Thursday, February 5, 2009

Getting In The Spring Swing

RT Staff Note: For the past three months we have stressed the importance of off-season conditioning. The past few weeks we have written about the need to be in tip-top shape when Day One of High School Practices start for many in the upcoming weeks in the Northern States. Here's a training facility in the state of Washington that is doing its part to help top players reach their training goals...There is a great quote in the first paragraph that really sums it all up... “There’s no reason to start Day One looking like you’re starting Day One,” Enjoy!



BELLINGHAM — Don’t let the recent chilly temperatures or winter rains fool you. This is baseball season ... or at least it’s time to start getting ready for baseball. “There’s no reason to start Day One looking like you’re starting Day One,” said Matt Tagman, baseball operations manager at Extra Innings in Bellingham.

“What I’m saying is that it’s so important on Day One of practice to be ready right away, especially for freshmen trying out for their first high school team. That’s why Tagman came up with a new idea at the two-year old Bellingham indoor training facility. Tagman and another instructor, former Washington State University player Brandon Hundt, both 26, are directing the first High School Hitters’ Boot Camp at Extra Innings. It’s a six-week program designed to get players ready for the start of the season. The camp, which meets from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, conducted its first session last Friday.

“There’s still plenty of time left and 10 hours of instruction,” said Tagman said, and there is still space remaining for interested participants. The camp is similar to a pitchers’ camp that began Jan. 14. Both camps are for serious high school players who want to make a good impression when spring practices open.

“Our camp prepares both the body and mind,” Tagman said. “We stress developing a powerful and repeatable (consistent) swing, through specific drills and exercises. We’re working on proper swing mechanics and the mental and physical approaches needed to excel.

“We are really stressing the mental aspect of the game. Our theme is we want players to be hitters, not hackers.” Tagman said too many high school players take too long to get going. “High school practices and tryouts start Feb. 25 this season,” he said. “It really is a short season. In many schools, freshmen have only three days of tryouts, so it’s absolutely important to be ready right away. “Two weeks of practice before games start is definitely not enough,” he said. “And if you haven’t swung a bat or thrown a ball, you’re already well behind players who have been preparing early.”

Tagman batted .648 as a junior while leading Olympia Capital High School to a state baseball championship in 1998. However, he focused on getting a jump start on his coaching career while he attended Western Washington University.

A serious skiing injury as a high school senior — he originally wanted to become a pro skier — helped convince him his future was in coaching. Tagman assisted Sehome coach Gary Hatch in 2003-05, before Extra Innings owner Bruce Tipton hired him when the facility opened. Tagman also coached a local Junior Legion team in 2004-05. “I learned a lot with Gary Hatch,” he said. “I just happened to be lucky enough to have called him when he was having a preseason meeting because they needed an extra coach. ‘Come on down,’ he said.

“I’m really proud to have helped coach seven seniors who led Sehome to the state (Class 2A) baseball championship last season.” Hundt, a former Bellingham Bells pitcher, said that since he has extensive experience as a catcher and later a pitcher, he can provide insights for hitters from an especially useful perspective. “This boot camp for hitters is a cool thing,” said Hundt, who pitched two seasons for Washington State and one season in the minor leagues. “I think this will give high school kids a great opportunity to step up their game early. We’ll cover all aspects of hitting.”

Tipton says high school players will enjoy working with two gregarious coaches who aren’t that much older than they are. “It’s their enthusiasm we love,” he said of the two instructors. “They’ll take the time to reemphasize things and to make sure the kids get it.

“I’m excited about these camps. This is a new opportunity for serious local players. We’re keeping the player-to-coach ratio at 5-1, so we’ll bring in more help if needed.” Tagman recalls having nothing like these programs while he was growing up in Olympia. “I would have given anything to have opportunities like these,” he said.

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