yourself and your abilities and trusting that it is more than enough to get the job done.  You know you are confident when you are completely relaxed in any given situation including a “high pressure” situation.

Knowing that your abilities are more than good enough to compete relieves the anxiety and self-doubts.  We all face self-doubts and have negative thoughts, but we are in control of those thoughts.  We can counter them by saying something positive to replace the negative thought.  This, along with finding other ways to create belief in yourself, breeds confidence.

 

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is knowing the details of what is going on in yourself and your environment.  The more details you can pick up, the more self-aware you are.  The reason self-awareness is so important is that you can now make the necessary adjustments to get better in any aspect.

Mentally, being aware of your thoughts can be extremely powerful.  We have control over our thoughts.  Everyone experiences negative thoughts, but if we are not aware of them, there is no way to fix them.  Also, if we are aware of our positive thoughts, we can now intentionally have them more often.

Physically, being aware of the small details along with the larger ones will help tremendously.  Breaking a situation down into smaller details helps us to gain the edge on our opponent.  Baseball is a game of inches.

Let’s use base running as an example. If you round first base by stepping on the middle of the base versus the inside corner of the base, that could be the difference between being out or safe.  If you are an important run, now that hurts your team instead of helping them.

All components together make up a winning mindset.  Every single player has the ability to develop this and it will help them to succeed in their baseball career and in life.

In-Season Training Metrics for the Baseball Player

The high school season is closing in! This was truly a remarkable off-season for me personally. We’ve had multiple athletes put on 15-20 pounds while simultaneously moving better and getting a lot stronger, and we’ve had athletes lose a few pounds while accomplishing the same things.

We said “see ya later” to our professional pitchers Joe Palumbo (Texas Rangers), Anthony Kay (New York Mets), Ben Brown (Philadelphia Phillies), Mike O’Reilly (St. Louis Cardinals), Kyle McGowin (Washington Nationals), and Bruce Kern (Lamingo Monkeys, Taiwan) and we are super excited to see the stellar season they are all going to have!

We also said “hello” to multiple high school athletes who are getting their names on the radar, and have some young men who might hear their name called in June for the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft.

With that being said, none of this will matter if training is put to a halt once March hits.

Fortunately, the official high school season start date was pushed back 2 weeks to accommodate for the brutal northeast weather. This means 2 more weeks of pre-season development!

The entire focus of in-season training is completely different from off-season and pre-season training, and I would like to highlight those differences in this post.

 

Injury Prevention

The baseball player’s workload volume increases a TON once practice starts. Throwing and swinging 5/6 times a week coupled with cold weather really do not mix well from an injury prevention standpoint.

Overuse injuries are real, and they could be hiding beneath the surface. One aspect of in-season training is maintenance of joint health. Here’s what gets abused repeatedly in the game of baseball:

  • The left ankle gets over worked when performing multiple base running drills, leaving the other muscles on the same side to become overworked, and leaving the other side of the body exposed
  • The pelvis tends to get dumped into an anterior tilt during the swing as well as an overactive quadratus lumborum from lateral tilt, which can lead to low back pain and stiffness during rotation
  • Hamstrings get tired and over worked from changing surfaces of sprinting: turf in the off-season to hard dirt with cleats during practice
  • The posterior shoulder takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
  • The medial elbow also takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
  • The thoracic spine (the mid back) gets out of whack and shows muscle imbalances from swinging, which can also lead to altered muscle firing patterns
  • The cervical spine (the neck) gets over worked from looking over one shoulder for multiple at bats

 

To prevent any injury from occurring, we must do 4 things religiously well:

  1. Mobilize/desensitize the overactive joints, which will be very common among most of the population
  2. Activate the problem areas associated with baseball movement patterns
  3. Learn how to reset the body and find peace of mind with relaxation techniques/breathing drills
  4. continue to get stronger, develop, and preserve your power stores

 

There is some great research from the American Sports Medicine Institute discussing movement of the shoulder and elbow and the risk of injury. See here and here.

  • Pitchers should have within 5 degrees of total rotational motionof both shoulders. If your throwing shoulder is significantly less than your other shoulder, you are 2.6 times more likely to sustain an injury.
  • Pitchers should have at least 5 degrees more external rotation in their throwing shoulder when compared to their nonthrowing shoulder. Pitchers with less than a 5 degree difference are 2 times more likely to sustain an injury.
  • Pitchers with a deficit of 5 degrees in shoulder flexion are 2.8 times more likely to sustain an elbow injury.

 

Performance Enhancement

“If you don’t use it, you lose it”. 

This is the biggest concept to understand when training in-season. You spent all winter developing your strength and power to get ready for the long season.

For every week taken off from training, will be lost, dependent on training age. For the entire high school season being at least 12 weeks, that is at least 36% of your strength gains out the window.

You could train ONCE a week during the season and further maintain and improve your strength numbers to keep your strength around. Easy fix.

However, speed on the other hand tends to be lost a lot quicker. You will be displaying your speed multiple times throughout the week from base running and getting to balls over your head, but if you’re not training your speed at some point then you are limiting yourself as a baseball player.

On the other hand, let’s just think about the aggressive action of the upper body during the throwing motion. Repeated eccentric stress will result in a loss of strength and mobility in some joints. To prevent this loss from being chronic, you need to strengthen these areas and try to get as close to your “baseline” as possible.

I’m a big believer in auto-regulation ever since I got my hands on the research in college. I saw first-hand a group of trainees get stronger and put on even MORE muscle by following an auto-regulated training model as compared to a fixed periodization scheme.

To put it in the simplest terms, auto-regulation can be thought as listening to your body. You are the only one who knows your body better than anyone else. Rather than chasing the numbers on the bar, or the percentages of your 1-RM, try chasing your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during the season.

Not only will you further enhance your strength and power, but you will also reduce the likelihood of being fatigued from your lift. Get in and get out!

 

Recovery Management

At Infiniti Sports Performance, we like to use restorative techniques and modalities in our popular recovery room during the season, taking “arm care” to a whole other level. These techniques include, but are not limited to:

  • Myofascial massaging
  • Foam rolling and lacrosse ball trigger point release
  • Cupping
  • Voodoo wrapping
  • Vibration massage
  • Marc Pro systems
  • Mobility training

 

There are a ton of modalities that we can use to promote recovery for the baseball player, and we usually recommend a recovery session within 48 hours of your last pitch.

While the body should be doing most of the work itself when it comes to recovery, we assist in the process with the techniques and tools listed above.

However, since there are many ways to instill “recovery” work with the baseball player, we do not want them to get married to these concepts. Here is why.

Our body craves adaptation, and it also can get habituated to the same stimulus. Just like how we periodize and vary our strength programs, the same concept goes for recovery work.

 

Conclusion

Every baseball player needs to take advantage of in-season training. To sum it up, here is why:

  1. Overuse injuries are real, and they could be hiding beneath the surface. One aspect of in-season training is maintenance of joint health
  2. Learn how to reset your body in conjunction with getting stronger and more resilient
  3. Loss of range of motion in the throwing shoulder can lead to an increased injury risk of up to 2.8 times greater than pitchers without motion loss.
  4. For every week taken off from training, usually 3-5% of your strength gains will be lost, dependent on training age.
  5. Following an auto-regulated training model allows the player to still develop while minimizing fatigue

Are You Making This Common Sprinting Mistake?

Do you make this mistake when you perform sprinting drills? Have you seen the same side arm to leg pattern when you skip or do other movements?

When we perform sprint drills in our workouts or warm-ups, I literally see this problem on a daily basis.

Honestly, most of the time we see this because athletes can get “careless” and forget what they are doing for the movement.

Here are some great exercises below on ways to help solidify that opposite arm to opposite leg pattern, which will help your sprinting!

 

Why Does It Matter?

The problem with same side arm to leg patterns is that you don’t run this way, or walk this way.

You are naturally out of sync and rhythm.

When you go to sprint, you will unknowingly slow yourself down to fix your arm pattern. The arms play such an important role in sprinting, but they are often overlooked or forgotten.

When the arms are engaged and in sync, the body moves faster.

With the arms in proper motion, the chest opens up, breathing comes more naturally, and you can sustain your sprinting for a longer duration.

All of these small details add up, especially if you are a higher level athlete. These are the small things that can impact your 60 yard dash time and finally getting you below that important 7 second marker.

 

 

For those who play a sport where sprint times and testing matters to recruiters and coaches (hint hint…all sports), make sure you are properly performing skips as demonstrated on the right side of the video.

 

How We Work on Getting in Sync

I really try to enforce the arm to leg opposite pattern early on. Every session, we are doing work which will translate to on field performance.

If you find yourself having a hard time synching up your arm and leg pattern, slow it down! Take the time to make sure you can repeat it over and over.

Here are some of my favorite exercises I like to use when training athletes:

 

Forward Marching with Slight Pause

 

Forward Marching

 

Lateral Marching

 

Lunge to High Knee with Pause

 

Lunge to High Knee Double with Pause

 

Forward Skipping

 

Lateral Skipping

 

For athletes in any sport involving sprinting, enforcing arm patterns can be crucial!

I typically program these into a warm-up and dynamic progression after movement prep and an active series.

I’ll usually have athletes perform 1-2 sets of each for 8-10 reps per side. I really enforce movement patterns here, so make sure you don’t go too fast through these!

Four Mental Training Tips for Baseball Players

Mental skills in baseball are often overlooked and very undertrained. Today, we’ll cover four tips that can help any baseball player improve on-field performance and handle pressure situations like a champ.

 

#1: Start a Simple Meditation Practice

The word meditation sounds weird and scary, right? Many players think that only monks, hippies or yoga enthusiasts take time out of their days to meditate. But meditation doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. Rather, athletes should just think of it as quiet time to sit, reflect, and let their minds get a break from everyday life.

Here’s how easy a meditation practice can be:

Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can sit where you won’t feel self-conscious or nervous. A place out of the public eye is ideal.

Step 2: Find a comfortable cushion to sit on or lay flat on your back. Propping up the back by sitting against a wall can be good, but I don’t lay down in a bed or another place where falling asleep is likely.

Step 3: Set a timer for 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Start shorter—10 minutes is a good starting place where you can get your feet wet.

Step 4: Sit still, relax, close your eyes, and let your mind wander wherever it wants to go.

Step 5: Breathe in and out through the belly—pushing it out and in—and consider counting each breath. Counting belly breaths helps keep your mind present, where you’ll feel less distracted by things from the past and future that you’re concerned about

That’s it! Keeping it simple will help you get started, and the quiet meditation time will help reduce the anxiety and stress we athletes feel in pressure situations on the mound.

For a deeper explanation of meditation, as well as the other three tips outlined in this article, check out the video below:

 

#2. Visualize Yourself Succeeding

Visualizing success is an important part of an athlete’s mental skills routine. If we don’t deeply believe that we can accomplish goals, become who we dream of, or execute on a very specific task…we never will. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept in which when we believe something will happen, it becomes more likely to actually happen. Thus, if we believe we’re destined to fail or choke under pressure, we increase the likelihood that we’re correct.

Expect and visualize yourself succeeding—the positivity will carry you through hard times and tough situations. Visualize the good swing you’ll put on the ball, the flight of the pitch you’re about to make and yourself competing in the Major Leagues in front of thousands of fans. If you do that, it becomes more likely that it will actually happen.

 

#3. Have Confidence and Create a Fight Mentality

When under pressure, it’s easy to want to pull back and be passive, hoping you can get the outcome you want. Rather, we have to get even more aggressive when we get nervous in games, reminding ourselves that we CAN do it, and that we’re going to pull through no matter what.

As athletes, we need to truly believe we can succeed. By both imagining it and reminding ourselves that we’re capable of anything we put our minds to, we can maximize our chance at success.

A lot of times in a game, it comes down to the fight or flight dilemma: when we’re scared of giving up the game-losing hit or we’re nervous about not getting the game-winning hit as a hitter, we pull back and play the game scared. Athletes play their best when confident and aggressive—trying to take the fight to the other team, forcing them to play scared. When times get tough, show those teeth like a wolf and fight for yourself and your team.

 

#4. Use Positive Comparison

Find players in the Major Leagues who you look up to, who possess similar qualities or characteristics. How would your heroes respond if placed in the situation you’re in? Would they come through and get out of a bases-loaded jam? Would they have a good at-bat when the team needs a big hit? Would they feel nervous or afraid?

Find a player or players who share similar qualities and ask yourself if he wouldn’t be afraid, why should I? If so-and-so would confidently walk to the plate with the game on the line and have a great at-bat, why can’t I? If he could beat this team, I can too because I’m a lot like him.

Use positive comparison as a tool to remind yourself of the special skills you do have, that you might forget when you’re nervous or lacking confidence.

 

Use These Mental Skills Tips as Part of Your Routine

Nothing happens overnight, so get started today with building new, positive mental habits. Mental skills training is very overlooked despite the fact that most players will report that they feel themselves struggle with doubt, anxiety and low confidence on the field. Make a change today and start seeing how good you could be if you played with confidence and a clear mind every single day on the diamond.

 

Need Help Building a Mental Training Practice for Yourself or Your Team?

I have a step-by-step mental skills video course called The Resolute Athlete. It’s 40+ videos of instruction and stories, along with seven worksheets designed to help you learn the high-level mental skills possessed by the game’s best players. It’s perfect for teams and individuals.

And for more free baseball and mental training videos, subscribe to Dan’s YouTube Channel here.

How to Program Medicine Balls Into Baseball Workouts

Med ball exercises are a great way for a rotational athlete, such as a baseball player, to develop power and strength from their lower body to their upper body.

You often hear about rotational power or kinetic linking, but how do we maximize that? How does that relate to athletes, especially baseball and softball?

These qualities can be maximized with ballistic training. Movements often found in sports are considered ballistic.

What is ballistic movement?

“Movements that are performed with maximal velocity and acceleration can be considered ballistic actions. Ballistic actions are characterized by high firing rates, brief contraction times, and high rates of force development.” -Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

 

SO, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF MED BALLS?

Here are just a few of the many benefits of training with med balls:

  • Improved coordination in movements demanding high rate of force development in all planes of motion (especially rotational power)
  • Improved ability to control and decelerate rotational forces
  • Improved kinetic linking through which helps the ability to generate and transfer force through the body.
  • Injury prevention because athletes are training to control rotation and deceleration.

After seeing some of those benefits, you can see why med balls are commonly seen in sports performance programs.

 

SETS & REPS

When done right, med balls can be a very demanding on the body and the central nervous system. We program all med ball work to be done BEFORE any lifting for that day.

We will pick 2-3 med ball drills per workout day that will benefit the athlete the most.

Taking that into consideration, here is a how we commonly program med balls for our athletes:

  • 2 Days a Week Strength Program: 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps
  • 3 Days a Week Strength Program: 3 sets of 5-8 reps
  • 4 Days a Week Strength Program: 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

 

TOP 5 CONSIDERATIONS FOR MED BALLS

 

STANCE

There are several positions you can begin your med ball exercises in. Typically, I work from the ground up with new athletes. This gives less room for error with form, and a progression to reach in the short and long term goals.

  • Tall Kneeling (TK)
  • 1/2 Kneeling
  • Iso-Hold Stance
  • Split Stance
  • Athletic Stance
  • Single Leg

Here are some examples:

TK Rotation Med Ball Slams

 

Iso Lunge Med Ball Side Scoops

 

Split Stance Med Ball Side Scoops

 

Athletic Stance Med Ball Chest Press

 

1 Leg Med Ball Side Scoops

 

DIRECTION & BALL PATH

Where is the athlete and med balls intended path? Taking the stances from above, now add in the follow 3 items:

  • What direction is the athlete facing? Are they facing the wall, or facing sideways, etc.
  • Where is the ball starting from? Is the ball starting above their head, at their side, at their hips, etc.
  • Where is the ball going? What is the intended target or direction you want to slam/throw the ball?

 

INITIATION

There are typically 3 initiation methods for med ball exercises:

  • Non-Counter Movement: This will be your traditional slam method. Accelerate at the wall, floor or target from a specific starting point.
  • Counter Movement: This will be a movement initiated by a partner or a coil motion. The ball is moving against you so that you must stop, load, and then unload in your intended direction.
  • Continuous: This will be a rapid movement – quick and precise. You will commonly see a plyo based or rubber bouncy ball for continuous med ball exercises.

 

MED BALL TYPES

There are several types of med balls out there. Some have handles, some are large, and some are small. Here are the common types we use with our athletes:

  • Jam Balls: These balls won’t have much bounce. They are very dense, and can be on the heavier side.
  • Plyo Balls: These are commonly smaller, and offer a bouncing recoil when you slam them. These are great for continuous and rapid med ball type exercises, and even single leg stance exercises.
  • Soft Toss Med Ball: Commonly seen in gyms as Dynamax or PB Extreme Balls, these are great for slamming, tossing, and offer many uses.

 

INTENT

This may be the most important one. For athletes, one common goal is becoming faster and quicker. Med balls are great for developing these qualities. However, many athletes can’t check their ego at the door when they start training with med balls. They will grab the heaviest possible ball to throw or slam…VERY SLOWLY!

If the med ball is moving slowly, are you truly gaining the benefits of ballistic training? Probably not.

You have to put full effort and intent into each throw, and you have to find an appropriate weight that allows you to move quickly. This is how med balls were designed to be used. Med ball exercises are truly a “you get what you put into it” exercise.