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.