Home Posts tagged "Cape Cod Baseball League"

CSP Summer Training Strategies for College Baseball Players

I recently received an email from someone asking if I could delve into how we approach summer training with our college baseball players. It's a pretty loaded question, as we have to consider a number of factors in making the recommendation:

Is it a position player or a pitcher?

Is the highest priority getting bigger, stronger, and faster? Or is it getting as much game experience as possible?

Is it a pitcher who needs to make a mechanical adjustment or learn a new pitch? A hitter who needs to rework his swing?

Does the player have an injury history?

What are the player's plans after college? Is professional baseball a goal and/or legitimate possibility?

What are the player's geographic and fiscal constraints?

To attempt to remedy this, we've got a few options we employ with respect to college baseball guys and training with Cressey Sports Performance. Whether you plan to train with us or not, it should help you work through some options for your short- and long-term development.

Option 1: The Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts

This will be the third summer in which we run this all-encompassing program at our Hudson, MA location. It's a perfect fit for pitchers who need to develop a new pitch and/or improve their physiques and athleticism. It's a 10-week program where players have a predictable schedule conducive to development. The guys train six days per week with a combination of throwing and strength and conditioning work, and we utilize considerable technology (Rapsodo, high-speed cameras) and incorporate classroom education sessions covering everything from nutrition, to sports psychology, to pitch design, to game preparation. We've routinely had athletes gain over 20 pounds and add 6-8mph over the course of ten weeks as part of this program. For more information, click here or email cspmass@gmail.com.

Option 2: The Collegiate League of the Palm Beaches (CLPB) or other nearby league -

The CLPB was co-founded by Cressey Sports Performance - Florida co-founder Brian Kaplan ("Kap") when he saw a large gap in the college summer baseball market. All too often, players who really needed game experience would have to go to the middle of nowhere to get at-bats or innings, and those experiences would come on an unpredictable schedule and with lengthy road trips for away games. They'd often be miles from a good gym or even a solid restaurant, and host family situations were often not all that favorable.

To overcome these challenges, Kap and his team established a league in Palm Beach County, Florida, where teams had predictable schedules of 3x/week games. Most of the players train at CSP-FL 3x/week, have access to manual therapy, and receive nutritional direction. Plus, the host family and food options nearby are outstanding. It's ideal for the athlete who wants to develop physically while still getting at-bats and/or innings on the mound - as well as some exposure in the process. And, it's a good fit for players who feel like they're a year away from being ready to play on the Cape. This league has seen plenty of players from SEC and ACC schools, and also has included some rising college freshmen. To learn more, check out www.clpalmbeaches.com.

I should not that we have also regularly trained athletes participating in several leagues - the Futures League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Park League, Yawkey League, and Cranberry League, and Central England Baseball Association - located in the greater Boston area. Effectively, we meet you "where you're at." You can email cspmass@gmail.com for more information on that.

Option 3: One-Time Consultations at CSP-MA or CSP-FL

We also see many players who come to one of our facilities for 2-3 day stints to get assessed and receive distance-based programs that they can utilize while playing in various college leagues in other parts of the country. This is particularly common for players in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Most of the teams are a 60-120 minute drive from CSP-MA, so players will come up in the morning or on an off-day. Over the years, we've seen a lot of big name eventual draft picks who have taken advantage of this proximity. Travis Shaw (Brewers) and Walker Buehler (Dodgers) are a few CSP Cape League visit alums, as examples.

As I noted, we also see a lot of one-time consultations in May and June at both our facilities for players before they head off to summer ball. Our goal with one-time consultations is to teach you as much as possible about your body in a short amount of time - and get you set up with safe, effective program you can execute from afar.

For FL, please email cspflorida@gmail.com, and for MA, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

Option 4: Just train.

Sometimes, a player's workload during the season is high enough that the best move is simply to shut down baseball for the summer and instead focus on building the body. To that end, we often have athletes move to FL or MA just to train. On the pitching side, I think that any pitcher who tops 100 innings on the mound in the spring season ought to nix summer ball and instead use the summer to get the body right. And, of course, injured athletes may use the summer to get healthy and prepare for the fall.

For FL, please email cspflorida@gmail.com, and for MA, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

Of course, every situation is unique, so if you have questions about your specific case, feel free to email us and we'll work through the decision with you.

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4 Keys to Making the Most of Summer Baseball

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach, Tim Geromini. Tim has seen summer baseball on both the collegiate and professional levels, and today, he shares his insights on how players can thrive between June and August. Enjoy! -EC

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The topic of whether or not to play summer league baseball has been debated quite a bit over the last few years. Eric wrote a great article about it (HERE). This article is not designed to make the case for or against playing summer league baseball, but rather to give some points on how to make the most out of your experience if you decide to play. With four seasons in summer league ball under my belt, I’ve heard the phrase “this was the best summer of my life” more times than I can count. Assuming it is the right timing and situation for you, here are four keys to making it the best summer of your life on and off the field.

1. Get your mindset right before you arrive, and stick with it.

This might seem like an easy one, but you’d be surprised how many guys come in with the wrong mindset every year. Summer league baseball should not be what it’s made out to be (party time!) in movies like Summer Catch. Rather, it’s a chance to become a better player and person. I’m not saying you have to be sound asleep in your bed right after the game ends, but you should understand the true reason you are there.

You are there to learn more about the game and become a more complete player. Some coaches will not do much teaching, but rather let you play your style and make some adjustments. Others will be incredibly critical and teach you until the day you leave. I’ve seen both coaching styles work. What are the common traits of players who’ve thrived under both circumstances? The players were open minded, incredibly positive, and wanted to get better. If you’re willing to accept another way of thinking, keep a good attitude about it, and do it with a determination to be better, you are doing everything you can to improve on and off the field.

2. Be part of your host-family.

Most players will live with a host family, and you are lucky to have that opportunity. Be part of that family for the summer and beyond. If you have a host-brother or host-sister, you have an opportunity to positively impact that person’s life. They look up to you, just as you would have when you were younger. Hang out with them, teach them, and learn something from them. I always loved seeing my players playing with their host families on the field after games. Whether its dinner with the host-parents, running the bases with their host-brother, or playing a round of mini-golf with them after the game, it’s a great way to spend your summer. On a related note, most of our Major League Baseball guys at Cressey Sports Performance keep in close contact with their host families from their college and minor league days, as they’ve built life-long friendships.

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Remember that you also represent the town for which you play. Be a gentleman on and off the field.

3. Rest and Recover.

In many cases, players are playing competitively 8-10 months out of the year. Summer league is at the tail end of this run, when your body is exhausted. Sleep and nutrition are your keys to be able to perform every day. It’s difficult to play your best and be mentally in the game on a few hours of sleep every night. A hidden form of recovery is to get yourself out of the sun when you can. Baseball camps, practices, and games can make for upwards of 8 hours in the sun all day. Get yourself in the shade or in a cool, dark area when you can. Some teams will have a rule where your host family provides a certain amount of meals for you each day. Take advantage of this to get your calories in and make healthy decisions. The most successful players I have seen took rest and recovery seriously.

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4. Train!

There’s no way I could write this article without highlighting the importance of training during the summer. If you follow this website, I trust you know the benefits of training and are proof of the results. I must say, however, that many athletes think the summer away from their college strength coach is their opportunity to not see a weight room. You don’t have to train every day. In fact, trying to train 6 days per week while playing 5-6 days per week can do more harm than good. I always shot for 2-3 training sessions per week for my guys, depending on their situation; this kept them fresh and strong. The non-training days are just as important to improving tissue quality and maintaining mobility. Whether it’s doing it yourself by foam rolling and going through some dynamic flexibility drills, or seeking manual therapy elsewhere, it’s important to get your work in on these fronts.

Conclusion

There are a number of ways to make summer league baseball an enormous success and something you will always remember. These four always stuck out to me and I hope it can help some of you in the future. I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on other important factors in summer baseball in the comments section below.

About the Author

Tim Geromini is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/6/14

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July. After a quick blog hiatus, we're back to it today with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I have a webinar - "Do You Really Need More Thoracic Extension?" - as well as two exercise demonstration videos and an article. Tyler English has some excellent content in this update, too.

Connecting with Cressey - Ashley Crosby, director of social media for the Cape Cod Baseball League, came up to hang out at Cressey Performance, and wrote up her experience. Also, here is a follow-up piece on the CCBL website that goes into even more detail.

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The Not-So-Ugly Truth About Gluten - TC Luoma did a great job with this piece for T-Nation.

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College Baseball: Is Summer Ball Worth It?

The words "baseball" and "summer" have traditionally been virtually synonymous.  While the phrase "The Boys of Summer" initially referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers, it's now a term that is applied to all baseball players.  If you play baseball, you do so in the summer; that's just how it's always been.

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However, as you may have noticed, the game has changed dramatically since the Brooklyn Dodgers took the field.  Arm injury rates are sky-high at all levels of baseball. Average fastball velocities are at all-time high, too. Pitchers don't just throw fastball/curveball/change-up anymore; we're also seeing cutters, sliders, and splitters now.  And, perhaps most significantly, baseball players are specializing in this one sport alone earlier and earlier - meaning they're showing up to college with more accumulated wear and tear on their bodies, even if that wear and tear is only a blip on a MRI or x-ray, as opposed to actual symptoms.

These factors all build to the question: is it time for a paradigm shift with respect to the baseball calendar?

Both professional and high school baseball players align well with respect to high school ball, as neither of them play fall baseball. The minor league season runs March-September, with the big league season extended by a few weeks on both ends.  The high school season generally begins in February/March (with warm weather high school teams starting in January) and wraps up in August. The college season, however, is an incredible challenge.  Why?  I think this email I received last year from a well respected college pitching coach sums it up their unique scheduling challenges extremely well.

College training schedules and NCAA limitations make it very hard to develop kids properly:

-We have roughly 6 weeks of fall practice – team building, evaluation, some scrimmage

-After that, we have roughly 6-7 more weeks of training time before Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are limited to 2 hours of skill instruction per week: hardly enough time to make good adjustments.

-A 4-week break for Christmas – usually training takes a back seat to holidays, travel, and general laziness.

-We have a 2-week period once school starts to get back into the flow, followed by a 4 week period of practice before 1st game. Biggest goal here is to build a pitch count/base.

-We play 4-5 games per week from February to hopefully June

-Summer ball, for those who need it: this is where it would be great to take time off, get back into the weight room, skill building. BUT, it costs money for summer school AND the NCAA does not allow us to work with our players (skill-wise) during summer school. Plus, we are usually out working hard on recruiting.

Essentially, I am saying that the rules and demands of HS, college, and pro ball are all quite different, yet coaches at each level strive to develop their players. It’s hard to know, based on the unique qualities of each level, what is right and wrong [in terms of time off from throwing].

If it is complete shutdown, then let’s use a hypothetical situation. If I have a pitcher for 4 years and give him 3 months off from throwing per year, I have lost 1 full year of developing his pitching. That seems like a lot of time off…

Here, we realize the challenges that college pitching coaches and their pitchers face:

When does a college pitcher get time off? 

The fall is a crucial developmental period for all pitchers, but particularly for incoming freshmen.  Most of these freshmen pitchers are coming off "career" highs in innings from their senior years (and subsequent summer ball, in many cases).  This is one of many reasons that you see so many schools encouraging freshmen to arrive early; it's not just so that they can take summer courses, but also so that they can't get overused in summer leagues.  With the premier prospects who are drafted, there used to be incentive to pitch in the summer to "raise their price tag," but with Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement moving the signing deadline up to approximately July 15 (from August 15) and players signing much more quickly as a result, there really isn't much benefit to playing summer ball, if you're an incoming freshman stud. 

This is a particularly important decision to make, as many freshmen struggle during fall ball.  I've had lengthy conversations with two of the best college pitching coaches in the country about how they absolutely expect all their freshmen pitchers to see significant velocity drops during the fall.  They're adjusting to the increased throwing workload, as well as life on a new campus and a more rigorous academic challenge.  Effectively, they take a step back in order to take two steps forward when the winter/spring rolls around.  It's important that freshmen show up to campus expecting this drop-off, so it helps to show up fresh rather than dragging before the challenges begin.

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What about the summers between freshman/sophomore, sophomore/junior, and junior/senior years, though?  I think it goes without saying that there are a number of factors that must be considered:

1. How many innings did a pitcher throw during the spring?

Tyler Beede has been a Cressey Sports Performance athlete since his early high school years, and one of the many reasons he was a first-round draft pick our of high school in 2011 was the fact that he'd never thrown more than 80 innings in a year.  He didn't sign, but instead went to Vanderbilt. In his first season there, Tyler threw 71.2 innings - but he also put in a lot of work in the fall season to prepare for that season.  He long tossed, threw bullpens, and worked on a curveball at a time of year when he would have normally been playing football or just training. This was "necessary volume" that helped him develop as a pitcher, but it also dictated that some innings probably ought to be subtracted off the tail end of his competitive year, so he opted not to play at the Cape.

Instead, he put in a great summer of training at CSP, gaining 18 pounds of good weight and lots of usable strength. He started his fall throwing program in mid-August and had a great velocity jump during fall ball. He went on to be a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award in 2013, dropping his ERA by over two runs as compared to the previous year. There are a ton of factors that contributed to these improvements - fantastic pitching coaches, unique throwing programs, an additional year of experience in the SEC, adjustments to living on campus, etc - but the work he put in during the summer of 2012 was definitely a big contributing factor.

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Had Tyler sat on the bench for most of the spring season of 2012, though, he would have been a great fit for summer ball, as the spring season would have effectively constituted "time off."  Everyone is different.

2. What is the development potential at the summer ball option?

This is the big white elephant in the room that no college coaches will ever talk about publicly.  While there are some outstanding opportunities to improve at summer baseball options, there are also a lot of places that are just a field and a bunch of players and coaches.  In other words, players sometimes don't exactly thrive. One prominent pitching coach told me last spring, "Summer ball is getting less and less developmental every year. We're sending guys out for it less and less."

Think about it: you have a combination of new coaches, new (host) families, new geographic regions, new teammates, and long bus rides.  There are rarely athletic trainers on hand for games, and only a select few teams carry strength and conditioning coaches. Even still, players may want to execute their strength and conditioning programs, but have no gym access in a remote geographic region where they don't have their own transportation.  Roughly half of their meals will be pre-game PB&J sandwiches and post-game pizza while on the bus. In short, I'd argue that it's a lot easier for things to go wrong than it is for them to go right.

What's actually somewhat comical is that most college coaches will tell recruits who are drafted that they'll develop better in a college program than they would in minor league baseball if they decide to sign. Yet, that previous paragraph essentially describes minor league baseball to a T, and players are sent in that direction all the time!

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Long story short, if you're going to ship off to play in a league and location unfamiliar to you, you and your coach better do your homework. All that said, please don't take the preceding paragraphs as a gross stereotype; there are a lot of fantastic summer ball coaches and experiences out there.  You just have to find them and make sure they're in the right system and matched up to the right kids if you're going to call it a great developmental option.

3. What is a player's risk tolerance?

Mark Appel was selected eighth overall in the 2012 draft, but opted to return to Stanford for his senior season.  While he'd played summer ball after his freshman and sophomore seasons, Appel opted not to after his junior year. Why not? His risk tolerance changed.  He only threw 69 innings as a freshman in 2010 and needed to pitch in the summer that followed to continue to improve. In 2011, he got more innings, but also needed to demonstrate he could be effective against the best college hitters in the country that summer to improve his draft stock.  Once you've already been a top 10 overall pick and the NCBWA National Pitcher of the Year, though, there isn't much more to prove in the college game, so summer ball would pose an unnecessary risk. It worked out well, as Mark went on to be the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Obviously, this is a unique case, as very few throwers will reach this level of success.  However, it is a great perspective from which we can appreciate it's not always appropriate to just "ride the horse that got you here." Baseball development is an exception.  Summer ball might be a great option for a pitcher with a clean injury history, but not someone with a partial ulnar collateral ligament injury in his recent history. A lot of smart baseball people believe you only have a certain number of pitches in your arm, so you should use them wisely.

4. What are a player's long-term aspirations with baseball: experience or outcome?

Not everyone is going to be a Mark Appel or Tyler Beede.  In other words, college baseball may be the end of organized, non-beer-league baseball for a lot of pitchers.  In these cases, summer ball is about having fun and enjoying the game before you run out of time to do so. I'm all for it for these individuals. One has to decide whether it's about experience (having fun playing summer ball) or outcome (becoming a better player).  These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, though.

5. Does a player need to pitch or throw?

Some pitchers need in-game pitching experience to develop, while others simply need to build up arm speed.  There is a big difference.  The former dictates the summer ball is likely a necessity, while the latter can be accomplished via a number of different means.  Building arm speed might be a function of long toss, weighted balls, or just taking time off from throwing to build up strength, power, and mobility.

6. Does a player have adequate size and strength?

Taking the summer off from baseball is becoming an increasingly population option for players who are undersized or weak, but more polished on the baseball skill side of things.  If you're bigger and stronger, you can withstand a longer season. If you're not, you need to work to address your biggest window of adaptation.  More and more coaches seem to be moving in this direction in recent years, as we have dozens of players who move for the summer just to train at one of our Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and the numbers grow considerably each year.

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7. What's a player's mental state at the end of the college season?

It might surprise some of you to hear that regardless of talent level, most college and professional players are essentially sick of baseball by the time the last few weeks of the season roll around (assuming they aren't in a playoff scenario). You never want a player to burn out on baseball, so college players need to ask themselves whether they'd rather be on buses in the middle of nowhere in mid-July with their arms dragging, or at home with their families and friends, training and possibly even pursuing an internship. What seems like a great idea in May often winds up being a miserable reality two months later. It all depends on the player and his frame of reference.

Increasing Your Options

In their book, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Heath discuss how we often make bad decisions because we try to turn each one we encounter into "this OR that."  Instead, they argue, we should be trying to determine how to have "this AND that." I think this same logic can be applied to summer baseball.

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Coaches and players can dramatically improve the likelihood of a summer ball experience being productive by making players are placed on teams where they can thrive.  There needs to be good coaching and access to gyms to keep training during the summer season. And, they need to monitor innings and pitch counts, and educate players on staying out of trouble and on task.  Showing up in the fall unprepared is not an option.  And, just as importantly, it may mean these players need to start a bit more slowly with fall ball after taking the month of August off from throwing.

Players can also play a portion of the season, or opt to find a league where they might only pitch 3-4 innings once a week.  The rest of the week can be planned around training to prepare for the fall season.  This is a very popular option among those players who have moved to train at Cressey Sports Performance during the summer, as both our facilities are located near multiple summer baseball leagues in which pitchers can get innings. The days are free for training, and all the games are at night; it's a great developmental set-up.

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Players might also opt to simply take the summer off altogether, giving themselves two months off from late May or early June (depending on post-season play) through the middle of August.  They'd then start a throwing program to be ready for the start of fall ball, effectively making their "throwing year" September-May/June.  The summer months would effectively be an off-season devoted to strength and conditioning that would prepare them for the 8-10 months of throwing that would follow.  This option affords two significant, but often overlooked benefits:

a. The overwhelming majority of throwing would be done with the college pitching coach, so players wouldn't be as likely to learn bad habits in the summer while on their own.

b. The most intensive strength and conditioning work would take place when a pitcher isn't throwing.  This would ensure that mobility, rotator cuff strength, and scapular control would improve as fast as possible.  Improving in these three regards is generally always going to be at odds with throwing.

This final option seems to have some statistical backing, too.  Of the college first round draft picks (including supplemental rounds) from 2010-2012, only 68% (50/73) played summer ball (typically Cape Cod League or Team USA) in the previous summer.*  And, I suspect that we may have even had some players who would have been first rounders, but slipped in the draft after an injury that may have been exacerbated during summer ball. Conversely, I'm sure there are guys (particularly hitters) who helped their draft stocks by playing summer ball the year before they were draft eligible, as well as ones who benefited greatly from playing in previous years.  There is no one right way to approach the decision, and deciding to play likely affords greater benefits to hitters than pitchers.

We really don't know the answers, but these numbers certainly lead us to wondering if we've been asking the right questions. The big one is clearly, "If you're already throwing from September through June, is there really much to gain from continuing to throw in July and August?"  When I hear it phrased that way, the answer is a big fat "NO," but I also realize that not all throwing during that September-June window is created equal.

Wrap-up

Managing the college pitcher is one of the more challenging responsibilities in the baseball world, as the competitive season is a series of hills and valleys in the life of a student athlete.  Additionally, there are numerous NCAA regulations and traditions to keep in mind.  As examples, Cape Cod League Baseball might be the single-best example of what baseball really should be like, and many players have always dreamed of playing for Team USA in the summertime.  So, we have decisions that must be made on not just physiological factors, but also emotional ones as well. 

The truth is that I've seen players make dramatic improvements via each of these three proposed avenues, and I've seen them select these courses of actions based on a number of factors, from burnout, to injuries, to family issues, to academic endeavors. 

This article proposed some answers, but more importantly, I hope it introduced some questions that need to be asked to arrive at the right answers for each player.

*A big thanks to CSP intern Rob Sutton for helping to pull together these numbers for me

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