The middle and end of June is a busy time of year for baseball at all levels. School is out for summer, youth travel baseball tournaments are a weekend staple for families across the country. The College World Series has already (or very close) crowned a champion. Major League Baseball’s draft has just concluded with many young men fulfilling a life long dream. Anticipation and excitement is growing as we inch closer to the All-Star Game.
It’s also a great time to evaluate training considerations for baseball players. The first step is identifying different trends throughout baseball, starting at the youth level. The youth baseball landscape is changing rapidly. It’s very common for a youth athlete to play 50-75 games over the course of the summer. This has the potential to impact their future risk of injury. Strength coaches must program accordingly, combing education with their experience to develop proper programming.
As a commitment to providing up to date industry trends and content, Liberty Performance was able to speak with Ryan Faer. Ryan is currently the Arizona Performance Coordinator for the Cleveland Indians. Prior to joining the Indians organization, Ryan was a High School Strength and Baseball Coach. Ryan works with professional ball players who are products of the current High School and youth baseball climate. What concerns him the most? Based on his background, we wanted to know.
Liberty Performance Training: As a strength coach at the professional level, what troubles you the most with the current youth and HS baseball environment?
Ryan Faer: I believe there are a lot of great things happening in youth sports today. For example, high school baseball competition levels have risen, while baseball/physical training has become more readily available. More resources are being poured into the game at the high school and travel baseball levels. This results in more pressure on the youth baseball player. With added pressure, there are possible negative ramifications.
Primarily, high school baseball has lost significance over time. Participation in travel baseball seems to be on a sharp incline, oftentimes at the expense of other sports (i.e. we are losing the multi-sport athlete). Kids play less “fall-ball” with their high school teams and “legion baseball” in the summer. These athletes are opting to get exposure on the travel baseball circuit. There are even kids – as I have seen firsthand coaching at the high school level- who will opt out of the spring high school season to train at a baseball facility. Scroll up and down the MLB draft boards and you will see a few players who have taken it further, getting drafted out of “_____ Baseball Academy.” They have opted to play exclusively for their travel-ball organization and complete their high school education online. This gives them more time to train and focus on baseball.
It isn’t that travel-baseball is inherently bad or that high school baseball is necessarily preferable. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from playing baseball at a grassroots level. This pendulum swing in favor of travel baseball seems to be signaling the very real prospect of youth baseball becoming more business than recreation.
This trend may promote the development of more highly-skilled young baseball players, but is bad news for those who believe in long-term athletic development. This is the paradox of early sport specialization: we have more skilled athletes, but is this good for the individual – or the game?
Baseball has seen a tremendous increase of injuries to pitchers. It is a hot topic and concern of Major League Baseball. So much so, they are debating whether or not to lower the pitcher’s mound from 10 inches to 6 inches. MLB is funding a study through the ASMI to measure the velocity of pitches. The goal of the study is to determine if it is safer to throw off a lower mound. You can read the full article below.
At Liberty Performance we focus on the things we can control. You can control how you protect your arm through proper training. As a pitcher, what exercises should you be performing? We asked Ryan for the 3 most important exercises he uses with his pitchers.
Liberty Performance Training: What are 3 exercises every pitcher NEEDS to be doing?
Ryan Faer: Before considering exercises, every pitcher should understand pitching. Like most sporting endeavors, pitching is a total body skill, requiring the entire kinetic chain to work in sequence and rhythm. To effectively use the kinetic chain, optimizing pitching performance, the athlete must have a strong foundation of movement quality and strength (in that order). The efficient use of the kinetic chain requires the ability of the pitcher to tap into that strength rapidly, sequencing part of the pitching mechanics appropriately, in order to transmit forces through the body and out the arm (onto the ball). This requires many motor abilities, including strength, power, mobility, and trunk stability.
There are a multitude of exercises pitchers can perform, effectively training for these abilities. Three great exercises would be the Squat, Push-Up, and the Hip Hinge. Finally, I would suggest incorporating plenty of upper-body pulling exercises, especially of the rowing variety. This helps ensure proper posture and strength ratios for the shoulder joint. All three exercises, above, can be classified better as movements than exercises.
Big thank you to Ryan for sitting down with Liberty Performance and shedding some light on the state of baseball. To learn more about Ryan visit his blog. https://ryanfaerblog.com/
As a reminder, Rich Mulder graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2009.After his service, Rich obtained his Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification from the NSCA and his Master’s Degree from Arizona State University. Rich has been published in NSCA Coach and currently serves on the NSCA Arizona State Advisory Board. He is the founder, owner, and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of Liberty Performance Training in Phoenix, Arizona.
Liberty Performance Training was founded in Phoenix, Arizona in May of 2015 with the primary goals of increasing individual athletic performance, motivation, and quality of life for athletes at any level. Above all else, our coaches truly care about each and every athlete they work with. We espouse integrity, work ethic, and performance outcomes above anything.
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