Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ready...Set...GO!


It may seem incredulous to many of our readers in the North, but the Southern States start outdoor practice in about two weeks...OUTDOORS! That means stepping up the work-outs to avoid injury. The most common complaints are shoulder and elbow soreness and if you didn't follow our suggestion to long toss and build arm strength this past fall season, it's still not too late.

In addition to long toss and other arm drills, we have found that the Jaeger bands and similar band work is a sure way to strengthen that arm to limit any soreness or injury. A site that we really like and can give you a quick tutorial on what to do to strengthen your shoulders and arms between now and January 15th can be found at the aforementioned Jaeger Sports and at these links at BaseballConditioning.net or BaseballFit.com

Good baseball players don't crash course their work-outs, and the only sure way to decrease the risk of injury is to work out and strengthen your core and the rest of your body year round. But if you didn't have a year round program, starting now, while not ideal, is better than risking injury the first few weeks of practice...the most common time of arm soreness.

Good luck guys. Work Hard!

RT Staff

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Many Happy Returns


Those few days after Christmas are big return days for all of the ugly ties, sweaters and and odd trinkets that relatives that didn't know what to give you, gave you something that they didn't really like themselves, but for some reason felt that you would never notice. Yeah OK, it hardly makes sense...but then, neither did the gift.

And, speaking of returns...from a baseball perspective (the only perspective that matters on this site)...the Christmas break is a great time for underclassmen to return all of those college profile sheets that the recruiters sent you a few weeks back. Unlike the relatives "thought that counts" gifts, the coaches and recruiters sent your sons stuff that is really valuable and important to follow up on.

Get In Their Database
The most important reason to fill out those profile sheets is to get on the colleges regular mailing list. That mailing list will provide your son with some useful information about their team, coaching philosophies, player updates and games and weekend series results. This will allow your son to make an educated decision about what kind of team they really are. Those mailers will also inform your son about key camps to attend. If your son is interested in that college, then it may be a good idea to attend that particular camp.

What To Add
While the profile sheets will give the college recruiters some basic information about your son, they are but a fraction of what is needed for them to make any kind of judgement about his abilities. This time of year is somewhat of a downtime for the coaches and an opportunity for them to view SkillShow tapes, stats, read any recommendations from past coaches, review his travel ball history and accolades, or read his upcoming varsity schedule. Make sure your son accompanies any correspondence with a personal letter directed at one person and not an entire staff. Your son should never send out generic letters. That's something that coaches would expect out of their insurance company at Christmas , but not from one of their potential recruits.

Follow-up on the Follow-up
It doesn't end there! This process is like interviewing for a job. Persistence can pay big dividends. Have your son follow up with his work-out routines and any goals he achieved in conditioning such as 60 times, or increasing his 1 RM. As the season progresses and he starts to compile stats, send those updates or send the coach links to articles or school web site summaries.

But it all starts now. Send those profile sheets in. Do NOT procrastinate. There are dozens of stories from people we know that didn't follow up and well, neither did any coaches

Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


The Staff at Rounding Third would like to wish every one of our fans and readers a very Merry Christmas!

Here's a parody on the night before Christmas we found on the web. Enjoy!

'Twas the night before baseball, when all through the park,
Not a creature was stirring, the lights were all dark.
The bunting was hung on the railings with care,
In hopes a World Series soon would be there.
The players were nestled in their beds for a rest,
Tho' some were out flunking a breathalyzer test.
And pennants and jerseys and team logo caps,
Were about to emerge from their long winter naps.

When out on the mound there arose such a clatter,
A noise like a child chanting "hey batter, batterŠ"
It rang Œcross the field and into the seats,
From the very first row to the luxury suites.
The stadium lights on the freshly mown lawn,
Gave the luster of afternoon baseball games gone.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a ghost telling stories for all that were near.

The little ole spirit so lively, so fast,
Was dealing out images hard from the past.
More rapid than eagles the memories came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.
³Now Mickey, now Aaron, now Babe Ruth and Ty,
On Branch Rickey's Dodgers, on Shoeless and Cy.
From the dugout below to the top of the wall,
Remind us, remind us, the great things about ball.²

As dry leaves before the wild hurricanes fly,
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky,
So up to my mind the memories flew,
First one, then another, another, then two.
First, springtime of baseball, best time of the year,
Transistor radios close by the ear.

There's Ott, Mazeroski, and Carlton Fisk's dance,
And Ozzie, and ³Tinker to Evers to Chance².
Dizzy and Daffy, the memories linger,
Of Larson and Berra and good ol' Three Finger,
Gibson and Seaver, the pitchers were plenty,
Mays and Cepeda and Roberto Clemente.
Steinbrenner's Yankees with Martin back when,
He fired and hired and fired him again.
There's some things you do to make easy rhymes,
Like just pointing out he was fired five times.

The Bombers, the Whiz kids, the Miracle Mets,
The pine tar that flows up the bat of George Brett.
The 20-cent soft drink, the one dollar ticket.
The grounder that went right through Bill Buckner's wicket.
The day when Lou Gehrig decided he's through,
McGwire and Sammy as they chased sixty-two.
Cracker Jacks, hot dogs and baseball park dinners,
Home runs and gold gloves and 20 game winners.

The 91 series and who would've thought it?
The 97 series and the man who had bought it.
The race for the pennant to the end of September,
All this and more, The Spirit remembered.
The Spirit remembered the things that were right,
And then it was gone like a breeze in the night.
It blew through our minds after leaving it's call,
³It's Opening Day; it's time to Play Ball.²


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Compete Against The Best


We were at a tournament a few years ago where a coach complained that their team was in the toughest bracket. Honestly, if you are a coach of a travel team with legitimate prospects and there are scouts at your tourney you should be very happy that you were placed in the tough bracket. How else are recruiters going to get a good gauge on the true talent of your players if they aren't playing against the best competition. As a coach, you should be requesting the toughest teams...At the 2010 graduating class level and above, it's not about just winning...it's about getting better and getting seen.

BTW, you should not be entering tournaments if there are not at least some scouts and recruiters there. If your team has a warm-up tourney to get ready for a big showcase event...fine...but if your team is consistently entering tournaments for the purpose of winning that $5.00 piece of plastic...shame on you.

Your players deserve to compete against the best players at any tournament you are playing in. Recruiters would rather see the best teams play each other as well. That way, they can scout and assess more promising prospects at one game. Economy of scale...everyone wins.

This is a short post today...Hey, it's Christmas Eve. Time to get back to the family Christmas gathering.

RT Staff

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RESPECT THE GAME


RT Staff Note: This is another article by TeachdGames Jim Giles. Go To www.teachdgame.com for more articles.

I had an epiphany while reading a quote by USC’s football coach Pete Carroll. Carroll said the "football gods" cause the ball to bounce in your favor sometimes, in your opponents' favor on others. "You're going to have to overcome all that stuff. We're going to have to do it again," he said. "Maybe this week and maybe next week, the teams are going to have our number, or somebody's going to be hot and the wind is going to blow and things happen”. "That's why we talk all the time -- you have to respect the game."

This just hit me hard. I truly believe exactly what he was saying, but as I reread it over a second and third time…. OK, so I’m a nut, I love trying to get inside Pete Carroll’s head and understand his methods/theories…. But I think so many times all of us, coaches, players and parents need to really look hard at these 3 very important words :

“ Respect the Game “

Respect
Coaches – every time we step on the field, do we really exemplify the respect for our opponent, respect for our players, respect for the umpires and respect for those who have stepped on the field before us? This great game we all love and hate is so fickle. One day we win, the next we lose. If we win, HOW do we win? Do we walk off the field gloating and rubbing it in the nose of the other team? Do we shove it in the face of the opposing fans? Do we post on message boards our record? Do we really win even if the scoreboard shows the other team might have scored more points during the game?

I think it was John Wooden who said, “ some days we don’t lose, we just ran out of time”. Do we really respect our players, or are they just a mere means to an end of satisfying our own ego’s as we can no longer play the game ourselves? Do we remember that every time we step on the field and coach, it is an opportunity to lead by example to those young men who look at everything we do, even when we think their more worried about the hotties in the stands? As we run out to argue a questionable call or rant and rave about the idiots in blue, can in the next breath we really talk to our players about “worrying about what you can control”?

Players – every time you step on the field, it is one step closer to the day you will no longer be able to step on that field and compete. How do you want that step to be taken? Everyone wants the satisfaction of winning. Winning feels good. But can you win while still retaining the Respect of your opponent? Can you still respect an opponent if the scoreboard says you didn’t score more runs than they did that day? How will you respect the name on the front of that uniform? In most instances, there were guy’s that wore that uniform ahead of you that gave YOU the opportunity to wear it today. They played the game with respect which is the reason while you wear it today. People will look to you with respect just because of the name on the front. How are you respecting them?

For those that will wear the uniform behind you, how will you respect THEM??? By leaving a legacy so that when they wear that uniform tomorrow, next year or 5 years from now, they will get the same respect that you do just for wearing it. How do you respect the name on the back? In many of the days ahead of you, the name on your back will be a source of great pride. You should be proud of who you are. But, this comes with a price. The price that hopefully has been paid by those ahead of you. The price you pay for those behind you that will have to live with the legacy you leave behind by the way you respect it today. And one day hopefully, when you are in the stands and you get to look down on a little one who wears that same name, you will understand the pride that goes along with that price.

Parents – how do YOU respect the game? Every time you are in the stands or on the sidelines, you are a direct representative of the team / school that your child is playing for. Are you respectful of the opportunity your son has been given to wear that uniform? How do you respect those who have come before you and given you the opportunity to wear that cute little sweatshirt or hat with the team logo on it? How will you respect those behind you, who one day will hope to walk into a stadium and garner some level of respect just because of the logo they so proudly wear? Or will everyone look upon them as “ Oh, their one of them “. How will you respect your
CHILD? Every time you stand up and yell at the umpire, it is almost assured that your son is sitting in the dugout putting his head down in shame. Or worse, you are telling them directly that it is OK NOT to respect the officials. How do you respect the coach ?

In many instances, you have paid for this privilege, whether it is travel ball fees, tuition at school, or just athletic fees. How can you possibly expect your son to Respect the coach or opponents if there is no example coming from the stands? How can you even remotely expect your son to only worry about what he can control if during the entire ride home or dinner that night, you criticize the coach, the umpires, the opponent, fellow players or YOUR SON’s play?

THE GAME
God, this is what we all forget so often. IT IS JUST A GAME. It SHOULD NOT be the embodiment of who we are. It will many times however reveal WHO we are. It is NOT the end of the world! It just seems like it if we didn’t score enough runs that day. It is NOT the financing for my son’s college education. Oh yeah and think about this one….. Key word --- education, why do I want to go to college, to play baseball, NO – to get an education. It is NOT my personal retirement fund as God willing, my son will be a million dollar bonus baby and suddenly all MY WORRIES will be erased. He’ll take care of me when I get old. Remember, they’ll follow your example.

For those tiny select few, maybe one day it will be their JOB….. Getting paid to PLAY THE GAME….. but can you get paid and still Respect the Game? Respect the Fans? Respect the name on the Front of the Jersey? Respect the name on the BACK of the Jersey? I sometimes feel that this is forgotten. All those dollar bills come from somewhere. That “tight” ride you’ll be driving, the “dope” house you and your kids are living in and all the "blingage" is a direct GIFT from everyone sitting in the stands who has paid a huge amount just for the privilege of watching you play. You get to EARN a living playing THE GAME we all love. Those people in the stands don’t consider how they earn a living to be a GAME. Those same people are the one’s who buy the products you’ll endorse, which will bring you more cash. So when the spotlight is shining so bright and everyone wants a piece of you, remember why that desire even exists giving you something only a select few have – RECOGNITION – it is because of THE GAME. How will you Respect it?

So as we all walk out on the field this weekend, next week, next month or next year –we can all really think “ how will we RESPECT THE GAME “.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Be This Guy


There are dozens of athletes that make great role models. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Michael Young and many more.

There are equally many athletes you don't want to emulate. But we are going to just focus on one. He is not a baseball player...but an exceptional athlete nonetheless that is wasting his talent and costing his team millions of dollars.

His name is Jamarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders. The other day, I was at a club where a bunch of college and pro athletes work out and I heard the trainer yelling..."Push it...push it...don't be a Jamarcus.."

Jamarcus Russell epitomizes what an athlete should NOT do. When he first burst on the scene as a Number One draft pick a few years ago, he held out of his contract and then...showed up overweight and extremely out of shape. That was strike one...Athletes take note...Never, EVER, show up the first day of practice out of shape...You should be in mid season shape on the first day, if you want to be taken seriously.

Next, he is usually the last to practice and the first to leave. He is a well known clubber...that is, he likes the nightlife seemingly a lot more than the game of football...Strike Two...Athletes take note again. Be the first to practice and the last to leave. If you are in college, remember, you are being paid to be on this team...EARN IT. Your pay is your tuition and books and a little less burden on your parents. If you are not giving 1000% to your team, then you need to turn in your uniform to someone else that will. Also...nightlife is OK...IN MODERATION. Every hour of lost sleep, and every brain cell killing extra drink you take WILL affect performance. Can you afford for that to happen? Look no further than Jamarcus to see how it can affect an athlete.

Finally, Jamarcus doesn't seem to get his role or the meaning of team player. After an abysmal outing at the beginning of this season, he was asked how he rated his bad performance. His answer was an embarrassment to the team and athletes everywhere. He thought his performance was good. He stopped short blaming his teammates and the coaches, but it was implied by his answer. Strike 3...Athletes, always take responsibility for your own actions. Peyton Manning could throw for 300 yard and 3 touchdowns and he will always be critical of some part of his game. That's how the great players become legends. They are always trying to improve their game.

There's no substitute for hard work. The player that relies on his athletic ability to get by hardly ever lasts in sports. Look at Jamarcus...I can't wait for him to be let go by the Raiders. Guys like that are a cancer for sports.





Monday, December 21, 2009

Play Clock in Baseball? The SEC to Add Two


Written by Devon Teeple

Baseball is a game with no time limits. The only one of the four major professional sports that can say that.

In recent years, MLB has made a conscious effort on speeding up the game (to varying degrees of success), making it more fan friendly, as noted by MLB's official rules:
Rule 6.02 principally involves the batter's movement around the plate. Umpires will now quickly ask batters to move from the on-deck circle to the batter's box, will not grant time to a batter once the pitcher delivers the baseball, and will demand that the batter not linger outside the box in between pitches.

As far as Rule 8.04 is concerned, that one involves a prompt delivery of the ball to the plate by the pitcher. The plate umpire will actively encourage the pitcher to take his place on the rubber, warn a pitcher for his first violation of exceeding the 12-second limit between pitches, and call a ball for each subsequent violation by the same pitcher.

The SEC, arguably the most dominant conference in college baseball, has once again taken on an innovator role in college baseball, and will be experimenting with some very entertaining rule alterations for the 2010 season.

The SEC tournament will introduce a 20-second and a 90-second play clock, as well as tournament format changes.

To be politically correct, let us start with the lesser of the two evils.
Beginning in 2010 SEC Tournament play will have the same format as the Big 12 and ACC, where teams are to be placed in two pools and the winner of each pool will play for the tournament title.

The College World Series tournament format is once again, in play, however, there are slight alterations.

Games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will begin at 9:30 am central, instead of the customary 10:00 am start time, while breaks between games will be reduced to 30 minutes, down from the typical 45-50 minutes.

According to a report by The Birmingham News, a 20-second clock and a 90-second clock are to be initiated during the 2010 SEC tournament, not during regular season play.
SEC Associate commissioner, Charles Bloom, commented on the recent changes.

“It wasn’t just when the games ended. We weren’t hitting any of our published game times all day,” Bloom said in the report. “The clock also lends itself to a bigger issue, and that’s making college baseball more manageable to television.”

Additional details were released from the report;

The 20-seond play clock begins;
With no runners are on base
A ball is called if the ball is not pitched within 20 seconds
A strike is called on the batter, if he is not ready 5 seconds before time expires

The 90-second play clock begins;
When the last out is made, and ends when the pitcher begins his windup
Batting team is penalized a strike if they are not ready in 90 seconds
Fielding team is penalized a ball if they are not ready in 90 seconds
Half-inning clock is extended to 105 seconds for televised games
Play begins whether the network is ready or not.

This is not something new to college baseball. The Missouri Valley Conference carried out a trial run of these exact same rules during the 1990 and 1991 season.

Game times played out to an average of two hours and 37 minutes. A time that pales in comparison to the average game times of the SEC tournament this past season. Times ran a staggering three hours and 20 minutes.

Baseball is a game based on tradition, history, and carries a tremendous amount of pride with that. Introducing a game-clock, in my opinion is walking a very dangerous line, something that can change the game completely.

We all know that baseball is a business, and the length of games disrupts regularly scheduled programming, and upsets the fans, the schools and conveners’ when games run into the wee hours of the night, sometimes, past 1am.

Consequently, that is what is great about baseball. It is a game not bound by the rules of other sports.

A team consists of nine players, but the outcome is determined through multiple one on one battles, battles, that do take more time than usual.

Rules are meant to be broken, unfortunately, multiple tweaks and revisions can change it completely.

North Carolina coach Mike Fox, insists these changes are not necessary and the variation is minimal at best.

"My initial take on it is, I hope the ACC doesn't do it,'' Fox said. "I don't see the point in it. Everybody seems to be caught up on the fact that the length of our games is an issue. I just don't see that. I don't know why that's such an issue.

"I just don't see that it's necessary. If you shorten the game by six minutes, so what?''

Devon Teeple is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Devon is a former student within Sports Management Worldwide's Baseball General Manager Class.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Power of Habit and Commitment


By: Ed Hirsch

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
And I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done,
And after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin;
It makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me
And I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am HABIT!

It makes your knees shake, it makes your stomach tight, it makes you calm with relief.
It can determine the way you feel and the way you act.
It's what creates business relationships and also what can destroy them.
It's something we succeed at one minute and fail at the next.
It distinguishes doers from dreamers, champions from wanna-be's.
It sorts our confusion, clarifies the mysterious and has the ability to dramatically impact your business.
It can alter the quality of your life, the extent of your achievements, and the measure of your success.
It has the power to create what is possible.
It's called commitment!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Offseason Conditioning That Produces Champions


By: Brad Warnimont - University of Rio Grande (Ohio)

The game of baseball is played in a series of short quick bursts, so as coaches, why not condition athletes in the offseason to enhance those attributes in players. The goal is to turn average players into contributors and good players into great players.

Utilize a lifting program three days a week--Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays
Similarly to many other programs with time and facility limitations, the entire body can be worked in these three days. On alternate days, Monday and Wednesday, the agility program is used. Split the entire squad into two groups and work for one-half hour. In agility workouts, use many exercises that improve players' reaction time, power and explosion.

Two workouts are recommended
The first workout is a station workout, and the second workout is a stairwell workout accompanied with plyometrics. In the station workout, the players exercise at each station for one minute (2 to 30 second sets). In between each station, the players run a backward lap on the track. The stations are as follows:

Two laps in 25 seconds each (track 1/11 of a mile)
Medicine ball abdominal work - 10 pounds. Two players back-to-back passing the ball over head (one set) and waist high (one set)
One legged dot-to-dot (both legs)
Jump rope
Reverse curls - wrist rolls with straight bar
Mountain climbers
Plyometrics - 12 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches only (one set on top, one set up and over)
Two-legged dot-to-dot (both feet each spot)
Throw-downs (abdominals)
One-legged half squats
Lateral hops over a 12-inch cone
Step ups - 24 inches
Side crunches with 10-pound medicine ball
NOTE: In the complete workout, run over a mile backwards.

The Stairwell Workout is as Follows:

Two-feet bunny hop every step, two times.
Two-feet bunny hop two steps, two times.
Two-feet bunny hop three steps, two times.
Two-feet bunny hop four steps, two times.
Two-feet bunny hop as many as possible, two times.
One-legged hop alternate legs, two times.
One-legged hop two steps alternate legs, two times.
One-legged hop three steps alternate legs, two times.
HOP up three steps, down two steps.
HOP up two steps, down one step.
Sit ups 15 second sets for three minutes.

PLYOMETRICS:
Box Height - 12 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches, 48 inches, 54 inches.

Workout - six times through, jumping on top of boxes and six times jumping up and over the boxes. The boxes are placed three feet apart.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Conditioning for Pitchers: Exercises for the Offseason


By Olan Suddeth

Pitchers are not made during practice - they are made in the offseason. However, there is more to being a pitcher than simply throwing the ball - and throwing the ball too much during the offseason can do more harm than good. Follow these exercise siggestions to build a regular workout that will help increase emdurance, flexibility, and strength.

Squats.
Contrary to popular belief, leg muscles - not arm strength - are where the pitcher's power comes from. Most of the force of a pitch starts with a good push off, accompanied by good form in the torso to transfer that energy through the body and out the arm.

A pitcher should do squats at least three to four days per week, in sets if fifteen to twenty. Supervise to ensure that the back is kept straight, the legs about sholder width apart. Add dumbells as the exercise gets easier.

Jogging.
Anyone can start off a game with a solid inning or two. The real test of a pitcher's mettle is if he can last deep in the game and still have the stuff needed to get batters out. Even if your son is a designated closer, and only needs to pitch an inning or two, odds are that he is fielding another position in the meantime, and that the summer sun is still sapping his energy.

Jogging will build endurance like nothing else. Players should jog three times per week for maximum results, and will ideally cover at least a mile. At first, your player may well only be able to jog a hundred yards or two. That's fine. Have them jog as far as they can, then stop and wallk at a brisk rate to rest. As soon as the old heart rate drops enough to allow it, jog again.

Set goals - "today, I'll make it to the Smith's mailbox before I stop to walk" - and work on imrpoving them. Over time, the running portions will get longer, and the walks will get shorter and less frequent.

For younger kids (less than twelve years old), a mile or so is sufficient. Teens should shoot for longer distances.

Jump rope.
Boxers know this one well - jumping rope will get your heart working in a hurry, and doing it repeatedly will greatly increase stamina. Work this one in slowly, but try to build up to at least three days per week (perhaps on alternating days with jogging). Much like jogging, a beginner won't be able to jump rope very long, but as his stamina increases, so will his maximum exercise time.

Weights.
Younger players have no business pumping iron; do not push this. Even older pitchers should be careful of which weights they use - too much bulking of the upper body can only damage pitching potential.

Pitchers need flexibility - again, power comes from the legs and trunk and is transferred through the arm in almost a whip-like motion. Many great pitchers never lift weights at all, or do so very little, instead focusing on their legs and core.

Weighted baseballs.
Once simple word about these - don't. Weighted baseballs do absolutely nothing for a pitcher except increase his risk for injury. Throwing a weighted baseball might make your arm muscles stronger, but it will do little to nothing for your pitching velocity - this has been scientifically proven. Arm muscles have almost nothing to do with pitch velocity!

Throwing a nine or eleven ounce "heavy ball" requires changing the pitching motion one uses to throw a regulation five ounce ball. You overwrite muscle memory, you develop bad habits, you set yourself up for much increased risk of shoulder and elbow injury.

If your players wants to be a good pitcher, he must get himself into shape. If he builds strong legs and a strong core, acquires great endurance, and maintains good flexibility, he will be that much better equipped to dominate at pitching.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Weather Beater


RT Staff Note: Because the nation is in a deep freeze, despite all the scares about global warming...we are continuing our series on conditioning in cold weather climates. We found an article that shows how being a player in Minnesota affected Dan Wilson, who was inducted into the “M” Club Hall of Fame last year. Wilson was a First-Team All-American (1990), a two-time All-Big Ten honoree (1989-90), had .336 career average at Minnesota and had a 14-year career with the Cincinnati Reds (1992-93) and Seattle Mariners (1994-2005). Gophersports.com recently talked to Wilson about his playing career at Minnesota, the coaching staff, his memories of his career as a Golden Gopher and what this honor means to him. The weather sure didn't affect him because he had a plan and stuck to it. Don't ever let the weather affect your love for the game. Take a cue fom Dan Wilson...Enjoy the article from Gopher Sports!

Courtesy: University of Minnesota
http://gophersports.com/


Gophersports.com: What does it mean to receive an honor like this from your alma mater?
Dan Wilson: “I am very honored to be recognized in this way from the University of Minnesota. I look back on my days so fondly there. I only spent three years at the University, but I had an amazing experience there with some of the relationships I made. The games that we played there are images I will keep with me forever. The people that I met there are people that I still have strong relationships with today. I have so much to be thankful for from the University Of Minnesota, and to be honored this way is yet another thing that makes me very grateful for my experience.”

GS: What are some of the things you learned most from the baseball program that you were able to take forth and used to be successful at the level that you were?
DW: “John (Anderson) and Rob (Fornasiere) did such a great job preparing student athletes not just in the area of baseball. Their track record in that area has proven that they have had success, and they do such a great job of teaching baseball and how to play. What is great about the both of them is that they go beyond that and they taught us to be good people. They taught us to be good people no matter what we do. I was lucky to have the opportunity to play professional baseball. Whatever line of work you go into, they teach you life lessons. Some things that I tease John about till this day, is that he used to say “You have to bring your lunch pale and hard hat and you have to go out there and do it.” I remember hearing that from him and laughing at the time, but as I have gone through life, I have learned to follow that advice. What it said to me was that there is no free lunch, you have to go out there and you have to work hard to make things happen, you have to put forth some hard work, and John and Rob were great at instilling that work ethic and that took me a long way in baseball.”

GS: What are some of the moments on and off the field you remember most fondly from your time here at Minnesota?
DW: “When we won the Big Ten Championship my freshman year, I remember we had to beat a pretty good Michigan team. I remember playing them and winning the Big Ten in Ann Arbor. It was just a great team moment for all of us. With that being my first year at Minnesota, we were so excited at what we had accomplished and what we had gone through there. I think we ended up in the loser’s bracket and we had to fight our way back. Again, there is the lunch pale and hardhat, we had to crawl our way back and had to beat Michigan State twice to win it. It was just some great baseball, and a great memory for me. Going out to Fresno California to play in an NCAA Regional and to be was also a great experience. A couple of spring trips during my sophomore and junior year produced great memories. We went to California and had a great spring trip, which was a great memory for me. We also went to the University of Texas and played them which was a great memory. As I look back, there are some great times on the field and I have met a lot of great people along the way.”

GS: You did a lot of pitching your freshman year. Talk about the memories you have of that and when it became clear that catching was going to be your path to success?
DW: “I do remember that, because it was a very pivotal time for me. I realized that it was getting close to the time when I had to make a decision to pick one position over the other. I liked pitching, but I enjoyed catching a little bit more. I enjoyed playing everyday and getting a chance to hit. I really wanted to pursue catching. I remember pitching some that year for the Gophers, and then going in the summer time to play at Cape Cod. They had a catcher on the team I was with already so I ended up pitching a lot in Cape Cod as well. I remember talking to John about it during the summer months when I was in Cape Cod League and asking him what do I want to do. I really wanted to catch. John was very instrumental in helping me come to a conclusion and I really appreciated that about him. We landed on catching, and it was something I wanted to do and he was a 100 percent supportive of that. I was very thankful to have another ear and listener to bounce those ideas off.”

GS: Talk about your journey here to the University of Minnesota being from growing up in Illinois and your professional career playing for Seattle. Did you ever expect for things to turn out as well as they did for you?
DW: “It is hard to expect things in baseball because it is unpredictable. In sports, injuries and other events can so often play a role in your chances to success. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my career, but I cannot be more thankful for what we were able to experience. Not so much the personal accolades. Those things are great, but what made more impact on me was being part of some great teams and playing with some great players. That to me was probably an even greater highlight. Playing in Seattle during the time I was there, we were fortunate enough to make the playoffs four times. Being part of that and playing with some great players like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and some of those all-time greats were thrills for me that I will always remember. The University Of Minnesota was where I was prepared for all of that, and I am thankful to John and Rob for a great education in baseball and in life. It was both of those things that I took with me down the road to Seattle, and I have always been thankful for that. As for the recruiting process, I was recruited by other schools, lone in the Big Ten and a couple of Southern schools and I really felt most comfortable in Minnesota. I think the environment and the student-athlete environment at Minnesota was something I was really drawn to. I am so thankful for that decision because I think it prepared me for what was ahead.”

GS: How good does it make you feel to still see John Anderson and Rob Fornasiere running the program and instilling the same values and the same things that have been successful all these years and continuing with that?
DW: “It is great. It is nice to see that they will continue to do it. I think it is a testament to how much they love the game, and they love baseball. They also love teaching kids and I think they do such a great job. They teach them and prepare them for life, and I think that is tremendous. You really cant put a price on that. I think as a parent now, I hope that there are coaches who prepare my kids the way the John and Rob prepared me for baseball and for life. I think, they are excellent at what they do and that is a big motivator to continue to do it and I think it is great.”

GS: Is there a particular moment or game that stands out in your memory?
DW: “I have some memories that are clear in my mind. Playing against Jim Abbot in Michigan, getting a chance to hit with him and getting to face him in the American league once I got to Seattle. I remember playing some really cool games. I remember some doubleheaders in Iowa when I was catching with my hand in my back pocket when it was so cold. I remember playing in the Metrodome and some of the great players that we played against who I would see later when I played for the Seattle Mariners. There are just some great memories that are fun to look back on. Not only to see the players that you played against in college, but then playing with them in the major leagues was really cool. I also really enjoyed the teammates that I played with, and was able to share a lot of great memories with during my career at Minnesota”

GS: Did your experiences in college baseball help you in a different way then someone who maybe did not get a chance to play college baseball and went right to the minors?
DW: “What I think is great about college baseball is the level of enthusiasm that goes along with it. It really is a trademark of all collegiate sports. It is just the underlying enthusiasm. Not that individuals or Minor League organizations don’t have it, it is just a different feeling and a different kind of enthusiasm at the college level. Being a part of that was great, I loved it. I loved the innocence of that, and I think it taught me a lot of great values. It taught me the hard work ethic, respecting your teammates and all of those things that go along with being a successful athlete. You can learn that in a collagen experience and I am thankful for mine at the University Of Minnesota.”

GS: How amazing of an experience is it to get the opportunity to be at an event like this with all the greats from different sports all gathering to celebrate the University of Minnesota?
DW: “When you begin to step back and look over the names that I will be joining, the feeling that comes to my mind is that I am humbled. I am humbled that my life experiences have brought me to a place where I am included in that kind of a group. The “M” Club is such a big family with the different sports at the University. I am just really grateful that I am even considered to be part of that group. To be inducted into this Hall of Fame is something very special to me and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Greatest Student Athlete Of All Time


RT Staff Note: With apologies to Mark Ingram...he was a very deserving Heisman winner...Toby Gerhart is a role model for every student athlete on this planet. Unfortunately, the Heisman goes to the best on the field...but when you consider the load that Gerhart is taking on, nobody in recent memory has achieved so much both on and off the field. We have made it a mantra here on this blog to stress that being a student athlete is very, very hard. Toby makes it harder. He is also a starting outfielder for the Cardinal. Just recently, we posted that baseball in of itself, is the toughest sport in collegiate sports from a time management standpoint. Football is right behind that from a commitment standpoint and this young man does both AND carries an insane class schedule.

The following is an article that ran Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's an amazing story about a very gifted young man.


By: Al Saracevic, Tom Fitzgerald,Ron Kroichick, Chronicle Staff Writers

Toby Gerhart is not your average running back. Come to think of it, he's not your average anything.

The Stanford senior, who's in New York today waiting to see if he wins the Heisman Trophy tonight, is that rare combination of athlete and academic, capable of muscling through 300-pound linemen and 300-page textbooks.

While carrying Stanford's football team on his back this season, Gerhart was also carrying a 21-credit course load, featuring courses like Prehistoric Archaeology and Integral Calculus. Your average Stanford student takes 15 credits.

Throw in the fact that he's also the starting center fielder on Stanford's baseball team. And that he was the valedictorian at his high school. And that he's majoring in management sciences and engineering. And that he's the all-time leading rusher in California high school history. And that he leads the nation in both rushing yards and touchdowns this season. You get the picture of an extraordinary individual.

Now, Gerhart hopes to become the first Stanford man to win the Heisman since Jim Plunkett brought it home back in 1970. To many, a Stanford/Gerhart victory would be a win for those who believe top-notch academics can co-exist with athletics.

"I think (winning the Heisman) would help recruiting tremendously," said Gerhart, in an interview from New York. "I tell kids, 'Don't be afraid to excel in the classroom.' I think people shy away from that. They buy into the stereotype that athletes shouldn't be smart. That it's not cool. Don't do that. The people who can do both (academics and athletics) are special people who get a ton of respect in the long run."

Of course, Gerhart would not be the first smart guy to ever win the Heisman. Two of this year's finalists - Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas' Colt McCoy - were also finalists for the William V. Campbell trophy, commonly referred to as the "Academic Heisman." Tebow, the Heisman winner two years ago, took it home Thursday night.

But not too many top football players carry the academic workload Gerhart does. And none of this year's Heisman finalists does it at a school of Stanford's caliber. It was just four years ago that USC quarterback Matt Leinart returned for his senior season, after winning the Heisman as a junior, needing only two credits to graduate. He famously took a ballroom dancing class.

Gerhart took five courses this quarter. He chose Integral Calculus because the professor has a good reputation. He enrolled in Introduction to Prehistoric Archaeology because it sounded interesting. He also took Investment Science, Introduction to Optimization Engineering and High-Technology Entrepreneurship.

"That's a pretty heavy load," said Gino Torretta, a Pinole Valley High grad who won the Heisman as the University of Miami's quarterback in 1992. "Based on those classes, he must be a math whiz. ... It's pretty amazing to carry those kinds of credits."

What's the hardest class Gerhart has taken? "That's a tough one. I'd probably say Stochastic Modeling," said Gerhart. "It had something to do with optimizing production. ..."

As Torretta knows well, the time demands on a major-college football player are substantial. He pointed out that Gerhart, as a running back, probably spends significant time in the training room every week, trying to recover from the pounding he takes.

Throw in practices, games, travel and video study - plus all the schoolwork - and there's obviously little wiggle room in Gerhart's schedule.

"It's definitely all about time management," Gerhart said. "You have to get up, go to class, work out, go to practice, study. Just long, long days."

If he can add a Heisman to his trophy case, that balancing act will be even more impressive. Gerhart faces stiff competition for the top award, having pushed himself into contention with a string of outstanding games against the likes of USC, Oregon and Notre Dame. But whether or not he takes home the hardware, he's set an amazing example for future student-athletes who may shy away from a big workload or a tough school like Stanford.

"The image of Stanford would be helped tremendously, not just because of the Heisman but because he's that kind of student," Torretta said Friday from New York, where he will attend today's Heisman presentation. "It probably would help every institution with very high academic standards.

"If someone wants to be a communications major at Northwestern, (school officials) could say, 'Hey, Gerhart won the Heisman with calculus classes at Stanford, why couldn't you do it here?' It would help a lot of schools recruit."

With only three courses to go before he graduates, Gerhart looks to be that rare Heisman candidate who actually graduates in four years. If it looks like he'll be a high choice in the NFL draft, he'll probably leave school early. If it doesn't, he'll be back at Stanford in the spring, taking graduate courses and playing baseball.

It's all enough to make a mom real proud.

Of course, Lori Gerhart is used to that feeling. Her son's achievements read like some kind of wish list for a doting parent.

Toby never had a grade lower than an A until he got to Stanford. Once he got to Palo Alto, he's maintained a better-than-B average. Not bad for a guy who called his mom the first week of school worrying aloud that he was the stupidest person on a campus full of intellectuals.

When his mom decided to go back to Riverside community college when she turned 40, 13-year-old Toby took the classes with her to boost her confidence.

Mom and son had meetings to study philosophy, public speaking, biology and anthropology. Their biology professor didn't think a 13-year-old could do the work. She graded Gerhart's first exam in front of all the students.

To her disbelief, he had earned the highest score in the class.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weather Proofing


One of our readers posted a comment that stated that it can get expensive for a high school baseball player in a cold weather part of the country to continue to work out in the winter months. Working out several times a week in indoor cage facilities and clubs can get a little cost prohibitive. We have several friends in the Mid West that we talk to frequently and they controlled costs by turning their basements into batting and pitching tunnels. The upfront cost is a little expensive, but the long term savings for those that are serious about baseball is worth the expense.

Most batting cage facilities cost around $25 an hour and if a player wants to spend 3-4 hours per week for the 12 weeks of harsh winter months, it can costs upwards of $1,200 per season to keep a players swing in shape. For a seasons worth of batting cage fees, that player could install a 55ft. indoor batting cage in their basement.
Batting Cages Inc. (1.800.463.6865) sells a trapezoid framework with net and L-Screen all for for $769. Of course, a cage and L-Screen is just the beginning. Throw in Balls, plates, tees, and buckets too. And, for those days when a player just wants to hit by himself...we are big fans of a somewhat low cost automatic soft toss machine. It's called The EZ-Toss and it's a rechargeable swing trainer that will help players at any level improve hand-eye coordination and sharpen their hitting skills....for only $279. So, for $1,200, you can have your very own personal hitting facility that will last for years.

I know Dad, you always had the plan to turn that basement into your own personal sports bar. That's a project you can tackle after your son heads off to college. Until that time, if your son really wants to play at the next level, this is a great way to keep him in the game and as a bonus, bond a bit more with him. A cage also turns your house into the team hangout. We know families with cages in their basement in the Mid West whose sons friends always came over to hang out on one of those cold, dismal winter days to hit and get winter off of their mind. It's uplifting to play what is usually a traditional summer sport, in the dead of winter. It really gets your mind off of the cold weather.

Our article on the strength of southern schools yesterday wasn't meant to be a slap in the face of northern programs and players...It was meant to say that northern players need to re-think their work habits. Youth and high school age baseball programs like the New England Ruffnecks are constantly keeping their players busy with off-season indoor practices, and work-outs. One of their facilities is the expansive Harvard Indoor Bubble (pictured above) as well as Babson College, Stonehill College, and Tufts University. It's no surprise that because of their dedication top off-season conditioning and baseball drills, a majority of their players go on to play D-I ball.

All it takes is a plan and the desire to implement it guys...A re-thinking of priorities. It IS easier for a California or Florida player to stay in game shape, because he is playing outdoor games scheduled through Christmas. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are the better athletes...just more seasoned players. But, a northern player can definitely close the gap with a strong regimen himself...that mimics the game day activities. And, if northern players compliment their winter baseball practices with their high schools off-season strength and conditioning program, they will spring into the baseball season fresh, and ready to play, no matter what the weather conditions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weather or Not


Rivals College Baseball had a message board thread a while back about some coaches are coming forward and talking about if the weather has any effect on their ability to compete. Some coaches in Northern climate schools say weather is a factor in recruiting and player commitment to the sport. Others say weather has nothing to do with it.

So a poster on RivalCB asked a hypothetical question that in essence said if the weather was the same all over the country, much like Southern California weather, would an LSU shortstop that was originally from Alaska decide to go home and play for his home state...He states..."Does he stay in or near his home state and make the local team more competitive? Or does he weigh other considerations? Remember, in our hypothetical, weather is not a factor any longer."


Here's our answer to that question.

If weather was not a factor, then baseball becomes just like basketball and football and the universities and conferences that pour more money and state of the art facilities into a program have the best shot of loading and re-loading every year. Plain and simple. It would even out the playing field and the southern states would not have the edge any longer....but only if those northern universities commit to the future success of a program.

It can be done. UC Irvine started from scratch and succeeded in a very short period of time with great coaching, new facilities and a commitment to winning despite competing for recruits with 11 other Division-I universities within a 90 minute radius of it's campus.

Those that are serious will compete. Those that aren't won't. So to answer his question. Would the player from LSU stay home and play in his home state of Alaska if weather was the same everywhere? Only if Alaska had the same commitment to winning that UC Irvine did. You see that scenario in basketball all the time, a sport unaffected by weather. Players from Iowa, going to Duke rather than play for the Hawkeyes...because the opportunity for that player was better...Oh, and there's that Coach K guy.

But the reality is...his hypothetical will never happen and we have to deal with the dynamics of a divisive system. Here's some questions and answers to ponder.

Q. Historically, where are the stronger programs?
A. In the past 20 years, the southern/warm climate teams have had 156 representatives go to Omaha...the Northern teams have had 12.

Q. Why does the south and western state colleges dominate in the College World Series?
A. Outside of foreign born players, the majority of major league baseball players come from California, Florida, Texas and Georgia, so it stands to reason that these colleges would have a strong base of high school players to choose from, making their ability to load and reload easier each year.

Q. Why do baseball baseball players be seem to better in the southern/western states?
A. They play more baseball. They have the ability to concentrate on baseball year round and by high school, have ceased to chop up their season by playing fall and winter sports. Although some people will disagree that year round baseball makes a difference, the realities are that most west coast and southern state players DO play year round and as a result, those states continuously produce some of our nations best players, best college teams and MLB recruits.

Q. Will Northern players ever compete with southern players?
A. Absolutely!!! A great athlete is a great athlete. The difference is commitment. It takes a year round commitment, a love for the sport and a major shift in their work-out habits. Baseball is an outdoor sport, when you can play it outdoors. A great athlete that loves baseball in Schaumburg, Illinois will have to take his game to another level mentally, than the guy in Poway, California. The guy in Poway can play in tournaments, face good pitching, hone his game situation skills, etc. The high school player in Schaumburg has to visualize those situations and work a lot harder indoors to achieve those kind of results.

And, folks that's very hard. Northern players have a distinct disadvantage. It's tough to psyche yourself to play pretend baseball in a cage, gym or on an indoor carpet. But, it can be done and has been done. Prior to 1988, there were teams like Maine and Michigan that used to be regulars in the CWS. A lot of that was due to regionalism and the way they seeded the brackets, but back in the 50's and 60's, Minnesota won three times and Michigan won twice. It just takes commitment and hard work, no matter if you are indoors or out. High School players in the North just need to get used to the idea of getting their reps indoors for 4-5 months.

Northern collegiate baseball seems to be headed in the right direction to address their biggest issue of February baseball. Teams in the Big 10, Big East and other conferences had to travel down south starting as early as Feb. 2nd and play conditioned and outdoor seasoned southern teams from the ACC, SEC and other warm weather conferences. That was a big disadvantage for them since they had little or no outdoor playing experience that early in February.

Last year the Big East and Big Ten had a pre-season tournament challenge in Florida to kick off the 2009 season. They got their feet wet by playing other northern schools that are in the same situation as them and started off the season without greatly affecting their RPI standing.

We think that this was a great idea and similar challenges will take place in 2010. We also hope these tournaments and hopefully others like it, will eventually convince the NCAA that there are solutions to narrow the weather gap and lengthen the season even more than the one week extension it has this season.

As we have written many times on this blog, the condensed season is hard for the STUDENT-athlete. In a condensed season, teams have to play 4 games a week early in the season and that makes it extremely hard for an athlete to be a student.

It's all so complicated folks. And, unless this global warming issue gets worse, collegiate baseball will always be be divided by the climatized haves and have-nots. All of you readers that live in the north are probably real sick of hearing about how the south is better than the north...when we all know there are great baseball athletes are on both sides of the Mason Dixon line. The bottom line is the level of commitment and playing time that separates the good baseball athletes from the great athlete and that divide can be closed with a shift in your winter baseball work-outs. It's really that simple.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Players Wanted


We are a site dedicated to helping players play at the next level...period...Although we have mentioned the subject of today's post a few times over the last three months, it bears mentioning again, because now is the time to act!!! Senior players who aren't committed to a college yet...there are hundreds of D-II's, D-III's, NAIA and JUCO's ready to add to their rosters from April 9th-August 1st...the next signing period. So, get those letters written, profiles updated, send them your high school schedule (your coach should have that posted by now)and travel team coaches recommendation. More importantly, make sure all your transcripts, SAT's, SAT II's and/or ACT's are ready to send out with the school application. If you haven't applied to the college you are sending a letter to, do so now! Many schools have admissions deadlines for applications for the Fall 2008 session and that deadline is probably coming up soon. Ask the coaches of that school or an admissions administrator what their policy is. There's no cookie cutter answer to this issue. All schools have different policies.

Bottom line, these smaller colleges could be the best thing that ever happened to many young athletes...especially if they are still maturing as a baseball player, but have the talent to play at the next level. Yes, it takes talent...Collegiate baseball at any level is competitive and can lead to bigger opportunities just like the D-I's. And, many players have taken full advantage of the opportunity they recieved at the small colleges they attended. Did you know for example, that NCAA Division II schools had 63 players taken in the 2007 MLB draft and D-III schools have an average of 30 players taken each year? Our point is...There is great baseball at the small colleges and in many instances a more well rounded education as well.

While the smaller schools aren’t as loved by the national press, they are the darlings of the local media, especially in the smaller communities. Many of these small schools are the pride of the small towns they reside in and have a great fan base as well. (Not all small schools are in small towns, but many are) And many of these smaller schools have every bit as much tradition and history as the D-I’s too.

And here’s a couple of interesting facts…Did you know that while D-III doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, more athletes play in D-III than any other NCAA division? Another interesting note is that NAIA schools can actually offer more funded scholarships. (not a lot more…but more nevertheless) NAIA can give out 12 scholarships, while D-I is stuck at 11.7.

In a post we published a few months back, we mentioned that Division III and NAIA colleges and universities offer some of the best education in the country as well. Ranked D-III schools, Johns Hopkins (34-9 in 2007) and Washington University in St. Louis (30-9 in 2007) have two of the most prestigious medical schools in the country. Many NAIA, D-II and D-III schools provide greater student-teacher ratios, attractive settings, and some of the best job placement opportunities in the nation after graduation.

High school student athletes who want to play sports in college, and are not being recruited by major college programs, may still have a chance to play baseball at NCAA Division II, III or NAIA colleges. Again, get those letters and school applications out now!!! In the right hand column of this site, you will find a list that includes all D-I, D-II, D-III and NAIA schools that offer baseball. Look at their sites and see which one may fit your goals academically, while satisfying that competitive urge to play a college sport. Good Luck..till next time..

RT Staff

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Juggling Sports With Academics


RT Staff Note: This is a article from Rivals. Student athletes take note. Without school, there's no athletics. Good luck in finals the next few weeks.

S.Kay
RedFlagSports.com


While the average student has classes, homework and a job to balance, a student-athlete also has a rigorous training and playing schedule to add to their daily routine. The life of a student athlete is a balancing act and can be completely overwhelming at times. Juggling sports with academics is a challenge and can almost be seen as having two full time jobs. Not only do student-athletes have pressure to perform in the classroom, but have the added responsibility of performing as a successful team member.

In order to be a successful student-athlete effective time management is required. Players must learn that to be the successful you must be organized and willing to sacrifice. Busy playing schedules means missing classes and lots on time of the road. As a student-athlete many resources are made available to you and it is vital that you make the effort to use them. Surround yourself with fellow teammates and people who follow a similar schedule as you do in order to help yourself stay on track and stay motivated.

Although making every deadline, class or practice may seem difficult to do; it is very possible. Missing class to make up for lost time may seem like a great idea, but will only create more work for you in the long run. Reward yourself for following your schedule and completing all of your work and training. It's important to not only schedule the things that you have to do, but make time to do things that you want to do. After completing your training and homework, reward yourself by watching an hour of TV or talking to a friend on the phone.

Everyone manages their time differently; it's a personal style that you must develop. The more effectively you are able to do so, the more it will help you not only in high school, but as you make the transition to university. The more effectively you are able to manage your time, the more time you will have.

Monday, December 7, 2009

At former theater, the hits continue


RT Staff Note: Players with a passion for baseball often have a tough time extending their practice and daily regimen beyond October in many parts of the Midwest and Northeast. With the economy still in a downturn, their can be a use for that vacant retail space in your neighborhood. In the DC area, one community converted an old theater. Read on...

Tysons Bullpen, once part of a deserted movie theater in Tysons Corner Center, serves as a sort of community outreach project for the mall. It is used by a nearby high school and Little League teams in McLean, Vienna and Great Falls.

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer

For almost two decades, a deserted basement-level movie theater at Tysons Corner Center has mostly collected dust as a storage facility.

Macerich, the company that owns the mall, didn't know what else to do with former screening rooms with 20-foot-high ceilings and sloping floors designed for auditorium-style seating.

But when Macerich executive Timothy Steffan visited the old theater early last year, he had a revelation: It was the perfect setting for a baseball bullpen, with high ceilings and an elevated floor to accommodate pitching and batting tunnels.

"It made a lot of sense," said Steffan, a former college baseball player. "I said, 'Listen -- we can't make money off it [but] it's a creative way to look at space in order to give back to the community."

The Tysons Bullpen opened in March in part of one of the old auditoriums. It serves as a sort of community outreach project for the mall, which donated the space for use by a nearby high school and Little League teams in McLean, Vienna and Great Falls. Tysons also enlisted the help of local contractors, who donated light fixtures, concrete and recycled rubber mats.

The bullpen consists of three mesh-enclosed tunnels for pitching and batting practice. Bursting with primary colors, it is a place remade entirely for youths. The walls and trash cans are splashed in bright blues and yellows. Even a utility box is disguised with green paint. Gray benches line the back of the room, where parents can sit and watch their kids practice.

McLean Little League coach Rick Lewis uses the facility to strengthen his players' skills during the off-season.

"This is fantastic for wintertime," he said over the clatter of a team practice one evening. "Every space you have like this gives kids an opportunity to work on their game. It's very high-quality."

The bullpen, which the designated schools use at no charge, eases the burden on some parents, who have spent as much as $150 an hour for their children to use other indoor practice facilities.

At the commercial facilities, "it's expensive and the lessons are more individualized," said David Schreiner, father of a 12-year-old McLean Little League player.

George C. Marshall High School in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County plans to use the bullpen when its baseball and softball season begins in February. Marshall is waiting for county to approve its agreement with the mall.

Indoor practice space fills up quickly at the high school, which has one netted cage used mostly for batting. The Tysons bullpen could come in handy in the winter when practice moves indoors, said Joseph Swarm, Marshall's student activities director.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Core Value


Core strength is the most vital aspect of baseball training. Top strength and conditioning coaches that understand baseball, know that core conditioning is where the emphasis should be throughout a baseball players training regimen.

Here’s a small sample of what you should know about core training:

1.Did you know? The core is comprised of nearly 30 different muscles that basically wrap around your body in the area between your hips and rib cage. This area connects your upper and lower body so it can function as one. ...crunches ain’t gonna do the job.

2.Baseball/Softball Hitting and Pitching power comes from the core....The core is fundamental to all body movement. You hardly make a movement without engaging your core whether it be walking up the stairs or bending down to pick something up.

3.Hitting Posture? Pitching Posture?...A strong core provides balance and stability, a necessity in athletic movement for baseball or softball.

4.Your core is the basis for all athletic movement. When you hit, throw, twist, swing or run you are relying on core strength to transfer power.

5.A strong core reduces your chances of low back injury which is quite common, especially in baseball players.

6.Your core includes both abdominal muscles and lower back muscles..front side core muscles don’t do the job.

7.If your core is weak, your movements will be weak and you will
not reach your full athletic potential = no power or velocity

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tyler Sullivan, Burned Out on Baseball, Leaves UW


RT Staff Note: Next Level Baseball is extremely hard. We have written many times on this blog that collegiate baseball players work harder than any other athlete in any sport. Frankly, it's not even close. Baseball players practice for nearly the entire fall semester, have strength and conditioning every week from September through May. Then, they play up to 5 games a week and over 50 games a year. Add a 15 hour course load and no other collegiate sport can come close to matching that kind of schedule.

After the season, players are then assigned to collegiate summer leagues. Based on where a player is assigned, they can play up to 60 or more games during the summer season. (Northwoods Collegiate Summer League, one of the best in the country, has a brutal summer season of 65 games and a lot of long bus rides to get to those games.)

Players must have a deep passion for the game, or they too can burn out. That's why so many pro scouts are drafting more and more college baseball players. College players understand the dedication it takes to juggle, school, social activities and sports in a much more mature manner than a high school athlete.

But not all players can take it...and that's OK. Some athletes have to be real with themselves and tune in on the bigger picture. Tyler Sullivan decided that he needed a break. I applaud Tyler for at least taking some time out and reassessing his life. I wish Tyler good luck. I hope he finds his passion.


By: Terry Mosher...Sports Paper

College and professional sports teams go to great lengths to break down a potential recruit or draft pick. Pro teams test, probe and pick over them, looking for possible weaknesses masked by their obvious physical talent. College teams follow recruits for years and the slightest slip by the targeted recruit and a red flag goes up.

Yet, selecting an athlete — college or pro — is still an inexact science. Like picking a winner in a horse race, there are some things that aren’t measurable. You can’t tell how a horse feels when he steps on the track and despite all the tests man can devise you also can’t detect how an athlete feels about the sport he is good at. Videos of that athlete may not lie, but it’s also an unemotional peek that tells us nothing about the inner self.

Some athletes get to the next level, quickly figure out that this is no longer for them and make it easy for their college coach or pro team, and walk back out the door. Gone, just like that.

So it is with Tyler Sullivan, the gifted right-handed pitcher from Kingston High School whose mound mastery got him a baseball scholarship to the University of Washington. Sullivan is one of the big reasons the Buccaneers in their first two years of existence made the postseason, an unusual occurrence for such a young school.

Sullivan left Washington in early October.

“He said he didn’t want to play anymore,” said Kevin Ticen, director of baseball operations for Washington.

His departure is not as simple as Ticen makes it sound. Sullivan has a shoulder problem that forced him to shut down during the Huskies’ fall season. He still hasn’t thrown a baseball since throwing two successful innings in early September. A UW doctor told him it’s possible the problem — a nerve impingement — may heal itself, but if it doesn’t surgery might be required.

He also wasn’t doing well in school. And he was suffering from burnout.
“I was having so much trouble with school and not being able to really practice because of my shoulder had pushed it (baseball) out,’ Sullivan said. “I was playing baseball every other day for two years. I took a little time off during the summer. I hoped that would do it. (But) I just couldn’t get myself back into it. I just burned out of it.”

The recent coaching change at Washington was not a factor in Sullivan’s departure. Sullivan liked the new coaching staff, especially pitching coach Greg Moore, who he said helped him a lot.

New UW head coach Lindsay Meggs refused to comment on the situation, but Sullivan said Meggs understood.

“He took me aside and said, ‘I can see you are not having fun here.’” Sullivan said. “I told him I wasn’t and he told me, ‘I understand some kids burn out, or it’s not for them. I’m not mad or upset. Just figure out what you want and do what you got to do.’”

So Sullivan, a member of the Port Gamble S’Kallam Tribe, left school and returned home to Kingston where his plans for now are to continue to make money using the commercial fishing license he first got when he was 13.

“I’ll make some money first and then go back to school, hopefully, and play baseball again,” Sullivan said. “It probably won’t be at the U-Dub. I don’t know if they will take me back or not.”

Moore and Sullivan have talked since he walked away. The coaches want him to stay in touch. But now that he’s a free agent of sorts, he’s free game for other school programs. The coaching staff at Olympic College, who would love to have him pitch there, has contacted him.

They all will have to wait, however. Sullivan will take baby steps from this point forward. He will first have to pick up a baseball, throw long-toss and then throw some hard stuff to test his shoulder. If the pain comes back, he may need surgery. If the pain does not come back, the next step will be to find a school he is comfortable with.

One thing for sure, Sullivan does not want to feel like he did in his next go-around with baseball.

“I was having trouble with school and with baseball and everything,” he said. “It all came crushing down on me.”

All the tests man can invent can’t measure what resides in a person’s heart. For Sullivan, the only test that matters is what makes him happy. He honestly believes he can have fun once again in baseball, that the itch to pitch remains and that he will come back as good as ever.

He just needs time.

Terry Mosher is a former Sun sportswriter who is publisher and editor of the monthly Sports Paper. E-mail him at bigmosher@msn.com.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicagoland baseball coach Palmer looked out for players

RT Staff Note: Coach Palmer is the standard by which all coaches should strive to achieve. It's not about ego's, or a my team is better than your team attitude. It's about the players. He will be sorely missed in the Northern Illinois area.

By GEORGE M. WILCOX gwilcox@pioneerlocal.com

BASEBALL -- Donald "Bill" Palmer coached the Lakeside Cardinals travel baseball team for 17 years, but he didn't always keep track of his team's record or scores during the summer.

Palmer's coaching style wasn't about winning. Palmer's goal was try to place as many of his players, usually ages 17-18, as possible with college baseball programs.

Palmer, 69, a Glenview resident, died Saturday after suffering a heart attack.

Palmer also founded the Niles Braves travel team for 15-16 year olds in the mid-1990s. He did everything for the Lakeside Cardinals, serving as general manager, equipment manager, coach and part-time groundskeeper for the team's practice field at Niles West.

"(I'll remember) his unwavering loyalty to the players on his team," said Cardinals assistant coach Mike Fries, whose son Daniel, a Notre Dame senior, played for Palmer last summer. "He would do anything for any of them to help them play college ball."

Another Notre Dame senior, Matt Moran, was awarded the game ball by Palmer in the Cardinals' final game of the fall season at a tournament in Lombard in late October. Moran credited Palmer with turning the defensive-minded outfielder-second baseman into a hitter after playing for Palmer during the summer and fall. Moran went 4-for-4 to end the tournament.

"I remember how excited he was," said Moran, a Chicago resident. "After the game, he brought the team together and gave me the game ball. The day I got the call (about his death), I was holding that ball just a few hours earlier."

The Cardinals featured players from across the North Shore and northwest suburbs. His final summer team consisted of players as far away as Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect. He coached brothers and even players that did not make their varsity high school team. Matt Moran played last summer with his older brother Joe, an Augustana College player.

Wilmette's Jack Havey, a Northwestern freshman and 2009 Loyola graduate, played for Palmer after his older brother Matt played for the Cardinals four years earlier. The Havey brothers played for Palmer for a combined six years.

"It's devastating. He was a great coach," Jack Havey said. "Most coaches these days treat baseball like it's a profit for them. Coach loved the game and loves seeing his players improve."

Havey said Palmer met with each player during the season to discuss college plans. The Cardinals, which did not play any home games, spent nearly every weekend during the summer traveling to tournaments at college campuses so Palmer's players could gain maximum exposure in front of college coaches. The 2009 Cardinals played summer tournaments at Northwestern, Bloomington, Ill., Northern Illinois and at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Several of his players also signed professional contracts.

Havey's mother, Rita, said Palmer was one of three veteran coaches, including Norwood Blues coach Rich Pildes and Northbrook Braves American Legion coach Mitch Stewart, who made their players a priority first.

"There are very few coaches left like him in the area coaching that age," Rita Havey said. "He did it for all the right reasons. He did it for the love of the game and he did it for the kids. There was not money to be made for Bill Palmer."

A service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Evanston.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Better Baseball Core Training


Are Crunches A Waste Of Time For Baseball Players?

The Truth About Baseball Core Training Drills

By Jon Doyle MA, CSCS


The first thing someone does when attempting to get rock-hard abs is drop to the ground and begin to crunch away. Very few people enjoy performing crunches for their mid-section, but they do so in hopes of a great looking stomach and, if they are an athlete, great performance as well.

Of course I’m here to rain on the crunching parade. At best, crunches are a complete waste of time. At worst, crunches can lead to a myriad of injuries, most notably of the lower back and neck variety. I’ll say it now and believe me, I’ll say it again: crunches stink!

Just as I tell all of my baseball players who insist on performing hundreds of crunches each day in their baseball core training program…”If you’re on that position on the baseball field you’re not doing very well!”

Baseball Core Training Basics

Baseball is played standing up. So why anyone would train lying on their backs is beyond me. Crunches mainly work the outer layer of midsection called the rectus abdominals. While this is an important muscle group, training it directly won’t have much of an impact on athleticism or performance.

The real secret is training the muscles of the mid-section, or “core” as it’s widely promoted today, in ground-based (i.e standing up) movements. You throw, hit, field and run on your feet, why would you train on your back?

So in order to develop lightning-fast bat speed and a cannon for an arm you need to train the core muscles properly. And crunches are not the way to go.

And, baseball players have been known to fall in love with the crunch because they can “feel it working”. Hate to burst your bubble (again) but “feeling” something work and actually having it work is two different things. Don’t go by feeling or the “burn”. You’ll always end up disappointed.

Performing crunch after crunch will only lead to a muscular imbalance between your abs and your back, thus creating a very high risk of injury.

All of my baseball players perform baseball core training exercises such as the Turkish Get-Up, Windmill, Corkscrew, Squats, Deadlifts and the Olympic Lifts. Yes, these are baseball drills that will develop incredible core strength and leave you looking like a Greek-God to boot.

So get off your back, start standing up and watch your baseball performance soar!

For THE baseball core training program the pros really use, visit www.unbreakableabs.com