High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of It – Part 3

February 27, 2012

Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy

Parts 1 & 2 of this series discussed the importance of speed and strength for a high school baseball player.  If you have not read either of those pieces, I suggest doing so prior to getting into Part 3.  Check them out here High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of It – Part 1 and High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of It – Part 2.

CONDITIONING & NUTRITION

Part of our pitch to these players was that this program would give them an opportunity to “live the life of a college baseball player.”  Many of these players have aspirations of playing in college without ever knowing the commitment that comes along with it.  A collegiate baseball season is far more physically and mentally demanding than a high school schedule.  There are times where you may end up playing 20 games in 25 days which is very physically demanding and that doesn’t even include going to class, homework assignments, long-term projects, internships, group meetings, travel, etc.  We tried to keep the players as busy as possible while on our trip. 

By day 3, it was very evident that the players were tired.  There wasn’t nearly as much fire as there was when we first got there.  Players footwork in the field was definitely a bit slower, more mental mistakes were made, and the aggressiveness and speed on the basepaths was limited. 

I believe there were a few factors that contributed to this drop-off.  The first factor is something that is a bit out of the players’ control but the change in climate (avg of + 30 degrees) from home in Massachusetts to Orlando, FL definitely did its part in running down the energy levels of our players. 

Secondly, the overall average level of conditioning for our player’s was below average.  I know some of our players take part in strength & conditioning programs a couple times per week and that is great but I think they need to realize that there is a lot more conditioning needed to be able to perform at a high level on day 4 after 1 full day of on-field practice and 2 days of games.  The conditioning needed to perform in baseball is that of multiple short bursts of energy.  Going for a 2-mile run is not going to increase your baseball conditioning like 10-20 short sprints followed by 10-30 seconds rest would. 

Lastly, the nutrition displayed was just absolutely atrocious.  Each time I entered a players room I’d see soda, gatorade, chips, pop-tarts, white bread, and more.  Most of the food choices by our players did not cater to a high-level athlete looking to perform at a high level.  I credit this to the players just simply not having the education or knowledge.  I mean most kids know that Doritos and Coca Cola are not good for you but why shouldn’t they be drinking Gatorade or making sandwiches with white bread?  I could go all day on this subject but let me just tell you that high-sugar beverages and starchy white carbohydrates shouldn’t be consumed when just sitting around a hotel room.  These can be of great nutritional value following a strenuous workout to increase a depleted blood glucose level from the stress your muscles go through during the workout itself. 

With all of that said, I highly recommend players who are serious about the game and their health in general to make a commitment to paying  more attention to the food and drinks that enter their body.  A solid nutritional plan plays a major role in the quest to attain a consistent high level of performance.  For anyone interested in getting some help with this, I highly suggest reaching out to the staff at Elite Health & Fitness in Stoughton or Julie Nicoletti over at Kinetic Fuel.

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High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of It – Part II

February 24, 2012

Yesterday I wrote the first installment of this series and had a lot of great feedback.  If you haven’t read it already, I would highly suggest reading that before moving on to Part II.  You can find it here: High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of It – Part I.

Part I discussed the importance of how speed can take a player from average to above average.  This doesn’t just mean straight speed from point A to point B but also first-step explosiveness, athleticism in the field, agility, lateral quickness, footwork,  as well as closing speed especially for outfielders. 

I LIFT THINGS UP AND I PUT THEM DOWN!

Today I’d like to discuss the importance of STRENGTH!  I’m not talking about the “how much can you bench press” type strength (although having that type of strength is not necessarily a bad thing), but more so functional strength.  The game of baseball is rotational in nature.  You rotate when you swing, you rotate your body to get to the ball in the field, and you rotate your body to throw the ball.  A player has to be able to transfer power from toes to fingertips on almost every play and they have to do it quickly and under control/balanced.  Think about it…

Pitchers go from “rocker step” in the windup to releasing the ball off their fingertips, catchers catch the ball from a squat position and transfer energy out the fingertips to release the ball when throwing out potential basestealers, hitters load & stride with their lower body and hit the ball with a bat held in their fingers, etc, etc.

The game of baseball has changed.  It’s no longer a game that players can just get away with doing a few pushups, situps, run long distances, and do some light weight shoulder work.  There are far more 90+ mph throwers than there ever were before.  This is due to the evolution of strength training for the baseball player.  Some of the best baseball trainers are the ones who are not afraid to implement heavier loads into a player’s routine, as long as they prove healthy enough to do so from the start.

One of the first things I noticed in our group of players in Florida was that a lot of them have nice swings, but there is a serious lack of “pop” and explosion off the bat.  These guys have been training in hitting cages since November and see the ball jump off their bat for about 10-15 feet before it hits a net.  It might sound and look great in a cage, but it’s a whole other story when you’re outdoors and there is nothing to hold the ball back until the outfield fence that sits 330+ feet away.  Many players were simply not strong enough to DRIVE the ball through the gaps.

One of the last nights we were there I began compiling a few bullet points that I could share with each player on what they need to do most to improve.  After the first 4 players I realized that just about every single kid on the trip AND outside the trip for that matter needed to get serious about a strength & conditioning program.  People tend to just throw out the term “strength & conditioning” without quite understanding what that means and/or the difference between strength AND conditioning.  You don’t have to look too far for a great strength coach either.  There are a number of extremely reputable strength trainers in our area including the guys over at Elite Health & Fitness in Stoughton as well as Edge Performance Systems in Foxboro, MA.  You can also find trainers for great speed & agility work right in our building at Premier Athlete Training.

I will be getting to Part III of this piece soon which will address the conditioning part of strength & conditioning as well as proper nutrition.

Stay tuned and as always, please let me know if you have questions or feed back at jbreen@rbiacademy.com!


High School Spring Training & What I Took Out of it – Part 1

February 23, 2012

Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy

I, along with Coach Chris Welch recently returned back to RBI after 5 days training some of our high school players in Winter Park,Florida on the campus of Rollins College.  We had 1 full day of practice followed by 3 days of intrasquad games.  During our time spent there we took many notes on things that we could preach to these players to help them improve once we get back as well as to give them an idea as to what they need to do to become the overall player they are looking to be. 

There were a few glaring skills and characteristics that separated the highest level players from the lowest.  The group we brought down was very diverse not only in their current skill and ability, but their family backgrounds, training backgrounds, and overall playing experience.  This made for a great coaching opportunity as we were able to cater to each unique player.  It also gave these players a chance to see where they currently stand among their peers.

We also had a player in the group who is among the highest caliber of player you will ever find at the high school level.  He can hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and is athletic as they come from his outfield position as well as the base paths.  He is a true 5-tool player at the ripe age of 17.  Outside of his physical skills, he possesses some of the best qualities a coach/scout would look for in a potential prospect including a great work ethic, attention to detail, a desire to improve, and much more.  Also, due to his time spent in the weight room, he is simply far stronger and more conditioned than your average high school athlete.  It was an eye opener for a lot of players that have aspirations at playing at the highest of levels. 

The following are some notes I took and thoughts I have with regards to what your typical average high school baseball player who is looking to play at the next level must do to get there.

Speed Kills

Among the group, we had a few players that could really motor.  One player in particular was not only the fastest player on the field, but truly knew how to run the bases better than anyone I’d ever seen at his age.  This was a combination of fundamental base running skills, natural instincts, and an ability to get to top speed in only a few steps.  Some of his speed is natural; however, I know for a fact that the combination of his strength work, sprint work, plyometric training, and nutrition has allowed him to increase his first-step quickness as well as his full-stride speed. 

Rhett Wiseman – 60yd dash – Perfect Game USA

Many high school players underestimate the importance of this aspect of the game.  They do not realize that you have to be a superior ATHLETE in order to be a superior baseball player.  Too many players focus solely on the hitting or pitching skills and not enough on the total on-field package.  Heck, let’s say you become a great hitter…doesn’t that mean you will be on base more often?  Above average base running skill is not an added benefit, but a MUST for those looking to play at the highest levels.

Coach Jon Sjogren of Rollins College told our group a few great things with relation to this topic.  He said that he “needs guys who can get to second base by themselves.  This means I need guys who can either hit the ball to the gap or over the outfielders head and get doubles OR I need guys who can hit singles or walk and then steal second base.  Even better than those guys are the guys who can get to third base by themselves.”  It seems like an obvious statement, but the way it was worded really hit home with the players AND the coaches.

I will have Part II posted asap while it’s all fresh in the mind!!!  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me!  (JBreen@RBIACADEMY.com)