Saturday, October 15, 2011

The $5 Piece Of Plastic

We had interesting responses from a couple of readers on yesterdays post. We like interaction and we are going to break the comments down...It can be read below the posting...just click on comments.

The basic ideas for our anonymous responders, was that high school and college baseball is straying away from it's priorities on education. It's more about the trophy...or as we like to call it..the $5 piece of plastic. Generally, we would say we agree, but after some research, we have a different take...and there are some surprises as well. In bold are their comments and our response is below that.

" After over 50 years in sports what has changed tremendously is that youth sports and HS sports are now run by non-teachers. There are two components to high school - the first is education, classwork. Look at how many select teams have people who make a living from baseball academies and so forth. Historically, youth sports has become a big business."

We don't disagree with this statement as it pertains to education. Education should be first. In high school, many but not all coaches are also teachers. And with the travel teams we know, they all preach that good grades and talent is the only way to get a college scholarship. Many of the top travel teams that we have talked about for the past three months will not take a player if their grade point isn't at the very least, a 2.8...many won't take below a 3.0. Yes, youth sports may be a big business, but it wouldn't be a big business if their wasn't some success associated with it.

Now as it pertains to college, it's becomes a bit more complicated. A player should play college ball to go to college, but sometimes, if a player is very good, the pro scouts can get in the way of graduation. Good players get drafted after their junior season...and there are literally hundreds more opportunities to play professionally in baseball than in any other sport period. Look at the draft board...Look how many eligible juniors are in the top rounds. Hundreds...

This year and beyond, there are a whole new set of problems...time. Since the NCAA has shortened the season without cutting the number of games that need to be played, teams have less time in the classroom and less hours to take during the season. That has a direct affect with on-time graduation. And, unlike football and basketball which give 100% scholarships which includes an opportunity to make up their classess and required hours in the summer, baseball players are lucky to get 50% scholarships. And, because baseball get assigned to summer leagues too, there's not an oportunity to make up for lost hours in the summer like football and many basketball players can. We would like to see more players graduate on time, but the NCAA is making it harder and harder. Many do graduate unless they have a long career in the professional ranks. They just don't always graduate in the NCAA allotted time frame.

"Look at the players who go on to play at some level in college and do not graduate. Why does baseball have the lowest APR of all sports in the NCAA. How many baseball players are working in the real world in a job that does not involve baseball?"

That statement is unfair and false. First, baseball does not have the lowest APR of all the sports. According to the NCAA web site he directs us to, the average APR's by sport for men's teams has baseball ahead of basketball and football. Baseball has an average APR of 934, football is 931 and basketball is 927. They are all below the other men's sports like golf, tennis, track and wrestling...mainly because there are very few opportunities to play professionally in those other sports. The big three have many opportunities, both here in America and abroad. And how many baseball players are working in the real world that does not involve baseball? Who cares? How many non-athletes are working in the field that they majored in? Scott Boras, the super agent has two post graduate and medical...He also played baseball in college and the passion was so intense, he couldn't stay away from it. It worked out quite well for him. The thing about baseball is that it is a real passion for many, many what is wrong with working in baseball after college...especially if baseball was the real passion?

"One critical question that coaches should ask is when a player is done (they all reach the end sooner or later) will they be able to go out and work for a living outside of baseball. Will they be successful and will their experience in HS be a positive one or one where the player looks back and wonders what did I learn?"

We don't know where he is going with this. Of course, high school experiences are all about graduating and getting good grades if one wants to play in college. And, if this is achieved, the high school experience should be great and the lesson learned is that if they have a passion for the game and are good enough, they join the elite club of student athlete.

"There is always another game. It is not about the program with the most trophies. It is about the learning. Find quality people not quality baseball people to help your child learn and grow. They are not mutually exculsive"

Amen. That we totally agree with. It's not about the $5 trophy. It's about learning, discipline, leadership, responsibility and mental maturity. But we do know many quality baseball people that are not only quality people, but incredibly passionate human beings that will bend over backwards to help their players learn the life lessons necessary to succeed at any level and any career.

"Is baseball, basketball or even football not just another honors class?Thank God I no longer have kids in High School."

Thank goodness we still do have kids in high school. While there are problems with some sports in some areas of many cities, for the most part, high school sports is more focused, and in todays world, we don't see the stereotypical "dumb jock" type that we may have seen in the 60's and 70's....we are a generation that is way too hands on to let that happen to our kid...especially in baseball.

RT Staff

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keep Up The Conditioning

Fall work-outs are winding down, but that doesn't mean that baseball players stop working out. It's time to step up the work-outs to avoid injury. The most common complaints when spring comes around are shoulder and elbow soreness and if you don't follow our suggestion to long toss and build arm strength this winter season, you increase the risk of injury.

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 or

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!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Baseball Exercises

RT Staff Note: We are busier than ever and sometimes we rely on others to do our work for us. Todays article is from Jon Doyle of Baseball Training Secrets. Enjoy.

By Jon Doyle, MA, CSCS

While you search around the Internet for baseball exercises, you no doubt come across some odd and strange looking exercises. The problem is a great deal of these "exercises" is not only worthless, but potentially dangerous. So I figured I'd write up a quick article so you can determine if an exercise you come across is worthy of you adding to your program.

1. Ground-based Exercises - Not all baseball drills need to be "ground-based" or standing up with your feet in contact with the ground, but 99% of the good ones are. Baseball is played standing up. So you should workout that way. Nuff said.

2. No Machines - If an exercise is done on a machine you can kiss it goodbye like an Adam Dunn bomb. You should focus on free weights, body weight and medicine ball -related exercises. Cables are ok, but if it's a machine it won't help your baseball performance and may even hinder it due to lack of stabilizer muscle working and improper execution of range of motion.

3. Explode - Baseball happens at lightning speeds and so should your training. Now, this does not mean exercising out of control, what it means it learning how to properly execute each exercise in a very explosive and controlled manner, just like you do with a bat and ball.

4. Posture - As soon as you lose posture, whether it's in your swing, your throw or when you run, you lose the majority of your strength and power. Same goes in the weight room. Make sure all of your baseball exercises not only maintain proper posture, but they should help build it as well.

5. Similar Joint Movements, Not Exact - This may be the biggest rule broken when it comes to baseball exercises. Don't try and replicate a throwing motion or swinging motion with an object a lot heavier than your game-used equipment. For example, if you use a 30 ounce bat, don't swing a 45-60 ounce bat thinking it will make you a better hitter.

In fact, it will make you worse. Studies prove that any implement over 15% heavier or lighter than your normal piece of equipment will alter your mechanics significantly. If you swing a heavy bat you're practicing a different swing! Same goes with throwing a ball. Drop the weighted balls. It's too much of an injury risk and virtually impossible to maintain your mechanics when you use them.

Same goes in the weight room. Don't use a baseball exercise that tries to mimic a specific movement on the field. This is NOT baseball-specific and stems from the brains (or lack there of) of idiot strength coaches who have no clue what they're doing and, most likely, have never worked with a real athlete in their life. Or in other words they are an Internet Hero. Be wary, they are everywhere trying to steal your money.

Stick to these five basic rules and you will eliminate most, if not all of the terrible exercises floating around the Internet. And you will have a program comprising of many very good baseball exercises to help you become the best possible player you can be!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prove It!

RT Staff Note: The following is the third in a series of Monday Morning articles from Carmen Bucci, President of The Complete Athlete. Carmen teaches high school athletes how to communicate better with their current coaches, college coaches and/or professional scouts. Since our theme for the past several weeks has been about communication, we welcome Carmen as a RT contributor.

By Carmen Bucci, The Complete Athlete
It’s not enough just to tell a college coach or professional scout that you work hard or you’re a leader on /and off the field. It’s not enough to tell a college coach you would love to attend their college to get an education and play ball. You need to Prove It! Show vs. Tell. What do I mean?

Think about what a college coach goes through in the recruiting process. Once they have narrowed down the recruits they are interested in, they’re going call them on the phone. In doing so, it’s evident that they like the player’s ability, but they also want to get to know them as a person. Let’s say they call 5 recruits in a night. If you’re one of the lucky ones to get that phone call, you’ll experience an array of emotions, one of which will be “nervous”. You want that coach to like you. You want that coach to know you’re interested in their school. You want the coach to know you’re a hard worker, a leader and someone that would be a great representative of their program. There are a lot of things that you want a coach to know about you, but you may not know how to say it. If you simply tell a coach you’re a hard worker, etc, than you’re no different than any other recruit. How many guys are going to tell a coach that they don’t work hard? How many guys are going to tell a coach that they have bad character, or they aren’t leaders? The answer is NONE.

The same can be said for an interview with a professional scout. It’s not just about ability when someone is thinking of investing money in you in the draft. As I have mentioned in previous articles, they are investing in you as a person…the whole package. The affect that making the wrong decision has on a club is more than just a wasted draft pick. Besides winning, professional baseball teams, as a whole, are concerned with the perception of their organization. They want to bring in the right people, not just the right players.

So how do you stand out to a college coach or professional scout? The easiest way is in showing instead of telling. If you call a coach or scout, who has not seen you play, and tell them you’re a good player, they’re going to want to see it with their own eyes. They’ll either want to see you on video or see you play in person. The same goes for telling a coach you’re a hard worker, you’re a leader, or you have good character. Let them see it. Provide examples of what you’re talking about. In the following example, which of the players would stand out to you?

Player 1 – “Coach, I’m a hard worker. I give 100% all the time, and I think I’m a leader on the field. And I was named captain this year.”

Player 2 – “Coach, I’ve always worked hard. Usually I am up at 6 am…I lift weights before school….Then, after school, my friends and I hit in the batting cages and take ground balls in the gym….I have been working with a hitting coach 2 times per week, for the past year….I try to finish first every time we run sprints….My teammates voted me captain this year, and I was elected class rep in school by my teachers.”

Of course, your answers as a player will vary depending on your activities and personality. But, Player 2 is going to stand out over Player 1. He was able to “paint a picture.” When you’re ready to answer a question from a coach or scout, ask yourself “how” or “why,” and answer thoroughly. Do you want a coach to know you’re interested in their school? Research a school before you speak with a coach or you take your visit, and make sure to talk about what you’ve learned through your research. Do you have good character? Give some examples of situations you’ve been in and have shown good character, or talk about clubs you’re involved in inside or outside of school. Whether it’s talking to a coach or scout, don’t assume that just telling is enough. Actions speak louder than words. Prove it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ask Coach Taylor

Coach Taylor, when sending highlight videos to colleges you’re interested in, should a cover letter be enclosed or just a note stating my interest. If so, what exactly should it state besides my desire to play for their organization?

I would definitely recommend including a cover letter. The only reason you might not include a cover letter with your video is if you already have sent one to this particular coach. It is a good idea to keep track of what you send to each coach.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when constructing your cover letter to coaches:

1. Most every coach now relies on e-mail to both contact and receive contact from potential recruits. That is the preferred method of communication. To find out the e-mail addresses for the coaches you are looking to contact, simply go to the college’s athletic website and look for a staff listing of names and e-mails or ask your Recruiting Coach.

2. Be brief. Coaches at all levels receive dozens and dozens of e-mails/letters from high school-aged players. All you are trying to do is show you have interest, pass along all of your contact information, your resume, and provide each coach with an upcoming schedule of your matches so he can see you play.

3. NEVER HAVE ONE OF YOUR PARENTS WRITE TO A COACH. You are the one the coach might be recruiting, so he/she wants to hear from you directly. (If the relationship develops and it appears that you might be attending that college, they’ll be plenty of time for your parents to have contact with the coaching staff.)

4. Provide contact information for yourself and your coaches. Nothing is worse for a college coach than to have to track down your coach’s e-mail or phone number. By having both an e-mail address and a phone number listed after his/her name, it allows for the college coach to quickly e-mail or call your private and/or high school coach to follow up.

5. Always include basic information about yourself such as grad year, high school, athletic history, GPA, SAT/ACT scores. Tell the coach why you are a good fit for their program.

6. Do not send a form letter that starts out with “Dear Coach” and does not mention anything specific about his/her program and school. The bulk of your e-mail will be kept the same for correspondence you send out to various coaching staff; however a portion of it should be personalized. Bring in something specific about it that you learned by going through the website. State your interest in the school and specific reasons (like “my Dad went to Madison and I want to carry on the tradition” or whatever fits you personally)

7. Detail is important! Be sure that you use spell check and proper English. This is a reflection of your ability. You may send your letter to NCSA to revise.

8. If you are emailing rather than regular mail, DO NOT mass email a bunch of coaches. This comes across as lazy and shows the coach that you didn’t take your time to personalize for them. Make sure to address the letter Dear Coach [[last name]].

Send your recruiting questions to

You can also get your questions answered directly by contacting an NCSA Recruiting Coordinator at 866-579-6272.

Read more: Ask Coach Taylor – What Should I Include In My Cover Letter? | College Recruiting Blog - Athletic Scholarships Blog | NCSA

NCSA Athletic Recruiting changes lives by building leaders through sports and connecting four key communities involved in the college athletic recruitment process: qualified high school student-athletes and their families, high school coaches and athletic directors, college coaches, and professional partners such as the NFLPA, ESPN, and more. NCSA is the leading collegiate recruiting source for more than 200,00 student-athletes and 35,000 college coaches across the country.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Cost of Youth College Development Programs

This post isn't just about dollars and cents, it's about how we have altered our lifestyles, to give our sons a chance to be the best they can be at baseball. The questions that we always hear are, after all of the travel and nights away from the rest of the family, work, friends, costly lessons, tournament fees, coaches per diems and $400 bats, are our sons better baseball players? Do they understand and love the game more? And, is it their passion or ours?

It's unanimous here at Rounding Third. It definitely was well worth the experience. All of our sons are playing D-1 college ball. We think that if they had taken the route that most of their friends took, and had relied on their high school coaches and the local leagues to get them to the next level, our sons would not have had the offers or the opportunities to play D-1. Now we know that there are exceptions. Some of our sons friends may get a chance to play JC ball and if they step up their routines and become more serious about the game, they could get a chance to play at the next level.

But the one thing our sons have that their other friends do not, is a passion, self discipline and serious attitude about baseball and the knowledge that the game requires a devoted work ethic both in the off season and in pre-game preparations that we have witnessed many rec ball athletes do not have. It's not their friends fault. That's the way they were taught. There are distinct philosophical differences in the way a travel ball coach develops his players and a Babe Ruth coach develops his.

Nevertheless, below we have listed some characteristics of a traveling College Development Program (CDP) to look for and even some things we would have done differently based upon our last 6-7 years of CDP ball.

What is a good CDP? Our definition is a team that has it's total focus on the development of the players and not just on winning that $5 piece of plastic for the sake of the coaches egos. The costs of a good CDP can be daunting, but make sure that your team is going to the right tournaments and showcases that will:

1) Get exposure for the players first and foremost. Many of the top high school tournaments will have scouts in attendance and you want your team to be there. There are many so called "travel teams" that beat their chest because they win a lot of local and regional tournaments. While it's great that they are playing good ball that is probably a step up from the rec alternatives, when you weigh the costs versus benefits, what was accomplished by winning that trophy that's bound for an old box in the garage?

2) Works with the tournament organizers to make sure your team is playing against the best competition. While winning is great for the psyche of the team as a whole, it's not always going to benefit them if they are playing patsies to get to the championship round. Some people will disagree with us on this, but we strongly feel that your sons will gain more grit playing the good teams early. And, if your CDP has a great reputation, you'll get more scouts at those early games against the better competition.

3)Be Organized! Be wary of the "travel programs" that don't have their summer of 2011 schedule completed by January...Yes that's right...January!!! Many of the top tournaments and showcases like the Junior Olympics are invitation only and if a newer organization wants in, they will have to campaign to get their team in the tournament early in the year. Other showcases tournaments have deadlines and they are usually very early. A lot of planning and logistics go into these national tournaments and they usually don't accept late entries unless there is a cancellation.

4)Have 90% of their roster in place by December of 2011. Many of the top clubs have already had their try-outs this fall. Some in the Sun Belt are still amidst the try-out process via fall ball. It's important that a club knows it's roster so that it can have the spring to create their own player profiles to send out to college recruiters. This does not negate your sons efforts to send out letters and profiles however. Your son needs to do his own marketing on top of what his coaches are executing. (Refer to our post from October 22, 2008...I AM GETTING LETTERS FROM COLLEGE BASEBALL COACHES)

5) Has a reputation as a winning, professional organization with the college and pro scouts. Look at the CDP's web site and look at their alumni page. Many of the better organizations will have a section of their web site dedicated to former players that have gone on to college or even the pros. That says volumes about their dedication to player development. Many college coaches look to these organizations for help and player profiles. Also, ask them if they are communicating with college coaches and where they feel your son fits in with the type of colleges they will be contacting.

6)A payment plan that precedes the season. It is our experience that if a club has a payment plan that is paid prior to the season, then that team gets 100% participation with its players. These payment plans are usually monthly and more reasonable to budget for. These clubs also have travel agencies that they work with and their web site is like a one stop shop. If you have a good, competitive club and they don't have this set-up...have the coaches get it done this way. It's easy and web site set-up costs are usually free or very inexpensive. There are other clubs that have a pay as you go policy and they are the ones that usually are scrambling for players before every tournament. Those type of clubs are usually very frustrating and costly experiences.

7)Coaches as teachers. The best organizations have coaches that work with each individual player to help make him a better player. They are also the teams that gather as a group every inning before their at bats, going over the decisions that the players made in the field, talking about adjustments that need to be made at the plate and getting them in the right frame of mind. Most of these coaches really know the game and love spreading that knowledge to their players. That's the type of added value that makes a good CDP team worth the investment for your son.

We have heard time and time again that travel ball is for rich dads that want to live vicariously through their kids. Not true! Yes, there may be a good number of parents that fall into this category and a good number of "travel clubs" that will accept any ones money to feed that parents desire. But, for the most part, good CDP's are about developing and giving players the opportunity to take their game to the next level. And, those top CDP's have a cost. And, we as parents are whipping out that check book like it was a sure stock tip.

The one thing we would have done differently, would have been to get our kids way more involved in the fund-raising aspect of their travel team. Many of these kids have it too easy and we as parents are guilty of making it easy for them. I know of several Georgia, Florida and Texas teams that raise 100% of their travel costs and coaches fees through candy drives, car washes, raffles and bake sales. Their kids are a part of that fund raising process. There's nothing wrong with parents bringing those candy bars to the office...that's usually pretty easy money...but so is a group of athletic looking kids in baseball caps going door to door or sitting up at the grocery store selling cookies, candy, and raffle tickets to help pay for that trip to East Cobb, Orlando or San Diego. This discipline also gives them ownership of their team and their accomplishments. It also keeps costs down for you, because depending on the organization, the total summer expenses for a high school CDP that is entered into all of the top tournaments and showcases can run in excess of $7,000.

That $7,000 is broken down as follows:
1) $1,500-$2,000 coaches fee/tourney fees. Fees vary by team and region.
2) $350 uniform and equipment costs
3) $2,500/Car Rental/Gas/Airfare for 2
4) $3,000+ (Two,1 Week Trips @ $85 a Night, Six 3 night Stays at $75 a Night) Plus../Food/Gate Fees/Entertainment For 2

These costs can be cut drastically if you room with another family and opt to go to the grocery store and barbeque by the hotel pool (much cheaper, healthier and more fun in our opinion)instead of eating out every night. Also, the advantage of having a travel team that plans ahead will allow you to shop for airfares and hotels well in advance and take advantage of discount rates.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Play The Best

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 2013-14 graduating class level and above, it's not about just's about getting better and getting seen.

BTW, you should not be entering major tournaments that involve a good amount of out of pocket money for travel, hotel and meals out, if there are not at least some scouts and recruiters there. If your team has a local 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...Busy with my real job...but can't let down my readers.

RT Staff

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Big Things Can Happen At Small Colleges

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...and aren't going to get an offer during the November initial signing period this year, there are hundreds of D-II's, D-III's, NAIA and JUCO's ready to add to their rosters from April 12th-August 1st, 2012...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 2011 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 48 players taken in the 2011 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.

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, October 4, 2011

7 Traits of a Successful Hitter

RT Staff Note: Jon Doyle's Baseball Training Secrets has numerous articles on Hitting, arm strength, speed training and strength and conditioning on his web site. He also has some of best video training programs in the business. Click the link above to view all of his articles and other offerings. The following is one of our favorite articles that he has written.
RT Staff

By Jon Doyle
As you may know there are numerous hitting methods and styles that exist in the world of baseball. They all claim the same thing: that they are the best. So who’s right and who’s wrong? They all are. Now you are probably saying, “This guy must be nuts. What the heck is he talking about? He doesn’t even make any sense.”

My point being is that if a certain hitting style works for a particular player then that style is the best for him. However, that same style won’t necessarily work for you. It may, but it may not. That is because if a certain style doesn’t work for you it’s not the best.

We must remember that hitting is an art. Trying to carbon copy hitters is the worst possible thing you can do. I encourage you to try different approaches, stances and follow throughs to see what works and doesn’t work for you. Let’s look at the 7 common traits shared among great hitters, no matter what hitting method is used.

1. Confidence

Believing in yourself and your ability is vital to becoming a great hitter. If you don’t believe in yourself who will? Questioning yourself on deck or in the batters box is pointless because it is way too late at that point to worry about anything. You must trust that the work you put in has gotten you ready to perform, no matter the pitcher or the situation. I firmly believe that most hitters get themselves out more often than the pitcher gets them out. Simply doing the correct preparation, both mentally and physically, can place you in the mind frame needed to be a great hitter.

2. Comfort

If you are not comfortable you will not hit. Period. Yes, when first experimenting with a new stance or hand position or whatever you might feel a bit uncomfortable. However, this should soon disappear as you practice this new technique. If it doesn’t disappear it probably is a sign that it’s not the best for you. However, remember that you can come back to this at a later time and it might feel great. That is the beauty of the swing. It can be an ever changing art form. The bottom line is: find your comfort zone and work from there.

3. Baseball Specific Vision

The ability to recognize and react to pitches is evident in all great hitters. You have a miniscule amount of time to see the ball, recognize the pitch, its velocity and location and then have the ability to generate the mechanics to make hard contact. There is a specific way to develop the vision skills that great hitters possess. However, virtually nobody knows about it. Vision drills that use colored balls (Never quite understood this one as we all know a baseball is white with red stitches), video games and other wacky equipment may improve certain aspects of “vision”, but not the vision need to track and react to a baseball. I’ve tried them all on both myself and my students. I have tested them in the real world. I know what works and what doesn’t. This skill is obviously vital as the old saying goes “You can’t hit what you can’t see.”

4. Reactive Strength and Abilities

Your ability to react will determine how good, or bad, of a baseball player you are. The game is consistently challenging you on how quickly you react to different situations. For example do you know where to swing the bat before the pitch is thrown? Of course not. You have an idea of what you want to do with the pitch, but have no clue where it is going until it leaves the pitchers hand. In very simplistic terms you are reacting to the pitch. Great hitters react very well, bad hitter don’t really react much at all. For a deeper, more in depth explanation on this I will be releasing a three-part series titled “The Biggest Secret in Baseball.”

5. Triple Threat Torso – Quick, Powerful and Flexible

You must develop a torso that has the above three qualities. If you lack even one you are severely limiting your potential. Everything else happens as a result of the torso. Leg movement, path of the hands, contact position and follow through all are effected by the abilities of your torso, or core. By developing these abilities every aspect of your swing will improve. Trust me you won’t get the triple threat by training the core in a manner that is shown on late night television infomercials or by balancing on a wobble board. Baseball specific training with the correct exercises, weights and tempo can deliver a triple threat torso to die for.

6. Short Swing

We all know that you must keep your hands inside the ball in order to consistently make hard contact on the sweet spot, especially against a good fastball. No matter which hitting method you follow, a short, compact stroke is a major emphasis and is crucial to success. I like to say, “If you swing is long, your day will be as well.”

7. Balance

If you cannot maintain balance before, during and after the swing you are severely doomed to inconsistent and unimpressive performance. The better your balance the more consistent your swing will be. If you are falling in any direction you will not only make poor contact most of the time, but you will have a hard time putting anything behind the swing.

This does not mean standing on some sill wobble board or stability ball. It means the ability to maintain your equilibrium throughout your swing. This is swing-specific balance I’m talking about here. Don’t be fooled by a fitness and training industry that is riddled with low-level “trainers” who simply don’t understand your needs.

To become a flat out stud, you must be sure that your training is specific to the traits I have listed above. Bodybuilding routines and mindless batting practice will not do the trick.

There you have it, the 7 traits that are found in every great hitter. Experiment with what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. These traits can be developed, usually quicker than you think, with proper training. Develop the qualities that I spoke about and you will be on your way to complete and utter domination.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Game Day Fueling and Hydration

RT Staff Note: Julie Nicoletti B.S., a pharmacist, sports nutritionist, and co-founder of Kinetic Fuel, LLC, based in Massachusetts. She is also a faithful reader of Rounding Third and works in many capacities with the New England Ruffnecks as well. You can contact Julie at Enjoy!
RT Staff

The premise is simple. If you want to play a great game and be injury free over a long season, you need to think like an athlete and eat and drink properly. Baseball is as much a mental game as a physical one. You need to be alert and able to make split second decisions for the right play. Baseball games are frequent, without much time for rest during the season. They are mostly played in hot, humid weather, which makes hydration imperative. They can be long, and may include double headers, so fueling your body and your brain is a crucial factor in performance.

3 Simple Suggestions for Success

1. Plan ahead and pack a cooler with enough of the right food, drinks, and snacks.
2. Never skip breakfast. Bring it to go if you need to leave home early in the morning.
3. When traveling to tournaments, make the best possible choices when it comes to where to stop and what to order.

Pre game: Players should eat a carbohydrate rich, low fat meal including protein 3-4 hours before a game (for the high school season, that could be lunch) and a high carbohydrate snack 1 hour pre game. Players should drink about ½ liter of cold water up to 1 hour before.

Meal ideas:
Oatmeal w/ berries or cinnamon and apple, 1% or skim milk mixed w/ Ovaltine
Egg/egg whites, or tuna, cheese on wheat bagel or bread, fruit or juice
Protein pancakes, fruit, low fat chocolate milk
Protein shake or smoothie: yogurt, milk, berries, pro powder
Meatball, turkey or lean ham sandwich on whole grain bread w/ lettuce, tomato, fruit, yogurt
Pasta (Barilla Plus is a good choice) w/ red sauce, lean meatballs or baked chicken cutlet, milk
Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat, add agave/honey or raisins, yogurt
Turkey chili w/ crackers and Mexican cheese, water

Snack ideas:
banana, apple or orange and 8-12 oz Gatorade
oats or low fat granola (Bare Naked Fit) mixed into yogurt x 2, Gatorade
Raisins, apricots, banana chips, mixed w/ multigrain Cheerios/Chex cereal, G’rade
Clif bar, water or milk
Graham crackers, banana, Gatorade

During game:
Players should hydrate at every break in play, alternating between water and Gatorade. Drink as much as is tolerated. Use time in the dugout or between games to hydrate and refuel with a snack. Pitchers, because they expend more energy than other players and are in the sun longer, as well as catchers who wear heavy equipment, need to pay special attention to hydration. Muscle dehydration of 3% can cause about 10% loss of contractile strength and 8% loss of speed.

Between a Double Header:
Players need to replenish carbohydrate stores and fuel their bodies quickly and without stomach upset. Avoid fat because fat slows digestion and absorption of nutrients. That means grilled chicken breasts or extra lean ground beef or turkey burgers, fruit and water or Gatorade would be much better choices than hotdogs, chips and soda or pizza. Or bring a turkey sandwich, yogurt and fruit for between games. Choose from the list of pregame meals or snacks for additional options that would serve you well.

Recovery: For maximum benefit, you must eat a recovery snack/meal within 15-30 minutes after a game. Protein is used for repair and growth of muscle tissue. Carbohydrates replace used glycogen (stored energy). Recovery today is preparation for tomorrow.

Recovery ideas:
EAS Myoplex Ready to Drink protein shake, or 100% Whey protein powder mixed with water, plus 8-12 oz Gatorade, and either raisins, dried apricots or a piece of fruit
EAS Myoplex RTD protein shake or pro powder, string cheese, apple
Protein pancakes, banana w/ 1-2 TBSP natural peanut butter
Yogurt plus fruit
Turkey sandwich on wheat, fruit, Gatorade or low fat chocolate milk