I was fortunate enough to have attended Cressey Sports Performance's Elite Baseball Mentorship program this past June in the Boston area along with fellow team members here at The Baseball Zone / SST Mississauga, Courtney Plewes and Rick Johnston (pictured L to R with Eric Cressey). This program has provided me with insight that gave me a better understanding of how the body works from a biomechanical perspective. This particular workshop was focused on the upper extremities, especially the elbow and shoulder, two areas that go without saying are extremely important to pitchers - and all throwers - in terms of performance, injury prevention & rehabilitation.
Here is a brief outline of the program and some of my own thoughts:
Day 1: We examined how the shoulder complex should function by looking at movement and symmetry with various athletes. Later that day we went onto the floor and watched assessments performed by Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg. Although this may not be my particular area of expertise I learned more about how the body moves so I can better serve our throwers here at The Baseball Zone as well as share this information with our staff.
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Baseball may be known as a team sport but it’s not a sport that needs to be practiced with a team. The best way to enhance your skills is to practice by yourself. Team practice is for understanding things like cut offs, bunt defense, pick off plays and other team activities. Practicing these different plays will help your team get better but will not necessarily make you a more skilled baseball player. To get better as a player it’s important to practice on your own. Here are some ways you can practice on your own or with one other person.
Hitting (Hitting off a Tee)
Everyone’s favorite part of practice is batting practice, where they get to see how hard and far they can hit a baseball. The problem with batting practice is how kids handle it. A lot of kids see batting practice as a homerun derby with the ball perfectly placed each time (or waiting for a perfectly placed one) and swinging for the fences. When you hit off a Tee, your goals can be made more appropriate for trying to become a better hitter and can be made more realistic to game situations when done correctly. The goal of hitting the ball off the tee is to try and square up the ball as much as possible because almost all results will be the same anyways. Hitting off a tee allows you to forget about your surroundings and concentrating on increasing your strength and using proper technique. Placing the Tee in different locations that represent where an actual ball may be pitched to you - raise and lower the Tee, place it closer to you and further away - can help you learn what adjustments your body will need to make to square up on a ball based on the pitch location.
pick off moves,
Throwing the ball as a catcher takes a very unique skill set to be successful. Catchers need to have athleticism, arm strength, and great accuracy to be able to throw successfully. Without these skills, it’s very difficult to consistently throw runners out. Here are some tips that will help young catchers with their time to second.
A problem that most kids have is that they have a tendency to step out towards their glove side with their initial step. This technique can have a negative effect on two things - accuracy and arm strength. When you start allowing your momentum to move in directions other than the direction you’re trying to throw, you’re displacing the momentum needed to throw the runner out. Your first step should be with your throwing side foot and straight towards second base.
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Throughout the years in baseball, teams have practiced many different aspects of the game. Most practices consist of the three main components of baseball; hitting, defense, and pitching. Although baseball is based around those three aspects, there are a lot of little things in baseball that get overlooked in practice but need to be worked on if one is to expect them to be committed flawlessly in a competitive situation. Every coach should have a rule that you cannot put a kid in a situation they haven’t practiced. Here are three of those situations that get overlooked in practice but will get used in games, often making situations worse off than they could have been.
A pitchout is a technique that seems like it should be easy, but it needs to be practiced. Pitchers often have issues throwing this pitch where it needs to be. The location of this pitch is so important because every inch the pitch is off is an extra inch the catcher has to make up for in their release. This needs to be practiced by the catcher as well because it’s different than a typical throw to second base. The catcher needs to worry about getting their body over in time, but also worry about not leaving the catcher's box before the ball is released.
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There are many different technical issues that young baseball players have when starting out but some seem to be a lot more common than others. Here are a few problems that are consistent with most kids and what you can do as a coach and/or parent to help steer them in the right direction.
Every person that’s ever thrown a ball has their own technique that is slightly different in some way than everybody else’s. However, even though everyone throws differently, many still have the same problems. The most common problem that I see with kids throwing the baseball is the direction their body is going in when they throw. What typically happens is players will direct their momentum towards their glove side, instead of having it all going towards their target. This can happen for many reasons but typically it has to do with their glove getting away from their body during the throw and pulling them away from their target instead of towards it. Once your glove starts moving away from your body as you throw, it’s likely that your momentum will follow in the same direction. The consequences for your momentum being directed in other places than your target are typically a loss of velocity as well as accuracy. So make sure that your youn baseball players are directing momentum towards their target whether it be a catcher or a teammate in the field.
hitting stride issues