Friday, February 26, 2010

Open Letter to the Media


RT Staff Note: I am passionate about College Baseball. I want it to become as popular as football and basketball. So, lately I have been sending letters to metropolitan sports departments and their editors about giving college baseball more coverage. The only areas I didn't write were the towns in the Southeastern part of the U.S. They already get it. This particular letter was sent to the San Francisco Bay Area media. It's a real significant market given all of the D-I schools nearby. Similar letters were sent to all of the major California, Southwest, Midwest, and Northeastern markets.


Last week, I picked up a San Francisco Chronicle and was pleased to see coverage of the line-up of college baseball games last Friday touting opening weekend. I thought that finally...the local newspapers and media get it...College baseball is getting it's due. However, that was just a cruel tease.

Despite Stanford's success in dominating the #4 ranked team in the nation...there was no further articles or mention of any of the local games in the paper or any of the local media. I repeat...Stanford beat up and swept a three game series from #4 Rice...a top rated college from a state that the California baseball community loves to hate. (There's a lot of trash talking in the baseball community between California and Texas teams that date back to youth tournaments and showcases. No love lost between the states. That alone makes for an interesting story line.)

College baseball is on the precipice of becoming a major revenue producing sport at many colleges around the country. Athletic Directors in the Big 12, SEC, PAC 10, Big West, C-USA, Missouri Valley and ACC have convinced the local media to embrace the sport and as a result the fans have been flooding the gates. Despite the unseasonably cold weather in most parts of the country, attendance was up, TV coverage and ratings were at all time highs and message boards across the country have reached football like numbers.

College baseball is very, very relevant. We need newspapers like the Chronicle, Mercury News and all TV and radio stations in the metro area to recognize that. There really is no excuse to ignore baseball any longer...There are 9 major D-I colleges with rosters filled with local high school players that compete in the greater Bay Area from some of the top conferences in the country. Stanford and Cal in the Pac 10...San Jose State and Sacramento State in the WAC. Santa Clara, USF and St. Mary's in the WCC, UC Davis and UOP in the Big West. No other metropolitan area in the nation outside of Los Angeles can boast that type of local talent. Yet, it goes completely ignored.

The irony is that there are well over a hundred local high school players playing on these teams and the teams that they host. Did you know that last weekend, there was a re-match of sort between two pitchers that often faced each when they were WCAL rivals? That's a good story line.

Santa Clara has a two time USA Baseball participant, Bellarmine HS Grad and former CCS player of the year is back from elbow surgery. Santa Clara has 10 local players.

St. Mary's vs. San Jose St had a lot of local flavor as well. One of St. Mary's top players was a freshman All-American last year from Foothill high school. In fact players from DeLaSalle, Wilcox, Palo Alto, California and Antioch High schools don the Gaels roster.

San Jose State has players from St. Francis, Bellarmine, Valley Christian, Serra, Leigh, San Benito, Monte Vista, Logan, O'Dowd, Logan, Arroyo, Branham, and Newark Memorial. Do you know many baseball alumni from those schools would like to follow those players? You are probably talking thousands of interested readers and viewers that would boost ratings and subscriptions if they knew you covered college baseball regularly.

Other conferences and metro areas around the country have realized the unlimited potential that college baseball brings to the table. This past weekend, the top 30 schools attendance wise, drew over 304,000 fans to their opening weekend series. As is usually the case, LSU was the attendance leader averaging 10,992 over 3 games. That's well over 32,00 fans for the weekend, or about a typical weekend for the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was pointed out on Rivals College Baseball that it was just over a decade ago that LSU would have been happy to draw just over 400 fans to a game. How did they change the fan dynamic so quickly? Dedication and extensive media coverage. Their coaches and athletic director had a plan, stuck to it and are now the standard by which all college teams should emulate. Don't take my word for it. Media coverage can take most of the credit for this past weekends attendance during opening week, despite cold temperatures. Here's the schools and their average attendance over a three day weekend. (note: some schools only played 2 games due to weather).


By Average fans Per Game (min. 1,200)
1. LSU 10,992
2. Arkansas 7,300
3. Ole Miss 7,171
4. South Carolina 7,072
5. Texas 6,020
6. Mississippi State 5,848
7. Clemson 5,727
8. Texas A&M 5,164
9. Florida State 5,049
10. East Carolina 4,974
11. Southern Miss 3,512
12. Florida 3,484
13. Hawaii 3,355
14. Miami, Fla. 3,172
15. TCU 2,934
16. Tulane 2,837
17. Arizona State 2,780
18. Louisiana-Lafayette 2,758
19. Baylor 2,679
20. Fresno State 2,607
21. Cal State Fullerton 2,465
22. Auburn 2,439
23. Texas Tech 2,328
24. Stanford 1,921
25. Vanderbilt 1,917
26. Long Beach State 1,908
27. Georgia Southern 1,847
28. Georgia Tech 1,720
29. Cal Poly 1,246
30. North Carolina 1,217

Sports departments, it's time to give college baseball it's rightful place in your programming and columns. ESPN, CBS, FOX, Cox, Charter and Comcast have committed big dollars to TV coverage this year. The College World Series and it's new digs in Omaha will be huge news this year. You can talk all you want about March Madness and it's impact on college basketball players, but to a college baseball player, Omaha is just as significant...especially after a long, hard fought 56+ game season.

ESPN has televised the baseball draft for two years now and it's gaining more and more interest. It is being discussed in MLB circles that as more and more college players get the top picks in the draft, players will start to be introduced and identified by the college they attended...just like football and basketball players.

And, one of the reason we want College Baseball to gain more media coverage and subsequent fan support is to show College Administrators that baseball can be a major revenue producer. It is presently an underfunded sport...but it doesn't have to be.

Right now, because of Title IX and other regional factors, baseball has only 11.7 scholarships to hand out over a 30 man roster. Yet, baseball players are THE HARDEST working athletes in all of collegiate sports. They have 45 NCAA sanctioned practice and scrimmage days in the fall...plus a longer strength and conditioning season that starts on the first day of school and doesn't stop til the last. They play more games than any other sport...56 in regular season and more if they have play-offs or NCAA tournament games. Then, they are required to play in collgiate summer leagues in either Alaska, Northwoods, Cape Cod, Cal Ripken, Jayhawk and a multitude of other leagues around the country. The Northwoods League, as an example, plays 70 regular season games in the summer. Therefore, a college baseball player ends up playing over 120 games for an average of a 33% scholarship. I often refer to college baseball players as the minimum wage workers of collegiate sports.

This is baseball we are talking about...not some fringe or country club sport. America's Past Time at the amateur level...Compared to amateur football and basketball and using that as a measuring stick, baseball could be just as popular as the pro game. Scratch that...it will be as popular...with your help...I hope to see more coverage soon.

Rounding Third Staff

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your Legs Are Your Lifeblood


RT Staff Note: This is the last of a week long series on strength and conditioning. This article is from gene Coleman from the Web Site, Be A Better Hitter.
By Dr. Gene Coleman
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Regardless of whether you're a position player or a pitcher, your legs are your lifeblood. And, for successful, injury-free performance, they need both stamina and power. They need the stamina to endure 9-inning games and 162-game seasons and the explosiveness to run, hit and throw with power. Remember, all actions in baseball, not just running, start with your legs. The forces used in hitting and throwing, for example, don't originate in the arms and hands. They originate in the legs and are then transferred through the trunk to the arms and hands where they are applied to the bat and ball. Likewise, getting out of the box, charging bunts, backing up bases, going in the hole, stealing second and getting a jump in the outfield all require explosive action by the legs.

Start by building stamina. All too often, we are consumed by the need for speed and power and fail to build or maintain a solid fitness base. Successful players spend hours per day executing explosive movements in practice and game situations. Doing multiple, all-out repetitions without a solid base increases the risk of injury to the muscles, joints, connective tissue, tendons and/or ligaments. The first goal of your leg program should be to prevent injury - the second goal should be to increase speed and power.

Start by maintaining or rebuilding your aerobic and strength base. Do aerobics 2-3 times per week for stamina and lift 2-3 times per week for strength. A solid aerobic base will help prevent injury by allowing your legs to recover quicker and more completely. A good strength base will let you perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.

Your training should mimic the game as closely as possible. It should use the same muscle groups, same movement patterns and same energy system(s) used in the game. Running, because it lets you condition the muscles in a manner similar to that used in game situations, is the most beneficial form of aerobic work. Use a cycle or Stairmaster when injury, fatigue, time or weather prohibit running and/or in situations where you need a change of pace. All players should run. Starting pitchers should run the most; about 20-30 minutes per day between starts. Relievers and extra men need about 10-15 minutes per day. Position players need about 8-10 minutes. Do speed work over distances of 10-60 yards 3-4 times per week.

For strength, do leg curls and functional full-range of motion exercises using body weight as resistance. Step-ups (forward and sideways), walking lunges (forward, sideways and backwards), split-squats, "cowboy" squats and squat touches develop both the primary and support muscles of the hip, groin, knee and ankle. In addition, they mimic the movement patterns used in running and develop a high degree of agility, balance and coordination. Start with one set of ten reps of each exercise. Add a set per week to a max of 3x10.

When you can do 3x10 of the leg exercises, add a day of low intensity plyometrics each week for power. Start with ankle hops. Stand with feet shoulder with apart and hop in place as you generate momentum with your ankle joints. Extend your ankles through their full range of motion on each hop. Do side to side ankle hops for lateral speed and agility. Hop laterally 2-3 feet from your ankle joints, keeping your feet at shoulder width and landing on both feet at the same time. For first-step quickness do single leg push-offs and box crossovers.

Start single leg push-offs by standing behind and to the side of a 6-12 inch high box. Place your right foot on the left corner of the box. Extend your right leg and foot and explode up as high as possible. Land in the same position and repeat. Use your arms to gain additional height and balance. Repeat on the left leg. For box cross-overs, stand in a "ready" position with your feet about shoulder width apart and about two feet to the left of a 4-6 inch high box. Use a cross-over step and step on to the center of the box with your left foot. Push off with the left leg and foot and land in a "ready" position about two feet to the right of the box. Cross back over with the right leg and repeat. Start with 1x10 of each drill. Progress to 3x10. For variety, have a partner toss or roll you during these drills.

The running drills, leg exercises and low impact plyometric exercises listed above combine injury prevention and performance. They build stamina, increase strength and improve agility, balance, coordination, speed and power without pounding the body.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fans In The Stands


This past weekend, the top 30 schools attendance wise, drew over 304,000 fans to their opening weekend series. As is usually the case, LSU was the attendance leader averaging 10,992 over 3 games. That's well over 32,00 fans for the weekend, or about a typical weekend for the Tampa Bay Rays. Just kidding...we love the Rays.

It was pointed out on Rivals College Baseball that it was just over a decade ago that LSU would have been happy to draw just over 400 fans to a game. How did they change the fan dynamic so quickly? Dedication. Their coaches and athletic director had a plan, stuck to it and are now the standard by which all college teams should emulate.

AD's...This is your standard...these are the schools getting it done. How does your school stack up and how can you get on the list.


By Average fans Per Game (min. 1,200)

1. LSU 10,992
2. Arkansas 7,300
3. Ole Miss 7,171
4. South Carolina 7,072
5. Texas 6,020
6. Mississippi State 5,848
7. Clemson 5,727
8. Texas A&M 5,164
9. Florida State 5,049
10. East Carolina 4,974
11. Southern Miss 3,512
12. Florida 3,484
13. Hawaii 3,355
14. Miami, Fla. 3,172
15. TCU 2,934
16. Tulane 2,837
17. Arizona State 2,780
18. Louisiana-Lafayette 2,758
19. Baylor 2,679
20. Fresno State 2,607
21. Cal State Fullerton 2,465
22. Auburn 2,439
23. Texas Tech 2,328
24. Stanford 1,921
25. Vanderbilt 1,917
26. Long Beach State 1,908
27. Georgia Southern 1,847
28. Georgia Tech 1,720
29. Cal Poly 1,246
30. North Carolina 1,217

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Good Choice Is A Good Education


I keep hearing stories about talented Olympic Athletes finding themselves in Vancouver after a disappointing showing 4 years ago at Turin when they were younger and less disciplined. Bode Miller owes his recent success to settling down, having a family and finally putting priorities and the meaning of sports competition into perspective. Three medals later is good proof that he has found his way.

Let's use that analogy to analyze baseball athletes. How many baseball careers have been lost to the immaturity of an 17-18 year old kid out of high school with money in his pocket, that is thrust into a life of adulthood overnight? Look back to when you all were 18. Would any of you have had the discipline, drive and know how to survive life on the road with co-workers that were of legal drinking age? I am not saying that all baseball athletes live a life of debauchery, but the temptation is always there...the lack of a higher purpose is not looming over their heads, making them accountable or keeping the focused. Some have what it takes to succeed, but many do not. Many young athletes out of high school need a daily routine and rigorous schedule to keep them focused and on target. They need college.

Now, college is not going to make angels out of them. There are plenty of temptations there as well. But that weeknight kegger is followed by a 6:30am wake-up call to the strength and conditioning coach and that is followed by 4 hours of school and another 4 hours of on-field practice. After practice, there's study hall and over time, that attendance at that Wednesday or Thursday night party becomes shorter and shorter.

Thus, the life of the student-athlete becomes a lot more scripted and the results are much more rewarding in most cases. Listen, not all student athletes have success, but the good news is that those that eventually fail at the athlete part, have a back-up plan...and that's an education. It's so much easier to slip into the the role of student, when you already are one.

Last week, I mentioned that there is talk of MLB becoming more involved in the success of college baseball. The first order of business is to eliminate the high school draft. Like football and basketball, baseball players should be required to attend at least three years of college...two if it's at a JC.

Of course, in order to make that work, and to keep baseball players from skirting the rules and going through the motions at the local JC, they need to increase the scholarship limits to 25 at the 4 year colleges and make baseball a fully funded sport. But, baseball has too make a nice financial return for the school in order for this to happen.

As I mentioned yesterday, the interest for college baseball can reap financial rewards if marketed properly. If a sizable and distraction rich city like Austin can draw 5,000 plus to every game, so can the rest of the college towns and cities across the country. Austin, Baton Rouge, Oxford, MS, Houston, Phoenix, Tallahassee and others know how to market their teams and keep them engaged.

That type of engagement will draw recruits to the college game which in turn draws fans. It sickens me sometimes to see the big high school stud lost to the black hole of the minor league system. Just the other day, I was asked about where a local former high school Player of The Year was playing. I couldn't tell them. I don't even know if he is still with the club that drafted him. So, I looked him up and there has been no real progression in his prospect status. He has been in the minor league system for 5 years now.

I think it would have been a better choice if that kid had gone to college. After 5 years of moderate success in the minors, his pro days are numbered. In those 5 years, he could have had his college degree and a better understanding of his role as a future big leaguer. And if that didn't look like it would have worked out, he would have had a degree and better prepared for the next stage in his life. More later.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Finally!


After a long hard winter that doesn't seem to want to go away, it was nice being able to watch some ball and dream of warmer days ahead. Of course, my idea of a long hard winter here in Northern California pales in comparison to the snow bound cities in the Mid West and Northeast. It was a chilly 58 degrees in Palo Alto on Saturday, but Stanford didn't seem to mind the below average temps and came out smoking against 4th ranked Rice and swept the Owls with an explosive offensive attack and effective pitching.

I was surprised however at the low attendance at Stanford on Saturday. Maybe it was the overcast skies that kept the fair weather fans away...or maybe it was the 5 other D-I teams playing in the area that had their opening weekends nearby. Cal, San Jose State, Santa Clara, USF and St Mary's all were playing locally as well.

If college baseball wants to expand and grow, the California schools need to step it up attendance wise and draw the type of crowds they draw in the Southwest and Southeast. LSU had over 11,000 fans, East Carolina had 5,100, Texas - 5,700. Florida State - 5,200, Southern Mississippi - 3,500, TCU - 3,200, Ole Miss - 7,600, Arkansas - 7,600, Clemson - 5,900, Texas A&M - 5,200, South Carolina, 6,300, and Alabama - 4,500.

Other than Fullerton at 3,400 and Fresno State with 3,800, many of the California schools had attendance below 1,000. I know the weather wasn't perfect and we are so spoiled with our weather that when it's below 60, it might as well be snowing, but come on...support the local teams. UCLA had a pathetic 563 and although Stanford announced it's paid attendance at over 2,100, there were maybe 800 at the actual game. I guess watching bobbleheaded cartoon characters skip across the Gametracker screen was the better option for many of the pre-paid fans.

And, don't talk to me about UC Irvine...What's the deal with those fans? They have a Top 10 team right there in the very populated baseball crazy Orange County area and they can't fill a third of their stadium?

My biggest gripe with the California attendance is the lack of media coverage. I was surprised to see an article in the San Francisco Chronicle touting the weekend college games on Friday, but was disappointed when there was no follow-up to the results of those games. Stanford swept the 4th ranked team in the nation and there was zero coverage of that feat in Sunday's sports section. I noticed that LSU's, Mississippi, Florida State and others had front page above the fold articles following their games. Even though they are smaller towns, the local TV stations also had coverage.

It's time for California media and especially newspapers to expand their sports coverage for college baseball. It just may expand their readership in a time when they really need it as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baseball Meal Plans


RT STAFF NOTE: This is a great follow-up to his tremendous baseball Nutrition series from Jon Doyles great web site, baseballtrainingsecrets.com. Andrew McInroy is a highly-sought after consultant who works with numerous amateur and professional-level athletes and will make this whole nutrition thing very clear - once and for all. Enjoy!

By Andrew McInroy
As always, this is not to be used as medical advice. The following information is to be used for informational purposes only. Always speak with your doctor or healthcare physician before beginning and nutritional or supplement program.

Sample Meals

EXAMPLE: Off-Season

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: Off-Season
Goal: Add muscle and strength
Calories: 3515 cals
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 78.11 g (703 cals)
Carbohydrates: 425.5 g (1702 cals)
Meals Per Day: 6

Off-Season Nutrition: This is the season where you want to add rock hard muscle, recover, and prepare to be bigger, stronger, and faster for your next season. During this season, you will have time to prepare meals as opposed to your other seasons where you are on the go constantly with school and baseball. From a nutrition stand point, you will eat above maintenance calories to bulk up.

7 AM: Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 3/4 Cup
1 Large Banana (Can slice into Oatmeal for extra flavor)
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 2 Whole eggs
1 Fish Oil Pill

10 AM: Meal 2
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter
1 Cup of Spinach

12:00 PM: Meal 3 - Pre-workout meal
Protein Shake: 1.25 Cups of Oats + 1 Scoop of Whey Protein
1 Fish Oil Pill

3:00 PM: Meal 4 - Post-workout meal
1 Banana
Protein Shake: 1 Cup of oats + 2 Scoops of Whey Protein

6:00 PM: Meal 5 / Supper
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

EXAMPLE: In-Season

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: In-Season
Goal: Maintain Muscle and Strength
Calories: 3000
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 66.66 g (600 cals)
Carbohydrates: 322.5 g (1290 cals)
Meals Per Day: 6

In-Season Nutrition: This is the time where you will want to maintain what you have achieved during Off-Season and with your busy schedule with school and baseball, you will want to have a more convenient method of eating. Nutritionally, your calories will be less than Off-Season because right now you are just maintaining what you have.

7:00 AM - Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 0.5 Cup
1 Banana
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 1 Whole Egg
1 Fish Oil Pill

10:00 AM - Meal 2 / School Snack
Protein Shake: 0.5 Cup Large Flake Oats + 1 Scoop Whey Protein + 1 Table Spoon of Peanut Butter

12:00 PM - Meal 3 / School Lunch
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter

3:00 PM - Meal 4 / After School SnackBanana
Protein Shake: 2 Scoops of Whey Protein + 0.5 Cup of Oats

6:00 PM - Meal 5 / Supper
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

EXAMPLE: Game-Day

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: In-Season
Goal: Maintain Muscle and Strength
Calories: 3000+
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 66.66 g (600 cals)
Carbohydrates: 322.5 g (1290 cals)+
Meals Per Day: 6

Game-Day Nutrition: Today is the day where you will want to be full of energy and you have to eat right to do this; carbohydrates will be the nutrient that we will manipulate. Before a game, you will want to have complex carbohydrates that will digest slowly to provide you with long lasting energy whereas during the game in the dugout and after the game, you will want to have fast digesting carbohydrates that will immediately replenish your energy stores. This is why there are '+' signs in the profile above and they indicate that there will be increased carbohydrates to accomplish these factors.

7:00 AM - Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 0.5 Cup
1 Banana
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 1 Whole Egg
1 Fish Oil Pill

10:00 AM - Meal 2 / School Snack
Protein Shake: 0.5 Cup Large Flake Oats + 1 Scoop Whey Protein + 1 Table Spoon of Peanut Butter

12:00 PM - Meal 3 / School Lunch
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter

3:00 PM - Meal 4 / Pre-game meal
Protein Shake: 2 Scoops of Whey Protein + 0.75 Cup of Oats

During Game Nutrition
Sip on 50% Water / 50% Gatorade Solution

6:00 PM - Meal 5 / Post-game meal
Banana first thing you get home
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

TIPS / OTHER
- The point of a lot of these meals, such as the protein shakes, is for convenience. Some of it may not be enjoyable, but you got to do what you got to do to get your nutrients; let's face it, 6 meals in a day is a lot.

- For protein shakes, I suggest using a tall glass and measuring the appropriate amount of ingredients into each and then you can place a little sandwich bag over it and place it in your locker. When it comes time, just add water and it's good to go.

- Do not be obsessed with going over or under calories by a bit, just do your best to get your own meal plan done and try to stick to it.

- What is more important: Taste or Results?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tell Them, Tell Them What You Told Them and Then Tell Them Again


We were on a conference call the other day comparing notes with our warm weather colleagues on high school games (which started this week in many parts of the country) they have seen the past this week and several including myself, were a bit underwhelmed with the knowledge of basic fundamentals. What really stood out was the lack of "coaching" during the game. In most of the College Development Programs (CDP's) we have had the pleasure of watching over the past several years, those coaches would be involved in every aspect of the game, yelling out situations, adjusting a hitters position in the batters box or moving a fielder over to compensate for a certain hitters statistical preferences. Many will huddle with the fielders before they enter the dugout after a defensive half inning and talk about the way they handled certain defensive situations and then pump them up with a player led "break". Their philosophy...and we have talked to plenty of CDP coaches...is that this game has hundreds of situations and in order to build instinctual reactions on the field and at the plate, they need to be constantly reminded until it becomes second nature to them.

Face it, even the pro's need constant reminders of how to play the game. What do you think they teach in Rookie League? Why do they call it Instructional League? Why do they have four different layers of Minor Leagues? Because the game is hard...and it takes a lot of game knowledge to make it to the bigs (talent helps of course)!!!

So, why would any coach, High School, Little League, or CDP, assume that his players should know the game like the the guys in the majors? There IS a lot to know about this game and it is easy to have a brain freeze every once in a while. One of our contributors said that one high school coach just sat on his bucket the whole time and never said a word...then after the game, he yelled at the top of his lungs and dressed each one of them down about the things they did wrong. Now the team lost, but wouldn't it have been better to anticipate those situations and yell out a reminder to his players on what to do or not to do? You can't predict outcome no matter what you yell, but for goodness sakes, play the percentages and maybe one of those reminders could prevent a missed assignment and maybe even bring home a "W". As one of our guys said, It's called "Coaching" not "Bucket Sitting".

Part of the advantage of playing in high school is the opportunity to practice everyday. But how do coaches run their practices? Again, we relied on our network of baseball snoops and some coaches just hit and field, hit and field. That's fine, but how about half a practice of fundamentals one day, defensive situations the next, base running the next, reading and performing pick off moves the next and while they are hitting, hitting situations by pitch type, count and with RISP.

Now, there are some outstanding high school coaches out there. One such coach spends the first two weeks teaching his kids how to hit to the opposite field. Anything hit to the left of second is five pole to poles. Do you think that team knows how to go oppo at the end of the two weeks. You bet. There is so much to learn about this game than just cage hitting and conducting infield drills. Good team defense takes practice. Player's must know their role and the objective of each play. Since each play called relies on more than one player for proper execution, timing is essential. As a coach you want your team prepared for every situation. Good team defensive involves having a good strategy, practicing the plays that are part of that strategy, and then calling those plays in the game. The same goes with offense...knowing what to expect whatever the pitch count....where to try to hit a ball with runners on base, reading a pitchers pick off move, when to run based upon where the ball is hit when not in a force situation, etc. If you're team is well prepared then a coach will feel confident calling plays during the game, and he may actually look to take advantage of other team's offensive weaknesses with his defensive strengths or offensive knowledge of the game. More about this subject later.

RT Staff

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Great articles


In the top right hand column, under the heading College Baseball News, there are some great articles about the start of the upcoming baseball season. Click and read.

8 Habits Of Serious Athletes


RT Staff Note: There are so many talented baseball minds out there and Paul Reddick is one of them. Paul is the Director of The Yogi Berra Baseball School and has also worked camps with Bobby Valentine, Steve Balboni, Tom House and many other baseball greats. Paul is also a ghost writer form some of baseball's best known authors. You have read Paul's work...for sure. Paul has worked on The Picture Perfect Pitcher with Tom House, Mike Epstein on Hitting with Mike Epstein, and Surprise Baseball with Stu Southworth...and many others due out. Paul is currently reworking some of baseball's classic instructional books. Over the last ten years Paul has served as a coach, scout, and consultant to over a dozen major league teams. Paul has spent the last 6 seasons as a recommending scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Paul also served as a state delegate for USA Baseball and coached in the Montreal Expo farm system. This is Pauls 8 Habits of Serious Athletes...Enjoy!

Habit 1 – Be Proactive
Great players take responsibility for everything that happens in their career. They take responsibility for their time and for making sure that every day they are working towards their goals. When you are proactive, you take control of your time and you stay in green lights. When you start acting reactive you fall into red and yellow lights.

Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind
Know what you want to accomplish. Have a DETAILED daily plan to take you closer to the overall goal. Remember, yard by yard it is hard, inch by inch it is a synch. Today + Today + Today = Your Career. Get the most out of today, live in the present moment, and the end results that you wish will take care of themselves, ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Habit 3 – Put First Things First
You must put YOURSELF first. Fighters can get consumed by things outside of their control, media, fans and people looking to get a piece of your action if YOU let them. Put your training and your health above public appearances, interviews and social engagements. When you put first things first, you prioritize and can feel good about saying NO.

Habit 4 – Think Win–Win
You’re only as good as your training partners! So manage your relationships well. Don’t beat on your partners so bad that they never want to train with you again. Instead think win-win. Make sure you show that you care about their MMA game and that you will help them to get better. That way when you show up to the gym you will always have someone to train with. Likewise if your training with fighters better then you, make your situation win-win by always giving them 100%, being on time for practice, having a good attitude… etc.

Having a win-win environment with your MMA training partners makes your team more efficient, provides a more positive place to train, causes less feuds and creates partners that want to see you improve instead of secretly jealous teammates that wan to see you fail.

Habit 5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Empty your cup young grasshopper. No one wants to train with a fighter that thinks he knows it all. Some fighters egos are so delicate that they think they’re always right. These type fighters never listen and are always the first to have the answer. In the world of MMA there are so many different styles and approaches, it seems that we all believe to have the perfect training formula or martial art style.

There is something to learn from everybody and from every style. So empty your cup first before every class so that others may pour there knowledge into your cup. Don’t make the mistake thinking you know it all or you’ll miss out on learning new things…. Seek first to listen (opening your mind to new things) and then to be heard (sharing what you have learned along the way).

Habit 6 – Synergize
2+2=5 or more. When you synergize you surround yourself with others who believe in you and help to make you better. Synergy happens when you are in green lights and are with training partners and coaches that take you to a place you can not get to by yourself. Together we are stronger than when we stand as individuals.

Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw
Sharpening the saw means continuing to refine and rejuvenate your greatest tool… YOU. Getting adequate rest and relaxation., having an understanding of nutrition and how you can eat to win is an area that fighters need to tap into. Having consistent sleep patterns, consistent eating schedules and consistent thoughts leads to consistent performance.

Habit 8 – From Effectiveness To Greatness
Greatness is learning how to have a consistent routine that you can follow on a daily basis. It is learning from your mistakes and getting better everyday. Greatness is becoming a student of yourself and knowing what you need to do to fight your best fight. It is knowing how to get from yellow and red back to green as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

For The Love Of The Game


A few days ago, we all exchanged flowers, candy, heart shaped balloons, cards and for those who are more fortunate...little felt boxes filled with bling. Therefore, we dedicate this blog for the love of the game...In case you readers haven't noticed, we are filled with passion for the game of baseball. The following lists the many reasons why we love baseball...

We love that of all the things to do in America and of all the distractions being fed to us, minute by minute...baseball is still called America's past time.

We love the oddities of the game...For instance, it's the only sport where the offense never has the ball...and when on offense it's one guy vs. nine.

We Love the Smell of the Game...

The smell of burnt wood on a foul tip off a wood bat...

The smell of a leather glove.

The smell of the field...the dirt and the grass...and the way it stays with you throughout the day.

The smell of ballpark franks, popcorn and a bag of seeds.

We Love the Sound of the Game...

The sound of an umpires called third strike call.

The sound of the pop from a catchers glove.

The sound of a slide.

The sound of chatter from the bench.

The sound of a rousing chear from the stands.

The sound of groans on a bad called strike.

The sound of a third base coach pumping up his hitters.

The sound of a good announcer pronouncing everyones name right and on cue.

The sound of a wood bat on ball...and because we have to...even the sound of aluminum on ball..especially if it's our kid.

We Love the Sights of the Game...

The sight of a well groomed field.

The sight of a double play ball.

The sight of a diving play in the hole.

The sight of a over the head catch in the outfield.

The sight of a pick-off play at first.

The sight of a 6"5" lefty taking control of a game.

The sight of a teams reaction from a game winning hit.

The sight of a nasty slider or curve ball.

The sight of a batter pounding a ball over the fence.

We Love What Everyone Else Doesn't Understand About The Game...

We love the drama of a low scoring pitchers duals.

We love the hit and run.

We love the way a catcher calls a game.

We love the double switch.

We love the sacrifice fly.

We love the sacrifice bunt...sometimes...

We love the stats like OBP, OPS, RISP, LIPS and DER.

And, like the masses...

We love the home team when they win or just play hard.

We love a power pitcher facing a power hitter.

We love how truly hard it is to play this game.

Happy Belated Valentines Day To Everyone!

RT Staff

Monday, February 15, 2010

Now You Know What the North Has to Endure


For years, the Southeast has had it good in January and February. There’s nothing quite like practicing outdoors in the weeks prior to the start of the season. But the last week or so, teams as far south as Florida have had to endure what everyone north of the Mason Dixon line has endured for years…snowy, cold conditions that limit and puts a stop on their practice time outdoors.

It can’t feel great to players that have played outdoors year round their entire lives to get this far and have to find a gym, retreat to the batting cages or warmer place to get ready for the season. It probably feels a bit depressing…yet teams from the North have to deal with this every year.

After years of playing from late April to August in high school and summer leagues, college players from the North must find a way to adequately practice in late January and February to get ready for a season that starts February 16th. It’s not easy and one of these days, the NCAA will figure out a way for it to work.

My suggestion is to let the North Teams play in an Early fall, 20 game season. South teams can opt to participate, but aren’t required to play all 20. The South schools that would probably play in the fall are those schools on a quarter system that would benefit due to having the spring season fall in the middle of 3rd quarter finals. The south schools would then schedule their spring season accordingly with some break time for Quarter finals and the North Teams can pick it up in the spring in late March and play the remainder of their 36 games.

The only North/South uniform date would be the regular season stop date. There are obviously some bugs to work out, but I believe allowing a North team to play home in warm weather during the two seasons will make them better and may even force Boyds to revise his ISR and …..rankings.

Thoughts?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Do Your Hitters Have A Plan?


RT Staff Note: We found this article on the web and highly suggest that those interested in improving their hitting techniques, go to Todd Williams web-site. Todd is a highly-sought after coach based out of baseball hotbed Spring, Texas. His website, www.BaseballsBestDrills.com, is a great resource for hitting, defense and baseball strategies.

By Todd Williams

There aren't very many baseball hitters that can walk up to the plate and be successful without some idea of what they're looking for in a pitch. And since the rest of us aren’t in that select group of players, we better have some idea of what we want to accomplish before we step into the batter's box. We better have a plan.

What should that plan be, you ask? Well, like most things in life, it depends; but here are some general things to consider when putting your plan together. The key is to have an image in your mind when you approach the plate so you can stay relaxed and focused. If you've got the visual image there, your reflexes and instincts will take over; because after all, you won't have any time to think about it when the pitch is delivered.

1) Plan on being aggressive. Aggressiveness is a key element to hitting successfully, and it can cover up apparent weaknesses. Besides, the aggressive baseball hitter simply has to decide one thing only at the plate: not to swing. What I mean by that is when you're thinking "swing" as the pitcher delivers the ball, if the pitch isn’t hittable, then all you have to decide is not to swing.

2) Plan on hitting the ball up the middle of the field. Consistent hitters with high batting averages always tend to use the middle of the field. You can be successful being strictly a push- or a pull-hitter, but you give away some of the advantage to the pitcher, because they can simply pitch to your weaker side.

3) Plan on controlling the outside half of the plate. Studies have shown that nearly three quarters of all pitches in the strike zone are over the outside half of the plate, especially in youth baseball. Take advantage of that information and control the outer half of the plate. Then, if you need to, gradually work from an area of the strike zone that you can control to an area where you have less control.

4) Plan on pulling the inside pitch, pushing the outside pitch, and hitting the down-the-middle pitch back up the middle. Take the pitch where it comes and go with it. If you're thinking "pull" and the pitch is delivered outside, you're going to have a much harder time getting that hit, and you'll probably ground out to a middle infielder. So, pull the inside pitch, push the outside pitch, and crush the down-the-middle pitch back up the middle.

5) Plan on the next pitch being over the middle of the plate and up in the strike zone. Then, make adjustments from that basic pitch. It's easier to adjust down than it is up, and you'll hit fewer pop-ups when you adjust down. If you're looking for a ball over the middle of the plate, you won't have as far to adjust if the pitch is inside or outside. However, if you're looking in, then you've got a larger adjustment to make if the pitch is outside.

6) Plan on hitting the fastball. Make every effort to hit the fastball, because it's easier to hit than the curveball, and you'll hit it better than you will the curveball anyway.

Editor’s note: Here is a drill from Todd’s book "Baseball Best Drills - Tips & Strategies"

Hit the Stick Quick Drill

Take an old broom handle and attach about a 3 foot section of an old garden hose the end of it. Then stand at about a 45-degree angle in front of the hitter, point the broom handle into an area of the strike zone, and have the hitter try to hit the tip of the hose.

To develop a short, quick swing you should slowly move the tip of the hose when the hitter swings, making it harder to hit without a short, quick stroke.

Note: Don't make it too difficult to hit the tip of the hose. Simply reinforce the need for a short, quick stroke.

Todd Williams is a highly-sought after coach based out of baseball hotbed Spring, Texas. His website, www.BaseballsBestDrills.com, is a great resource for hitting, defense and baseball strategies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

College Baseball Reform


Yesterday in Rivals College baseball, there were a lot of heated comments that were initiated from comments I made. Some great questions were raised as it relates to my suggestion that Colleges fully fund their baseball programs and MLB help subsidize that. One question that I thought was intriguing was the following:

"Who get's the money first, the LSU's or the Rhode Islands?"

I'll answer that with a few more questions...Who gets the big money in football from the networks today? Would we rather see Cal Poly battle it out with Portland State or Florida duke it out with USC?

The power conferences have more resources, better athletes and more players drafted. So given the same scenario in baseball...if you were a decision maker for MLB...as a possible benefactor, which conference and teams would you invest more money into?

Using Cal Poly football as an example...to the people in the small town of San Luis Obispo, the Mustang football team matters...but they also know where they stand in the scheme of things...yet they still try like hell to make it work.

You see, Cal Poly is D-I FCS. They and others like them can play DI FBS teams and in some cases can compete very well. Remember the Appalachian State/Michigan game a few years back? Cal Poly was a few seconds away from handing a good Wisconsin football team a loss the season before last. Can they do that consistently...NO. There are several well known conferences that comprise the world of D-I FCS...Big Sky, Big South, Colonial, Great West, Ivy League, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Pioneer, Southern, Southland and Southwestern Athletic. And they have their own championship. They are D-I, but are realistic about their zero percent chance of ever competing for a chance at a BCS or any other FBS bowl...So they have their own.

Many of these conferences also compete in D-I baseball...but other than the Missouri Valley, is it really fair that they must compete with teams from the SEC, ACC and others for a chance to go to Omaha? Or, should they compete in a different post season tourney...one that doesn't require them to be fully funded. One that maybe even plays a split schedule in early fall and a late spring?

Are their other conferences that may fall into this category that still gives players a great opportunity to play ball...even against the power conferences...but in addition, gives them a better shot at a separate post season tournament and a chance for some glory that they would not have otherwise?

Don't get angry people..I am throwing out ideas here...food for thought. Comments?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At a Crossroads...Can MLB Help The College Game?


RT Staff Note: A thread on Rivals college baseball brought up an article on ESPN's web site that discussed MLB's probable role in helping College baseball succeed. Below, is the partial ESPN article in italics and below that are my comments. To post comments of your own...go the the comments section below this posting.

How MLB can help the college game

Saturday, February 6, 2010 | Feedback | Print Entry

When the general managers gathered at the owners meetings a few weeks ago, they spent some time discussing how Major League Baseball could aid college baseball, which is slowly being strangled, on the fringes, because of budget cuts. There is a sense among some executives that MLB needs to help college baseball thrive, and to be in position to lure athletes, because year by year there is a sense within the offices of scouts, scouting directors and general managers that great athletes in the U.S. are increasingly being lost to other sports.

Division I college baseball teams can offer only 11.7 scholarships to players. Meanwhile, college football teams can offer dozens of scholarships. "So in other words," said one MLB talent evaluator, "the third-string cornerback at Florida State is on a full ride, and the starting center fielder on the baseball team is only getting 40 percent scholarship."

The health of college baseball is of great concern to Major League Baseball, of course, because it represents another avenue of player development, in the way that college football is a feeder system for the NFL. Historically, the relationship between MLB and college baseball has been shaky at best, largely because they compete for the same players. But in general, the stronger college baseball is, the better off Major League Baseball will be..........................


I have been ranting about this issue on Rounding Third for over three years. Baseball is losing great athletes to other sports...mainly football... because of the scholarship issue...especially in the inner cities. And, the present economy is not helping matters one bit. That tuition "gap" is tough for all families I have talked with the past year or so...Money is tight and the amount of time a baseball athlete has to dedicate to his sport is not commensurate with the amount of scholarship money he is granted.

I have said this a million times....No athlete in any sport...has to dedicate as much time to their sport year round...(45 fall practices... daily strength and conditioning...56 regular season games...50 collegiate summer league games) as baseball players...And, no athlete gets rewarded so little for the effort.

As far as MLB being concerned...they should be and they ought to push for reform. College baseball is great for MLB. I have heard many scouts say that they have shifted much of their prospect watch to college baseball for several reasons.

1.) More mature, worldly athletes. The college player is not awestruck by the change in his social environment like a kid out of high school would be. This doesn't guarantee success...the players still must perform, but it does help to alleviate certain draft risks.

2) More physically developed players. They are older, and due to many universities highly perfected Strength and conditioning programs...in great physical condition.. This helps minor league programs save on the costs of intense physical development. These college kids have had at least 3 years of work ethic ingrained in their brains.

3) Well coached players...used to over 100 games a year. Not only do players in the top conferences have excellent coaching, but they also get great mentoring in the wood bat summer leagues to get a taste of the pro style game. College players have the experience of a grueling 100+ game a year schedule with the long bus rides and travel schedules very few high school kids experience.

4) This is pure speculation on my part, but it would seem to me that a college player would cost a MLB team a bit less due to the fact that there are little or no college tuition costs built in to contracts for the top round players. High school top rounders usually build in the cost of a four year college into their contracts...costs that could add up to $100,000. Most top college players only have a few semesters left to graduate.

So, if I was a MLB scout, I'd surely have to put more consideration on a player that was much more mature mentally and physically, was baseball savvy, able to adapt to the rigors of travel, had a sound knowledge base of the game and could potentially produce results in a much shorter period of time. MLB is a business by the way...and this sure sounds like a better business decision to me.




Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sharpening The Saw


RT Staff Note: Another great article from Baseball Fit.

Perhaps you have heard of a concept leadership and management guru Stephen Covey calls "Sharpening the Saw." While he was aiming this idea to the business world, it has applicability to those who coach and play sports as well.

Basically, the concept goes like this:

Don't get so busy sawing that you forget to sharpen the saw.

What happens to the saw while you are sawing?

It gets dull.

What happens when your saw becomes dull?

You can still saw, but the process becomes much less effective. The work is harder and takes longer - you just don't saw as well.

To bring this back to baseball and softball, I've noticed a trend that is not new, but may well be developing into a problem. The situation is the growing proliferation of travel teams at all age levels at nearly all times of the year. While things do slow down a bit in areas of the country with cold winters, in many places, baseball and softball are becoming nearly a year round activity.

First, there is the normal spring ball season. Practice for this may begin in January or February (in some places, even earlier), with games beginning in late March. The season continues until June, then summer league begins. This typically will run into August, and then school starts again.

In many areas of the country, this means Fall league ball. Practice for this often begins in August, and the Fall season can run into late October.

So, you have 10 or so months of 'sawing' with young ball players, leaving perhaps two months to 'sharpen the saw.' I wonder if this is enough time for players to work on new skills development, along with appropriate strength and conditioning.

No doubt that the best way to improve in baseball and softball is to play a lot. This is why many of the best (but not all!) players come from warm weather states - CA, TX, FL and others. They simply have better weather allowing them to play and practice more.

But is there a point where the returns for all these games and travel diminish? Where it's time to stop and take some time to 'sharpen the saw?' I think there is. Consider the major league season: April - September, then the playoffs. Two teams go all the way to the World Series in October.

Therefore, the vast majority of big leaguers are playing about 5 months (admittedly, a LOT of games), not counting Spring training (pre season). And there are various winter leagues that certain players participate in for additional skill development.

But, while playing a lot of games in a relatively short period of time is physically demanding, the big boys have a LOT of down time with which to recover or Sharpen the Saw.

I submit that coaches and parents need to consider this idea carefully. It is well known that acquiring a new skill takes time, and that there is usually a decrement in performance as one learns and implements a new skill. That's why it's usually best to not make any major mechanical adjustments during the regular season. And, with all the games and practices during the regular season, coaches know it's tougher to provide a lot of individual attention to their players.

This is becoming more apparent by the increasing number of questions I get about how to implement a good all around Strength & Conditioning program during the season. Or how to fit in arm strength or bat speed workouts between games and practices. It can be done, but it's not easy.

Here are some key points to consider:

1) In what areas does your player(s) need to improve? Prioritize them.

2) Take the first priority (let's say it's running speed improvement) and make it the first thing to work on after any skill work for that day. Skill work requires more precision as it is performed. For this to be most effective, one should not be tired or the skill work can suffer.

3) If your player has multiple areas where they need to improve, consider taking some time off from all the playing and games. Will missing Summer or Fall ball really hurt you, considering you'll be working on new skill development, along with S & C?

4) This brings us to the idea of 'active rest.' The athlete remains physically active, but in some other sport or activity than baseball or softball. Sort of the 'cross training' concept, which allows the ballplayer to recover physically and mentally from their regular routine. As long as the ball player is staying active, most any activity will suffice.

Here's a basic format for a well rounded off-season
S & C workout:

M - Strength, Flexibility work
T - Power work, Flexibility, Energy System conditioning
W - S, F
TH - P, F
F - S, F
Sat - ES, F

Do any hitting or pitching mechanical work before these workouts, e.g., skill work in the AM, S & C work in the PM.

5) Let the energy level of your player(s) be your guide. If s/he is having fun, is full of energy and enthusiasm about their workouts, is not feeling unduly sore, etc., then let them go. On days they may be feeling tired and worn down, it's time for a day off. Just pick up at the next day's workout - don't worry about making up for the missed work.

Remember, everyone needs to stop and 'Sharpen the Saw' at some point. If it means not playing as many games in order to do so, so be it. The idea of taking one step back in order to more quickly take two steps forward is very legitimate and worth making a part of your player development program.

(C) 2004 Baseball Fit, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Steve Zawrotny's BASEBALL FIT Hitting & Pitching Academy - www.BaseballFit.com

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where Throwing Velocity REALLY Comes From


RT Staff Note: There is a really good site with many good articles called Baseball Fit and it's that time of year to talk about arm strength, and other conditioning issues. Here's one of Baseball Fits articles on Velocity...more to come...

We'll start by asking some of the great baseball questions of all time:

1) Did Babe Ruth really call his shot?
2) Can you bat .375 and play error-free, as Shoeless Joe did, and still throw a series?
3) Does Pete Rose deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

And, perhaps the greatest question of them all:

4) Where does throwing velocity REALLY come from?

In our quest to find the answer to #4, let's start with a good fastball story:

"This incident allegedly took place during a Spring Training game in 1968. A rookie catcher named Johnny Bench was behind the plate and eight-year veteran Jim Maloney was on the mound. Bench continuously called for breaking balls and Maloney continuously shook him off. Frustrated, the two met at the mound where Bench bluntly said, "Your fastball's not popping." Maloney, also blunt, replied, "%*$@ you." The rookie returned to his position behind the plate and called for a curve, only to be shaken off again. Bench gave in to the veteran (who had recently strung together four consecutive seasons with 200+ strikeouts) and signaled for a fastball. Maloney delivered. Before the pitch reached the plate Bench dropped his glove and caught the ball bare-handed - or so the story goes." [Source: Baseball Almanac]

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the various ideas espoused on the web, in various books, and clinics around the country as to what works best in developing pitching velocity. These experts agree on some aspects of pitching, and disagree on others. I'd guess that if you were to get 12 of them together to offer their opinions on this matter, you'd get at least 15 different theories!

Note I said "theories." I use this word purposefully, as there is not universal agreement on precisely how high-velocity pitches are consistently generated by a pitcher. Very little has been done in the way of clinical research on this matter. We do have some good ideas, though, based on the research that has been done and empirical evidence. Here are several of the most common ideas - doubtless there are others:

· Good mechanics
· Genetics
· Physical size
· Throwing a lot

1) Good Mechanics - The ONLY Path To Great Velocity? Of course, mechanics are the foundation of pitching. Generally speaking, the more mechanically efficient one is, the better they will perform. But how do we account for the pitchers with good mechanics who can hardly break a pane of glass? Jamie Moyer of the Seattle Mariners is a good example of this - great mechanics, 200 career wins, and an $8 million salary in 2005. All accomplished with a mid 80s (at best) fastball.

Moyer's stuff probably wouldn't even get him an invitation to a high school pitching showcase, yet at age 43 he'll likely be playing his 20th major league season in 2006. There are many examples of this at all levels of the game - good mechanics yet not much velocity.

And what of the pitchers with poor mechanics who throw hard? There are plenty of these as well. I've watched Francisco Rodriguez (aka K-Rod) of the Angels pitch a few times on TV, and his mechanics hurt just to watch. He's the same size as Moyer, yet he regularly hits the low 90s, touching 94-95 on occasion. There are many examples of this at all levels of the game - poor mechanics with excellent velocity.

Bottom Line: Mechanics are important to a pitcher, but they are no guarantee to exceptional velocity.

2) Genetics. So are great athletes, including hard throwing pitchers, born or made? Pitching staffs that follow identical training programs usually show differing levels of ability and performance. Some improve, some don't. What accounts for this difference in results? And what of the skinny 165 lb. pitcher who throws gas, versus the 220 lb. horse who can't break a cob web?

Such differences can be accounted for in a number of ways:

· Work ethic - mental and emotional factors affecting motivation
· Mechanics
· Conditioning & nutrition
· Facilities and equipment
· Coaching and support
· Genetics

The first five factors pitchers can control to some extent. The sixth, genetics, are essentially uncontrollable. They are a factor of birth. So here is the first truth regarding genetics and pitching velocity:

An Individual Will Throw No Harder Than Their Genetic Makeup Allows

Humans have some 35,000 genes that determine who and what they are. The following is just a few of the genetic markers affecting pitching performance:

· Muscle fiber type
· Bone structure/limb length
· Metabolic capabilities

Yet we've all seen the physically gifted athlete with poor work habits, mental-focus issues, and the like, who cannot overcome opponents who possess lesser physical gifts combined with better “intangibles” - work habits, self-discipline, attitude, etc.

So why does the 165 lb. pitcher throw harder than the 220 lb. pitcher? Start by taking your pick of the six factors above in formulating your answer. It comes down to some mixture of them, not the least of which may be genetics. Both pitcher's mechanics can be of similar quality, but if the 165 lb. pitcher has a greater preponderance of Type II (fast twitch) muscle fiber, everything else being equal, he'll likely always throw harder than the bigger guy in our example. This would probably be the case even if they both performed identical strength and conditioning programs.

If you happen to have a greater number of Type I (slow twitch) fibers, you have a much better chance at excelling at long distance running than you do at throwing high velocity pitches. If you are born short of stature with short arms and legs, you may have more athletic success as a gymnast than as a hard-throwing pitcher.

Bottom Line: Hard throwing pitchers acquire their skills and abilities from a combination of congenital characteristics and hard work. None of us knows what our genetic limitations are, so work hard and dream on!

3) Physical Size. This is related to genetics, but is unique in that is readily observable. So what's the optimal size for a successful pitcher?

The average MLB pitcher is about 6' 1” 190-200 lbs., and approximately 12% body fat. So the bigger, the better, right? Well, of course - look at Roger Clemens (6' 4' 220) and Curt Schilling (6' 4” 215). Successful, hard throwing big guys. But then what about Billy Wagner (5' 10” 180) and Pedro Martinez (5' 11” 180 lbs)? Successful, hard throwing small guys.

How about the “lever arm” issue? Biomechanics tells us that a long lever (like Johnson's arm) moving at the same speed as a short lever is capable of greater force production than the short one, but this longer lever also requires more torque to move it at the same rate of speed as the shorter lever. A short lever (like Wagner's arm) cannot produce as much force as a longer lever, but it can move through its range of motion faster than a longer lever. So either way, force production (throwing velocity) can be roughly equivalent with different lengths of throwing arms.

So which of all this is better?

Bottom Line: Physical size means little when it comes to throwing velocity.

4) Throwing a lot. Do you want to run faster? Practice running fast. Do you want to swim faster? Practice swimming fast. Do you want to throw harder? Then practice throwing hard. All of these are “power activities.” Along with improving the mechanics of each activity, this is how these athletic attributes are developed and acquired. It is not much more complicated than that.

In regards to throwing velocity, it appears that for some time now, the methods I espouse (use of weighted baseballs/softballs) have been questioned by a certain self-anointed “pitching expert.” I'm choosing to address his comments out of concern that someone will believe and implement the convoluted and completely fallacious reasoning he uses in his on-going attempt to discredit this kind of training:

“Pitching Expert” Question #1: I would ask this certified trainer how on earth can you effect better speed of body movement by throwing a weighted baseball?
Very simply - by using an UNDERweight baseball. When the arm trains with an implement that is lighter (a 4 oz baseball) than the competitive implement (a 5 oz baseball) it moves more quickly through its Range of Motion (ROM). That this occurs is not subject to debate amongst knowledgeable individuals. It is called OVERSPEED training and is utilized throughout the sports world. Our “pitching guru” needs to educate himself on modern strength and conditioning practices.

Can players swing a lighter bat more quickly than a heavy one?
Of course. Can this be objectively measured? Yes, and I have done it many times with ball players of all ages and ability levels on a specialized bat speed computer. That an arm, which is what ultimately propels the ball, can move more quickly through its ROM with a lighter implement should surprise no one.

The result of this faster movement through the ROM is easily measured by an unbiased device - the radar gun. Clinical research and empirical evidence repeatedly demonstrates that the best throwing velocity increases are attained by way of training with UNDERload (4 oz) baseballs. Then again, this same “expert” is on record as attributing the objective measurements of a radar gun to the “placebo effect.” I'd like to see his data showing that an inanimate object is subject to a human psychological condition!

“Pitching Expert” Question #2: Even a weighted baseball of 10 oz is a load factor of only 0.312% of body weight of a 200 lb. pitcher. Does this certified trainer believe that throwing that 10 oz baseball is going to effect the mass of a 200 lb pitcher and provide some magic training effect?
The question itself is complete nonsense. The mass of the player is irrelevant. Why? Because the mass of the competitive implement - a 5 oz baseball - is consistent amongst all players, from Little League through the Major Leagues. 10 year old Roger throws the same baseball as big leaguer Roger. Therefore, the change of training load is made with the implement used by the players, not with their body weight.

To the muscles, tendons, ligaments and related structures involved in the act of throwing, however, a 20% differential from the competitive load is very significant.

As it turns out, magic has nothing to do with it.

Conditioning changes occur by way of what's known as “Minimal Essential Strain.” It's the amount of stimulus required to produce anatomical changes in a structure that enables it to positively adapt to the increased workload imposed on it. This process is analogous to a weight lifter using 300 lbs. for a lift and changing his workout to use both 360 and 240 lbs. This will clearly affect his training outcomes and his lifting performance.

As for long toss, the “pitching expert” wants PROOF that it works. You might as well ask for PROOF that the moon is not made of cheese. Some things do not require proof. Common sense suffices. Making a successful long toss requires maximal effort. If you want to throw hard, practice throwing hard. Long toss is just another way to perform this activity, no better or worse than throwing hard from any distance.

A helpful benefit of performing long toss is that it is easy to observe the effort expended during long toss simply by how far the thrown ball travels. The harder the throw, the farther the throw. It can be done with or without a crow hop. And it is similar enough to throwing a hard pitch from the mound that its conditioning effects are beneficial for pitchers.

Its value translates to the vast majority of pitchers who, at least through the HS level, do NOT have the luxury of throwing off of a mound that is precisely 10 inches high, sloping uniformly by one inch by one foot towards home plate. Bullpens are often worse, so should players stop throwing and pitching from these poorly maintained mounds? To suggest that throwing from anything other than a mound has no value for pitchers is ludicrous. Common sense, empirical evidence and an understanding of anatomy and kinesiology is all the PROOF needed.

But just for fun, how about some PROOF of the value of long toss?

Perhaps some of you saw the front-page article on the 1 October 2005 issue of Collegiate Baseball titled “Unique Long Toss Program Brings Big Results To New H.S. National Champions. Warriors post fine 38-1 record in 2005 with 0.77 team ERA.” Some highlights from the story:

· The high school is Russell County in Seale, AL. They won the Easton Sports National High School championship, along with their state Class 5A title

· The head coach, Tony Rasmus was named winner of the Easton Sports Master Coach award. He's a former professional ball player

· The pitching staff struck out 429 batters

· Six of their pitchers threw harder than 90 mph

· At least one of them is expected to be a first round draft pick in 2006

· His entire team participates in a year-round weight-lifting and throwing program. Throwing is based on an organized and specific long-toss program

· Not one of them had a sore arm last season. Arm problems are a rarity in this program

Our “pitching expert” would dismiss all of this as “belief based,” of course, because it doesn't fit his narrow paradigm. But there's no arguing with real-life results. Keep in mind that this self-proclaimed “expert” has nothing in the way of credentials - academic or otherwise - that qualify him to bash the methods of others. I urge the readers of his bilge to consult with someone competent and knowledgeable in exercise science and baseball before applying anything he recommends.

So what's the SECRET to throwing hard?

Are you ready?

HERE IT IS:


There is no secret!

If we had a cookie cutter, push button answer to this question, believe me, someone would be very rich and famous as THE pitching guru these days. BEWARE the advice of any “expert” who claims to have all the answers to anything related to pitching. Ultimately, throwing velocity is the result of a number of factors and methods as discussed above. So here are some solid, proven practices to follow to maximize both your velocity and overall development as a pitcher, baseball or softball:

1) First, improve throwing mechanics. Throwing properly by itself can improve velocity.

2) Train the body core in particular for strength and power.

3) Properly increase flexibility. Generally speaking, the further a joint can move through its range of motion, the less injury prone it will be. Increasing one's ROM is a good thing.

4) Begin a Specific Resistance Training Program for throwing with weighted baseballs or softballs. Remember, a 5 oz. baseball is itself a "weighted" implement.

5) Perform a properly designed, periodized strength and conditioning program specific for baseball or softball. Such a generalized program should include weight lifting, plyometrics, flexibility, and energy system conditioning.

(C) 2005, Baseball Fit LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Steve Zawrotny's BASEBALL FIT Hitting & Pitching Academy - www.BaseballFit.com

The information contained herein is the opinion of the author
based on his personal observations and years of experience.
Neither Steve Zawrotny or Baseball Fit assume any liability
whatsoever for the use of or inability to use any or all of the
information presented on this website.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Connecting With The College Game


"Hey that freshman pitcher is the guy that shut us down in that Junior Olympic Tourney a few years back".

"Isn't that left fielder the kid who blasted that 7th inning home run off of Justin in Georgia two years ago?"

"Look at the Texas roster dad...there's five guys from our high school league on the team."

"I know about 10 of these names on the Florida State roster. We have seen them play at AAU tournaments."

"I remember Gerrit Cole when he was in Little League...nothing has changed. He is still dominant."


Connections like this are abundant in College baseball. When you and your son go to a college game...get a media guide or roster sheet and look at some of the names and the high schools they come from. You will be amazed at all of the connections your son will have with these players. And that will make the game much, much more meaningful for him. It will also make your future star even more excited to be one of those players some day.

Our series this week is meant to glorify a game that we think is even better than the pro game on many levels. It's cheaper, it's pure, it's free of tabloid type drama, and there are players on these teams that everyone can identify with.

Below is a comment we received from a dad who took his son to a ball game in San Diego...If you don't believe us, read his comments and you will be convinced that you guys are missing out on a experience of a lifetime.

***********************************************************************

I took my son to the San Diego State vs. University of San Diego game on Sunday. The game was at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of San Diego State.We had a great time!My son really enjoyed sitting behind the Torreros dugout,and being able to hear all the dugout chatter/smack/props among the players and coaches. These tickets at Petco, Edison Field,or Dodger Stadium would have cost 35.00+...... Our cost at SDSU was 7.00 for me(adult) and 5.00 for my 12 year old son. Other costs were parking 2.00 in a parking garage a short walk from the stadium,a big hot dog 3.50 and a frozen lemonade 3.50 for my son. The sunflower seeds and bottled water we bought at Costco. The final cost for a wonderful Sunday afternoon with my son was about 25.00. The memories will last a lifetime.My son was so excited about seeing Brandon Meredith hit his 1st collegiate Home Run (I think he'll hit a lot more of those)

BTW, the game was very entertaining and USD hung on for a 10-7 win and avoided a 4 game sweep by the Aztecs.I was expecting a bigger crowd though. The announced attendance was only 980. These two teams are big rivals and I was expecting a much bigger crowd.I'm an Alumni of Arizona State and most of the games I attended at Packard Stadium were in the 3-4 thousand range.

We'll be heading up the coast to USC at the end of this month to watch the Sun Devils battle the Trojans.I expect to see a full house....Lots of Sun Devil Alums in SoCal. My son is a USC fan...should be lots of fun. Every team in the Pac 10 hates ASU......

Bring it on !!! I love college baseball,and the conferences you mentioned do play the most competitive baseball in the country.

Thanks for your awesome blog :)

Go Devils GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

88 SNDVL

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Harper Watch


RT Staff Note: We have reported on Bryce Harper in the past...Now that he is playing well beyond his age at a Nevada JUCO, he is drawing crowds of fans and scouts alike...here's an article from MLB reporter, Jonathan Mayo.

By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com

02/02/10 6:20 PM EST

On the surface, the Fourth Annual Coyote Border Battle in Henderson, Nev., last weekend seemed like the typical season-opening tournament on the Junior College circuit.

But this was no ordinary tournament. Not when Bryce Harper, dubbed as the "Chosen One" on a Sports Illustrated cover not long ago, was making his higly anticipated college debut for the College of Southern Nevada.

The 17-year-old Harper graduated high school two years early and enrolled at CSN so he could be eligible for the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Since then -- actually, probably before then -- he's been thought of as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick and, with coverage like the cover story in SI, one of the greatest prospects ever to hit the scene.

Harper, of course, is not an overnight sensation. He's been turning heads since he started hitting the showcase circuit at age 14. Last weekend, many thought, would be just Step 1 in the catcher's top-prospect coronation.

The numbers for the weekend weren't thrilling: 3-for-15 (including an 0-for-8 doubleheader on Saturday). He did drive in his first runs and hit his first home run on Sunday, and he more or less handled the spotlight fairly well.

"I thought he handled it fine," said Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers. "It was opening night, and I wasn't overly concerned. Everybody gets jitters and overly hyped, particularly this opening night. I don't know if any JUCO in the country gets 2,000 people. It was packed. It was exciting.

"He handled Friday much better than Saturday. You could tell he was a little nervous. Saturday, he didn't have a lot of success; that can be attributed to a mechanical thing we've been working on. It was not a great weekend, I'm sure not what he expected, but it was what I expected."

Obviously, there's more to evaluating amateur talent than just the stats in a JC opening weekend. Talking to a couple of the 100 or so scouts reportedly in attendance provides a little more detail, and some mixed opinions, of how Harper looked as his team went 4-0.

Offensively, there was a lot to like. He's got a good approach at the plate, especially for his age, and seems to see the ball well. He's got plus raw power and even though he's still not physically mature, he's got serious pop to the opposite field.

There is a little divergence over just how good an all-around hitter he'll be. One scout had no doubt that he'll hit plenty, while another felt that Harper will hit plenty of balls out of the park, but will swing and miss enough to keep the batting average down. It's a mechanical flaw in his swing, where he gets out on his front foot way too early and his bat drags through the zone.

Chambers says it's because Harper has been sitting on his back side too much and is forced to seemingly jump at the ball in order to reach it. Whatever the case, Harper is still able to crush balls on the outer half of the plate but was having difficulty with pitches coming inside.

The opinions are even more varied when it comes to his defense. No one questions his arm, which grades out as a plus regardless of where he's playing. There have been concerns over his ability to stay behind the plate and they weren't necessarily answered over the weekend. Harper played three positions over the weekend -- catcher, third and center field -- leading some to wonder why he wasn't behind the plate more.

"I'm a big believer in loyalty," Chambers explained. "We start eight sophomores. I felt I owed the sophomore the start behind the plate on Friday. The guy at third had been struggling, so I could justify it.

"We play 24 doubleheaders on the year. You can't catch doubleheaders. He'll split time behind the plate, catch and play the outfield primarily all year long. He'll play some third. He may even pitch some innings. We'll move him around to show his athleticism."

One scout felt with certainty that Harper would not be able to catch as a professional, but liked him at third just fine. Another scout felt that while there were some issues with his work behind the plate, particularly a very long throwing motion that negates some of his arm strength, Harper has more than enough to stay there.

"I think he's going to be a good catcher," the scout said. "He's a little rough from a technique standpoint. But from a tools standpoint, he's got a good chance to be above-average. His problems catching are correctable."

This is also just the beginning for Harper and the hordes of scouts who will be watching his every move from now until the First-Year Player Draft on June 7. CSN will head to Phoenix for one game against GateWay Community College on Wednesday then will come back home for a doubleheader against Yavapai College.

For now, Chambers and Harper's teammates are trying to make it easy for the phenom. He's not talking to the media or to scouts, and Chambers said his sophomore-laden squad has not minded picking up the slack when it comes to interviews. Eventually, Chambers will become a little less protective once it seems like Harper has acclimated to dealing with the rigors of college baseball and classes.

"It's been overwhelming for me," Chambers said of the interview requests, "so that gives me more confidence I made the right decision."

Chambers saw how the attention wore on Harper over the summer, how there were constant demands on his time and attention and that Harper came back exhausted. So he made the decision then to try and protect Harper for as long as he could, even if it meant ruffling some feathers along the way. But for a player who's every move is being examined -- video of his first home run at CSN is already on YouTube -- it wasn't a difficult call for him to make.

"He handles it well, keeps it in better than most," Chambers said. "It's fortunate with the ballclub that we have. We're super-talented on the mound. It's a good year to have it happen. We're going to win games, and he doesn't have to be the superhero everyone thinks he is."

Critics will point out that much of that superhero image is self-imposed, that the reason why everyone wants a piece of Harper is largely because of the decision he made, along with his advisors at the Boras Coroporation, to skip high school early and be a pioneer, of sorts.

"There's no question, when you're trying to do something no one's done before, it's going to get hyped," Chambers agreed. "For me, it got to be too much for him. I said, 'Let's get him back on the ground, let him go to school, and let him do what he's best at, and that's playing baseball.' "

He'll be evaluated fully for that, as well as how he handles the pressure and attention all spring. There's no doubt this is a different animal, one that has some scouts wondering just how to figure it out.

"I can tell you right now, it will not be a simple evaluation," said another scout. "I don't think any of us have ever scouted a 17-year-old against 20-year-olds using a wood bat. We know the kid is good,and I can project with the best of them, but this isn't going to be the slam-dunk the media portrays it to be."

Those other scouts in attendance mentioned above agree. While it's way too early to know for sure where he should -- much less where he will -- go on Draft day, putting the No. 1 crown on his head would be way too premature.

"He's playing up at age 17, there's a lot of pressure on him, a lot of people are watching him play," one scout said. "But I can definitely tell you he's not the best player in the country. He's by no means a slam-dunk type of a talent."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.