In Review: Winter Training Programs
As we wrapped up February, we also wrapped up phase 2 of our winter hitting and throwing programs. We found these programs to be very successful and players got a ton of time in the facility with a lot of great work done. Here is a quick overview of our programs and a peek at some of the results we saw.
Winter Hitting Program
On the hitting side, our goal throughout the winter was to build up to the spring season, and the program we put together reflected that. In addition to a ton of swing work, which we implemented in various ways on a daily basis, we also included vision training, pitch recognition work, approach and routine focuses, and general concentration on a daily basis. We began and ended each day with our P.R.E.P. work, identifying our purposes and routine before practice, and evaluating performance and putting a process in place afterwards. Learn a little bit more about some of the specifics below!
Hitting Specific Warmup
After our P.R.E.P. work, our guys went through our baseball specific warmup on a daily basis. This warmup is a staple of everything that we do at the facility, and it’s completion allowed our guys to be fully ready to work physically.
After our warmup, we completed a concentration grid exercise every single day. We trained this in a way where we were working towards how focus is executed in the course of a game, with stints of hard focus on a task followed by a period of relaxed focus. The first half of the program, players worked through a 100 number grid with 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off for 5 minutes. The second half, he made it even more game-like, going 5 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 5 minutes. Oddly enough, our guys performed better with only 5 seconds of searching though the grid rather than 15, despite having 50 less seconds of time looking at it over the course of the five minutes. Below is an example of a grid we used and the results over the course of the 7 weeks
A big goal of ours as we started phase 2 was to increase bat speed, exit velocity and focus on maintaining a strong bat path angle, all three major components to being a successful hitter. In today’s technology age, we were fortunate to be able to use the Blast Motion sensor to measure bat speed and bat path angle. We tested the first day of the program measuring 15 swings and taking the top 10 based on exit velocity, and then used under-load and overload implements to train throughout. We used a Hitting Jack-It for overload work and softball bats for underload. In short, recent science and studies show that using weighted implements within 20% of the hitter’s game bat will not only help increase bat speed, but will force hitter’s bodies to work efficiently in order to control the weight, thus helping reenforce proper movement patterns and an optimal bat bath angle (6-10 degrees). We got strong feedback from our guys and this will be something that we continue to use in future programs. Take a look at the results below, as there was improvement as a group in all three areas!
Another major part of our swing work this winter was based around using upper and lower half variations to help our guys feel proper swing movements. I will go into much greater detail in an upcoming blog post, but essentially by putting our guys in different positions with their lower and/or upper halves, holding the bat with different grips, and mixing these variations in with our overload/underload work, our hitters bodies were constantly being challenged and put in strange positions while still working to drive the baseball in our yellow zone (10-30 degree launch angle). These drills not only helped in our training setting, but are drills that guys can use other own throughout the spring season, as they don’t require any additional tools.
Pitch Recognition Training
This was one of the highlights of our winter training, as we implemented deCervo’s state of the art uHIT system. This software gave our guys the tools to not only work on pitch recognition in our training setting with the uHIT Virtual platform, but on their own with the uHIT Mobile app as well. The program allows players to work on two different games, strike recognition and pitch recognition. When playing each of the uHIT games, the player’s goal is to get make the right decision as fast as possible. The deCervo program reads the exact moment when decisions are being made, and each player’s profile tracks the players performance and improvements from session to session. In our training setting, we were able to simply make the uHIT Virtual setup a station, allowing players to actually be in their stance and work through load movements while making decisions. This game-like feel was huge for our guys. Each session we focused on either pitch recognition (fastball/curveball/slider) or strike recognition, and we even used it to refine approach, only swinging at pitches on certain sides of the plate. This tool is extremely valuable and we are proud to be able to offer it to our guys!
We spent sufficient time at the end of our seven weeks focusing on approach at the plate, adding the pitch recognition work into hunting and driving a specific pitch. We worked both hard/soft as well as location wise, with the hitter getting an understanding of what pitches they hit well, as well as knowing how the pitcher is trying to work them. This intersection allowed our guys to have a solid plan at the plate and work on developing and executing that plan in a training setting. In addition to our approach, we made it a priority for our guys to be able to understand and execute their on-deck and batter’s box routines, and understand positive self talk at the plate. Consistency of routine leads to consistency of performance, and having positive and productive thoughts allows hitters to drown out the noise that can be in their heads during an at bat.
Overall, we were extremely happy with how our winter programs went, and we’ll evaluate and continue to work to improve on how to provide quality off season training to our players.
Winter Throwing Program
I am nothing short of pleased with the work the Rogue players did this winter in our newly added throwing programs. The program was designed based on material from Driveline with a focus on improving mechanics and teaching/executing a solid arm care routine; both things players could take with them once the program ended. Players also learned how to play long toss indoors, a unique skill but a useful one in a cold weather state, and did so on a daily basis to increase arm strength and continue to blend newly learned mechanics to their regular throwing motion. Every week concluded with a weighted ball velocity day, where players threw “run and gun” throws into a net as we tracked their velocities over the course of the program.
All players saw improvement mechanically while learning why their arm action is important for both performance and arm health. In our November-December session, all four players who participated in weighted ball workouts saw a velocity increase, including one who threw 7 MPH faster than his baseline during one workout.
The January-February session included 13 players in the facility getting ready for the season with long toss and arm care, along with velocity training. Unfortunately, only four of them saw an increase in velocity from their baseline. The reason for this was likely the increased amount of throwing players were doing outside the gym at high school practice, as the program was designed to control throwing volume for each player to see the most improvement. However, every guy who was at most or all of their workouts and didn’t run into any arm health problems saw an increase in velocity in one of the training sessions. As the players know, these increases in the middle show that their arms are capable of throwing this hard. This also creates a good goal for our guys to work towards in the future.
My main goal in this throwing program was never to make every player throw harder as this could put arm health and mechanics by the wayside. As I said, ALL players who worked with me this off season saw big improvements in their mechanics and gained the knowledge on how to keep their arm healthy. These things were of the utmost importance to me as they will help our guys going forward and will lead to velocity increases as they develop regardless. I look forward to adjusting our program for next year to better fit our players’ needs and continue to work on their throwing abilities!