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.
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.
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)