By: Zane Kelly
Dear parents and players,
Here are reasons why your son should NOT play for multiple teams over the course of a season:
1) It makes it harder to see someone
When I was coaching at the collegiate level, I spent time reviewing schedules and rosters daily. Our staff would come up with a plan of attack to enable us to go watch possible recruits play. If a player was absent due to playing for someone else or if there was a player not listed on the roster playing, it was confusing and wasted our time.
2) It signals commitment issue
When a possible recruit is on a roster and a college coach asks about him, what is the high school or club coach going to say? “He only plays with us sometimes” - the coach thinks to himself why? What’s going to happen if I bring this kid into my school? Will he look for excuses to get out of studyhall or weights?
3) It makes it hard on both sets of coaches
It’s tough on coaches (and teammates), to not know who’s on the roster from day-to-day. It's impossible to make out a line up in advance. This creates a lot of scrambling before the game, when coaches should be using the time to get the team warmed up, etc.
4) It’s hard to keep a pitcher healthy when you have two cooks in the kitchen.
In 2007 before I opened Athletes In Motion, I coached for another organization and we agreed to allow one of our pitchers to throw part time for another team. The agreement was that we would provide a pitch count allowance (when he was with the other team) and they would abide by it. The system broke down when the other coach felt like the games they were playing were increasingly meaningful. He disregarded our guidelines and threw the kid roughly 3x beyond what we had planned. After that I talked with my assistants and the player’s parents and removed the kid from our pitching staff. We used him as a position player only from that point on. I learned then (before a pitching guideline was implemented) that agreements like that are a recipe for disaster. There are too many moving parts to try and coordinate with another coach when little Johnny will be ready. Additionally from a mechanics and return to play standpoint you will end up on two different plans trying to do one thing and it only makes things worse for you. Not better. You can read more about various pitching related risk factors [HERE]
In Oregon some kids and families are scared to leave the high school over the summer fearing repercussions to be felt the following Spring. Rule 7 in the OSAA Handbook protects families from being bullied by coaches.
If you feel that a coach at your high school is violating this rule please write an email to your athletic director and CC Kris Welch at the OSAA [email@example.com] to protect yourself and your son. You will be heard and they will take your words seriously.
Make the decision based on who you think will best develop your son. Make the decision based on pitching philosophy or how they will use your son during the season. Make the decision based on who you believe will provide you the most opportunities for exposure. The decision to put it off or play for multiple teams sends messages you don't want to send to colleges.
Think about it this way:
Q) When is it easiest for college coaches to get out and see players, Spring or Summer?
A) Pretty hard for a coach to get out and watch games if he’s coaching. Summer is best.
Q) If you are a college coach going out to recruit; what is the best way for you to spend your time, seeing several players at one time you might be interested in or just one?
A) Coaches look to kill as many birds with one stone as they can. They're going to see games with talent rich rosters.
Q) Is the roster you are looking at joining (club or high school) comprised of other players from your class who are looking to play in college?
A) It’s not uncommon for high school kids to be good enough to help their high school team but not want to pursue baseball in college. It IS uncommon for a kid playing on a club team not to be interested in pursuing college baseball.
Player/families are not property
I hear this over and over from both high school and club coaches. "My guy” did this or he's "our guy." We work with them. That's it. If you want to get technical we probably work FOR them. We are in the service industry to help people. It's not semantics when you genuinely believe that player belongs to you. When a coach asks me if he's one of our guys I tell him what the player does with us i.e. he plays on our college prep team or he's in our Skill Development Program or does strength and conditioning with us. We take satisfaction in helping players but we don't take credit for what they do.
Make your decision and then stick with it. If you want to play for your high school team and have fun with the boys that’s fine. Just understand, you might be limiting exposure and development because of it.
At AIM: We practice over the summer. If we don’t have a game on the schedule you can expect to practice. On game days we often have early work. Off days on our schedule will be listed as “OFF.”
We are here for guys who want to get better. We look long term at our athletes. Our ultimate mission isn’t what appears on the scoreboard but what happens with our athletes over time. Where are they at in their development? What are their goals? To make a college roster? Our training/development is centered on the long term development of the athlete not short term success.
Playing on multiple teams makes life hard on two sets of coaches, not just one. Neither staff will see you on a regular basis and be able to develop you like they want. Pitchers and catchers especially need to worry about overuse.
Think about what you want to get out of your summer. You can read more about our thoughts on the subject [HERE]
A player who leaves one team in favor of another and then plans on coming back for playoffs or the last tournament to play will not be looked at favorably by peers/parents. They got there without you. Be happy for them. Show them support. But don’t try and join that team and expect not to ruffle feathers.
Sometimes a player tries to play for multiple rosters in hopes of getting more opportunities to play. That in and of itself is a gamble based on several factors. Depending on who’s writing the lineup you may or may not be in to start. Depending on the situation you may not get in later on. Play with fire and you eventually get burned and can develop a reputation for spelling team “teME”.
Commit to a club or don't.
Commit to your HS or don't.
You can help or hurt yourself based on how you handle it.
Bottom line - just pick one! And then show some GRIT and stick with your decision.
Post by Trent Calmer
When I was going through high school and playing baseball, I knew that I wanted to play at the next level. The problem was that my coach didn't believe in me, and gave me zero guidance/resources to get myself exposed to schools. This post is dedicated to the high school baseball players who feel like they have plenty of baseball left in them and don't have help getting your name out there. I just talked to Don Reynolds the area scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and he mentioned that scouts are only looking at juniors and below so that they can get them to various showcases in front of multiple scouts. So if you're getting close to graduating, now is the time to be proactive and find a college that will continue to develop you as a baseball player!
I played at Concordia University Portland Oregon (2012-2016)
The first key step in the process of finding a baseball program has to come from within. As an athlete, you MUST unbiasely judge your "value" as a baseball player. I talk to numerous talented baseball players in the Portland Metro area that express a desire to play college baseball, but only at a well known NCAA division one program. If you're one of the few getting looks from these big programs, good for you! Chances are you're not having any trouble finding a college that wants you to play for them. If you're not one of those guys, you're going to have to take it upon yourself to get your name out there. Don't count on just your play in the field and the numbers you put up to get you exposure. Here are some options to consider when deciding on a college baseball program.
Instead of putting all of your eggs in the D1 basket, try looking at junior colleges (JC'S) instead. Junior College baseball is competitive (high level opponents) and they put the best lineups forward to win, but the successful JC's also realize that in order to accomplish this, development of each individual athlete must occur. It's important to find a program that has a winning culture, but it shouldn't be the only reason why you attend. If a junior college is willing to offer you more money and show that they want to develop you as a baseball player, you might progress to the point of being able to play at a reputable four year. Junior colleges that get guys drafted/sent to universities to continue playing baseball, tend to attract elite level recruits year after year.
A lot of people will express their desire to go to a school that has a great academic program without realizing that junior college athletics only lasts two years. After the two years are up and you want to transfer to a four year, that four year will be the college that you put on resumes to jobs when you apply. Another plus is that it is going to save you boatloads of money. As a parent, if you are not sure whether or not your kid could play baseball at an expensive four year, try the JC route first and if things go well he might be able to get drafted or get picked up by a four year college after two years! With all this being said, Junior College ball is competitive and a grind. You have to really love baseball if you want to go this route.
One of my roommates/teammates at Concordia, Brad Bearden played JC ball at Chemeketa Community College in Salem Oregon. He always talked highly about his junior college and the emphasis they place on development. I asked him to talk about his JC experience and this is what he had to say:
"Going into junior college I had very little real coaching. It wasn't until I got to college that I started lifting and working out regularly with a specific purpose. That alone helped me become stronger and throw harder."
"Everyone was expected to perform at their own highest level. If someone wasn't then physical or mental adjustments had to be made. It helped that the coaches liked each other and were always on the same page. Often times you would get the same answer to a question by several different coaches."
"Not only was I a better baseball player when I left but I was more disciplined and held myself accountable for my own performance. What I learned from baseball those two years carried over into the classroom and my life. It was the most I had ever changed as an athlete and a person."
Brad Bearden played at Chemeketa Community College 2012-2013
Cameron Mayville, one of our coaches at Athletes In Motion attended College of Marin and also talks greatly about his junior college experience. He talks about how he got himself exposed and what it takes to get yourself noticed:
"When I was in high school, I wasn’t a top recruit or anything like that. I didn’t get regular playing time on Varsity until my senior year. It’s hard to get exposure during a single season, so I found myself with no real options to continue playing. All I had was an opportunity to attempt to walk on at Cal Poly, with no guarantees to speak of. At this point I was a decent player, but my skills were still pretty raw across the board. I could have attempted to walk on, but at that point in my development I would have set myself up for failure. I was like every other kid with the mentality that I had to go to a D1 or what was the point. Luckily I had a great coach, who has grown into an even greater friend, that told me there are so many other options out there. The caveat was that you had to go find them yourself. In my case, a junior college was the ideal situation. My coach told me a JC would allow me to compete and develop at my age level rather than fighting for a spot with a junior or senior. Knowing that, I began my search for a place to pursue my baseball dreams. I searched for all the junior colleges in my area and areas where I had family until I had a decent list going. Then I cold-called and emailed every single school on the list. I ended up hearing back from 4 out of the 16 schools I had contacted. While on the surface it may not seem successful, all I needed was one school to like me. I ended up visiting all four before finding the College of Marin to be the best fit. It ended up being the best decision I ever made. Right away I was competing for a starting spot at catcher and DH, while also learning the game on a whole new level. It allowed me to develop my game in a way you can’t as a redshirt or a freshman with a senior ahead of them. Living off campus with bills to pay also taught me about life, which is something I think gets lost in dormitory living. Anyways, the best way to improve is to play and compete. While the D1 route works for some players who are more advanced in their development, it can be a death sentence for a player that's going just so they could say they played D1. From the first email I sent to a school to my last game, my JC experience shaped me into the man I am today."
Say you are the guy that wants to play baseball at the next level, but prefers a laid back program that is more hands off when it comes to developing their athletes. You might benefit from a NCAA division III program or an NAIA school. Obviously this is a generalization, there are great DIII and NAIA schools that develop their players, but for the most part, this occurs more at the junior college level. You might be the same guy that really wants academics to be valued and could care less how amazing the baseball program is. A lot of players that I played with at Concordia University were of that mindset. They came to Concordia to get a top notch education with baseball being what they did for fun. If you're a player that feels like they are good enough to play college but has other passions besides baseball, this is a great option.
At Athletes In Motion we are developing a strategy to create recruiting videos for the local baseball players. A recruiting video is one of the best ways to get yourself exposure as it allows you to reach colleges all over the nation. Our new slow motion camera's will allow us to capture very detailed shots that look professional to a college head coach. The recruiting videos will include all baseball skills/movements and highlight your individual athletic profile.
Post by Trent Calmer
Definition of “unconventional” – Not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed.
With the rise of Crossfit over the past decade, functional movement has made its way into the forefront. Movement quality is starting to become prevalent as professionals are starting to incorporate unique training tools into clients rehab/training programs. These unique tools include battle ropes, steel maces, steel clubs, and slosh pipes. As unconventional training becomes popular, I would imagine there will be newer, even better implements that will continue to be invented based off of the current ones that are being used. The fitness/supplement company “Onnit” was how our staff here at Athletes In Motion came to discover some of these training tools. We started off by getting a few maces and a couple battle ropes from Onnit and once we tried them ourselves, our staff knew they would be great for developing our baseball players.
Are Current Unconventional Training Techniques Really “Unconventional?”
I ask this question because of my own personal experiences with lifting growing up. I lifted “conventional” focusing mainly on sagittal plane movements with barbells, dumbbells or machines. The lifts could be characterized as mainly “football lifts” that focused on hitting all those show muscles. I did so much shrugging in high school that I am still trying to loosen my perpetually tight traps. It wasn’t until I got a degree in exercise science that I realized I was focusing on all the wrong aspects for baseball performance. At AIM we see a lot of high school athletes that are receiving the exact same strength and conditioning program that I was given in high school. A ton of football lifts in the sagittal plane. Due to kids sitting more because of the technological advances our society has made, athletes are coming to us more broken down than before. No matter what sport they play, they are forced to do the same cookie cutter lifts that I did in high school.
Not only are kids coming to us with the same ancient lifting program that was the exact same that I had in high school, most kids come from high schools where they have never been taught proper lifting mechanics. It is also very common for us to get a high school senior who is extremely strong when it comes to the big lifts (bench, squat, deadlift), but can’t move outside that sagittal plane whatsoever. Due to the fact that baseball movement patterns mainly operate in the frontal and transverse plane (hitting/throwing), these “unconventional” training implements become “conventional” for a lot of our athletes. These particular athletes who can move massive amounts of weight in the sagittal plane often see huge gains when they transition to a program with movement patterns they have never experienced before.
Benefits of Various Unconventional Implements with Baseball Players
Maces/Steel Clubs – Think of these like a kettlebell that has a long handle. These training tools are extremely beneficial for the overhead athlete as various movements can really strengthen the core, back, shoulders, triceps, and forearms. All of these muscles are extremely important for baseball performance and often underdeveloped with the athletes that come in to train with us. One of the best exercises with these two implements that is programmed with all of our athletes is the mace 360 swing.
The reason why this exercise is so beneficial for baseball players is because it teaches proper core bracing. As the mace swings back and around the body, the athlete is cued to “pulse” the core to prevent the back from possibly anti-extending, or anti-lateral flexing. Resisting these motions is extremely transferable to the skills of hitting and throwing. The great thing about this exercise is that it can easily be modified if you don’t have a mace to work with. A bat with a donut or an ankle weight tied to the end can easily replicate the feel of a mace and also work wonders with the youth players who might have trouble with the lightest maces. At AIM we have homemade weighted bats that weigh roughly 3-4 pounds. These bats are great to do 360 swings with if an athlete struggles with the maces.
Battle Ropes – The main reason Athletes In Motion incorporates battle rope finishers into athletes workouts is because of the anaerobic energy system development. Doing short max effort bursts (roughly 7-15 seconds) are great for getting guys ready for the demands of baseball. Alternating waves is a very simple movement that is incorporated with athletes of all levels. It is a great tool for seeing body control/core awareness. With the younger guys, the ropes will move them. As they get properly cued on the correct positions and gain more experience with the ropes, athletes learn to control their bodies and move the ropes with high amounts of force. The ropes also do a great job of strengthening the arms, back, shoulders and chest with a multitude of movements in various planes that can be done. Jumping jacks with the battle ropes are great for conditioning as well as getting some explosive upward rotation work.
Slosh Pipes – At Athletes In Motion, our staff avoids copious amounts of overhead pressing with our athletes. The demands of the sport place the throwing arm overhead a tremendous amount so instead of doing vertical pressing movements, our trainers incorporate overhead carries using what’s called a slosh pipe. Essentially they are homemade pipes with water filled about 2/3 full so it “sloshes” back and forth during various movements/exercises. The overhead carry is great for baseball players as it creates stability in the core and strength in the overhead position. At AIM we have various sizes that make it an exercise that is utilized with our baseball players of all ages. A great progression with athletes is having the athlete walk in the frontal plane with a slosh pipe. This gets the athlete using their lateral glutes and also creates more slosh in the slosh pipe. If one of our athletes is having trouble carrying the slosh pipes overhead, an easy regression is to have the athlete carry the slosh in a front rack position with their arms crossed. Slosh pipes are also great for reinforcing proper mechanics during a squat. The slosh forces the athlete to use their core to stabilize as they get to the bottom position of a squat.
At Athletes In Motion we are continually finding new implements that will optimize our development of overhead athletes. An athlete that signs up for strength and conditioning with us will use these tools consistently as they offer a new stimulus not experienced by most athletes. Along with the use of unconventional implements, strength and conditioning programs at Athletes In Motion include traditional conventional practices. Our new back lifting area has a barbell and trap bar that has been game changing for our posterior chain development. In order to increase power in the major baseball movements, it is crucial that our athletes work to progressively overload the deadlift and hip thrust exercises that can be executed in this back area. Increasing the load with these two exercises will be game changing for increasing ones bat exit speed and/or mound velocity. Our athletes take part in a multi-disciplinary lifting approach that incorporates all types of training in all planes of movement. Athletes of all ages and all sports are welcome to sign up for a program! Accomplish your goals with us.
Post by Trent Calmer
During the winter I participated in “The California Winter League” (CWL), and had one of the best baseball experiences of my life. I highly recommend anyone interested in playing professional baseball to attend. It is a month straight of games in sunny Palm Springs with the coaches being scouts for various affiliated/independent professional baseball teams. During the trip, Wally Joyner came to the field to talk hitting to all the CWL participants. His talk on hitting was so simple and how he explained it made me realize that this is how hitting at all levels should be coached. He also shared some stories from his playing days and talked so much that the fans in the stadium yelled at him to wrap it up. He didn’t care one bit and finished up when he felt like it. Here for you are some of the main points that he discussed in his talk on hitting:
Wally posted a .289 batting average with 1106 RBI’s in 16 years of professional baseball
Be Consistent With Your Grip
The first aspect of hitting that Wally emphasized as being one of the most important and often overlooked parts is ones grip. This portion of the talk hit home for me because I was never taught proper grip until I got older. During my youth playing days I got conflicting messages from different coaches about how to hold a bat that I never got consistent with it. Wally explained that if your grip is off, everything else in the swing will be off. The hitter does not get to “palm-up/palm-down” at contact and will not be able to stay “through” the baseball. Wally talked about consistency a ton in the talk as a whole and this was the first aspect of it. Hold the bat in your fingers, not your palms. Making this adjustment will help you feel not as “handsy” with the bat which will help you stay inside the baseball.
Work Contact Zones on the Tee and Recognize your Weaknesses vs. Strengths
The next topic that Wally discussed had to do with the tee and working on various “contact zones.” Setting up the tee for hitting might not seem important but it actually makes all the difference in the world. Where you make contact with an outside pitch will differ from where you make contact with an inside pitch. If you have the access to a cage that allows you to see ball flight, recognize which locations you can stay through consistently that produces a hard hit back spin line drive. The big takeaway I got from Wally during this portion of the talk was when he said to work on your weaknesses, but don’t forget about your strengths. If your weakness is hitting a pitch on the inside part of the plate but your strength is hitting the outside pitch, focus more on the inside pitch. Players will too often focus only on the locations on the tee that they can hit and rarely focus on their weaknesses.
(right handed batter)
Have an Approach at the Plate, and Find Positives Out of Every AB
Taking the previous point into consideration, Wally talked about how your strengths and weaknesses will dictate your approach at the plate. So say you are guy above that has trouble with the inside pitch but loves the pitch out over the plate. In a hitters count, especially a 2-0/3-1 count, the pitch that you are looking to hit has to be your pitch. If the count changes to 2-1 or 1-1 for example, what you are looking for will expand. So now you might also have to include the down and away pitch or the pitch that is at the top of the strike zone. When you get to two strikes that is when you have to protect and potentially swing at your weaknesses. You might foul it off and live to fight another day.
Balance, Rhythm, Timing
What tied everything together at the end was when Wally talked about how he worked on balance, rhythm, and timing. He accomplished these three things all in one simple drill that can be implemented by baseball players of all ages. One simply grabs a bat, and as you swing it forward, balance on the front foot. Now swing the bat back and transfer the weight to your back leg. See if you can also balance on your back leg. You can modify this drill to a timing drill by bringing your bat forward as you watch a pitcher pitch a ball to the plate. Wally talked about how he incorporated that drill daily and used it to time pitchers before he went up to hit. As I mentioned earlier, this drill is great because it can be taught to any age group. From what I have observed from high school baseball players, most kids are over thinking their mechanics that they forget to track the baseball. This simplifies things and gets them focused to hit live pitching. At the same time, this drill can be used as a staple to a youth baseball practice routine. Kids aged 9-12 have a hard time grasping this weight transfer/balance concept so incorporating this drill in at a young age will work wonders.
The summer is a time period for baseball players that can be used to get healthier and stronger for the upcoming school year. There are some things to consider when reflecting back on the school year in order to determine whether or not you should continue participating in sport specific movements. These points to consider are an attempt to think about how much “work-load” has accumulated over the past school year. Too much work-load during the school year will increase injury risk over the summer, and make it difficult to perform at an optimal level.
Demands of being a multi-sport athlete
Someone who participated in sports specific activities in the fall, winter, and spring have not had an extended period of time away from sports specific activity during the school year. Guys that play football have the special privilege of participating in spring football right around the time summer ball is getting started. Combine this with being a full time student and you have a lot of workload that can be accumulated during a high school year. It is important to consider whether you are apart of this population as playing multiple sports can be a quite demanding.
With that being said, high school students should be encouraged to play multiple sports in high school! Kids should strive to experience as many different athletic situations as possible in order to gain a medley of movement patterns. It has been shown that the top tier of athletes in major sports in the USA participated in multiple sports growing up (Here) so whenever your kid expresses desire to try to learn a different sport, one should encourage this endeavor.
If you have been participating in football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and baseball in the spring, there is nothing wrong with that! But when you add a full length summer baseball season immediately following all of this high sport specific activity, you might not have the proper rest and recuperation necessary to prepare for the following sports year. Spending time away from sports and focusing on getting stronger in the weight room allows one to return to the absolute strength side of the continuum (Here). If your entire school year was spent in absolute speed then there is a good chance you lost some mass and need to get bigger and stronger.
What kind of spring season did you have?
The spring season that you have will have a lot to do with what you decide to do that following summer. Were you a pitcher who started the first game of a series and then proceeded to relieve for a few innings in the finale? You must reflect on the season that was and be able to figure out how many competitive reps occurred. Competitive reps can be considered a pitch thrown, a base stolen, an at-bat, a pick off move, that occurs during the competitive (spring) season. They are “competitive” because each example listed is performed to maximal potential. Overtime, these reps can have a compounding effect breaking the body down. Eric Cressey makes sense of this concept by explaining how doing arm care is like making a bank deposit whereas performing a throw (especially off a mound) is like making a bank withdrawal (Here). How much work was done on the field compared to in the weight room?
High workload can result in bodily asymmetries that can be a precursor to injury.
How your body held up during the spring is also another huge piece to consider when deciding to play summer baseball. Did you constantly have pain on the front of your shoulder, on your biceps tendon, on the back near your shoulder blade? These issues have resulted from taking a lot of money out of the bank and not making enough deposits. These issues will be exacerbated during the summer season.
At the same time, maybe you sustained a serious injury (broken bone), that is not an overuse injury. You could not participate in baseball activity but it gave you the time to put in extra work in the weight room. You have been making deposits (working out, doing rehabilitation) but have been taking a “break” from sports specific activity (money in the bank). If this is the case, summer ball might an option for you. A slow start might occur because no competitive reps have taken place, but you’ll be better able to withstand a summer season.
The value of non-competitive reps
If one decides to not play competitively over the summer, that does not mean that one should avoid hitting, throwing, playing catch, etc. Once a person has alleviated any chronic pain issues through proper training strategies, that person should start a progression that ends with mechanically sound game repetitions.
As a hitter this progression starts with taking dry swings, then hitting off a tee, then front toss, then to someone throwing overhand batting practice, and so on. As a pitcher this could start with simple catch play working to increase distance and intensity in a gradual manner. Then progressing to a flat ground and then finally a bullpen session. The Summer is a great chunk of time to progress at whatever pace is necessary to go through these progressions pain free. It allows for ample time to develop a secondary pitch as a pitcher or work out some mechanical flaw in one’s swing. By taking a break from competitive reps and instead focusing on non-competitive reps, one can better fine tune mechanical adjustments that might remain unchecked during a summer baseball season.
Outwest Baseball best tee around!
If you decide to train over the summer, recognize the amount of free time that results from not having any school or organized sport activity. It is important to remain productive not only lifting but taking advantage of these non-competitive reps.
We look to keep kids under 100 competitive innings for the year.
This player’s summer will best be spent recovering from a long season so that he is ready to pitch in the fall and leave a good first impression for the new coaches that he will be playing for.
What is this player's biggest window for adaptation?
This player could use the 30-40 innings in a developmental sense by working on areas of pitching to carry over into the following year. This could include developing a pitch, working on a pick off move, or even focusing on doing some PFP’s (pitchers fielding practice).
If this particular college wants us to develop this pitcher as a starter, we might restrict his starts to 3-4 innings per outing. He would throw up to 30 innings over the summer. That way he still has about 10 to use in the fall.
The emphasis should be about getting as many “quality” reps in as possible. Performing continuous high repetitions of a specific movement (throwing/hitting) with poor mechanics is going to increase the risk of injury. Rob Panariello explains in this guest post on Bret Contreras’ site (Here): “Excessive exercise performance quantity (volume) will likely result in undesirable high levels of accumulative fatigue, as well as the undesirable negative attributes associated with an athlete who demonstrates excessive levels of fatigue.” Being mechanically sound is going to allow the body to recover much easier as well “Proper exercise performance (technique) will not only reduce the likelihood of training injuries but also allow for energy system efficiency, optimal recovery, and when appropriate, for the eventual safe application and efficient exercise execution of higher exercise intensities as prescribed in the athlete’s training program design.”
Caveat to all examples: getting healthy is always the priority. If you're trying to throw over the summer get healthy first. Summer exposure is super important for players looking to move to college. If you go into the summer having to rehab first you might be missing out on important opportunities to get seen.
The mindset around summer time for baseball players in the Pacific Northwest has always seemed to center around playing as much baseball as possible. The weather is finally nice, early Spring rainouts are a thing of the past, and now it’s time to grind for three months. Players increase the inning workload and pile up the AB’s because now is the best time to do it. No more worrying about keeping your field from turning into a swamp, no more rainouts because the opposing team forgot to tarp their field the night before. Summer is upon us so lets play ball.
For baseball players in the state of Oregon the question isn’t whether to participate in summer ball or not because the answer more often than not is a resounding YES. For kids at the youth level it might be an opportunity to play on your little league all-star team and chase the Williamsport dream. For college baseball players it could be a chance to play for a West Coast League team to face division one talent and get professional exposure. The positives seem to far outweigh any negatives that might result from playing summer baseball so why would anyone ever avoid it? Are there situations where playing summer baseball could actually do someone more harm than good?
The answers to these questions will be different from individual to individual. The important first step is in the realization that not playing summer ball can be a productive decision that will in the end make you a better baseball player! Players and parents need to take into account the workload already accumulated during the school year before playing summer baseball. Adding more workload when there has already been so much volume during the school year might lead to more time spent playing under fatigue which increases the chance of injury. Sometimes it is best for a player to take time off from the competitive side of the sport and focus on fine tuning the mechanical aspects of the game in combination with getting stronger. This will allow for more efficient movement patterns in the sport which will keep you healthy and playing better longer.
Eric Cressey perfectly illustrated the absolute strength to absolute speed continuum in this video.
Can someone become a better baseball player without actually playing baseball….? The answer is a resounding YES. The goal for the summer time should be to figure out what my biggest window for adaptation is. For most baseball players who have already spent a significant portion of their life living in the realm of absolute speed (hitting, throwing, sprinting), the biggest window for adaption might simply mean gaining strength. Spending the summer away from the game and focusing on training should always be an option to consider as you figure out what’s best for you.
What’s nice about training instead of playing is that not only will you get stronger and healthier, you are going to be getting better at baseball in the process! This might be a surprise to some because most baseball players are thinking: "How am I going to get better at these super intricate skills like hitting and throwing if I am not doing them in the first place!?" The answer: hard work in the weight room will make you a better athlete. Being a better athlete will make it much easier to perform these skills successfully.
If your kid can hit a baseball he/she should also be able to run with correct form, cut and change direction successfully, be able to shuffle without crossing one's feet, etc. What we see at Athletes In Motion is a lot of athletes that can do the former, but not the latter. With recent advancements in technology (the newest video game), kids are spending less time playing outside. Think about all the different movements required in a simple game of tag. The unpredictable nature of the game correlates with the unpredictable nature of baseball. Planting off of a foot and accelerating to avoid being “it” (reacting to a fly ball, stealing a base), reaching out to try and tag someone (extending ones arm to catch a baseball).
At AIM the goal isn’t baseball development but rather ATHLETIC development! Being a better athlete will make you a better baseball player. The post following this will delve into more detail about how AIM operates during the summer and how we decide whether someone is a good candidate for summer ball or not.