Sport Development Blog

 Stolen Base and Unearned Run

Stolen Base and Unearned Run

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow

In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow talks about an unearned run that was scored as a result of a stolen base attempt.

Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.

 Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting

Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting

TrueSport Ask the Expert with Roberta Kraus, Ph.D.

While it makes intuitive sense that effective goals for fourth graders differ from those made by juniors in high school, it’s important for parents and coaches to understand how to help youth athletes make and achieve appropriate goals. Dr. Roberta Kraus is a sports psychologist who works with athletes ranging from grade school to high school, and novices to Olympic athletes. As a TrueSport Expert, she provided her knowledge and guidance so we can all help make youth sports a positive experience for kids.

Where to Start

To help kids pursue the best goals, parents and coaches have to be on the same page in terms of the overall objective. According to Dr. Kraus, auditoriums of parents and coaches always know the “right” answer in terms of the reasons sports are beneficial for kids: character building, work ethic, integrity, teamwork, etc. But knowing the right answer doesn’t stop parents and coaches from applying too much pressure on kids to win, be a star player, and live up to the money spent on private trainers and traveling club teams. If we back up to a more fundamental goal, we can probably all agree we want to keep young athletes engaged in sport.

Staying engaged reinforces the values parents and coaches say they want from sports participation. Sports help engrain exercise and nutrition habits that lead to improved health outcomes throughout adulthood. The question is, how can we help kids set and achieve goals in a way that keeps them engaged in sports?

Goal Setting vs. Goal Getting

The amount of control, self-determination, and accountability athletes will change dramatically as they progress from elementary school through high school. To be an effective goal, a young person needs to have sufficient control over the factors necessary to achieve it. This is why Dr. Kraus encourages kids, parents, and coaches to focus on “Goal Getting” instead of “Goal Setting.” Goal Getting is based on what a young athlete can achieve through effort. Goal Setting is based on win/loss types of outcomes. This isn’t an “everybody is a winner, we’re all special” idea. These are real and measurable goals a child can either achieve or fail to achieve, but the achievement or failure is based on the only thing they can really control: their effort.

Consider the following examples:

Goal Setting:
• Win more than half the games this season.
• Win the Championship
• Make the varsity team

Goal Getting:
• Get off the starting blocks faster (skill acquisition)
• Improve vertical leap by four inches this season (power development)
• Encourage a teammate at every practice and game (leadership)

Focus on Competitive Maturity, Not Age

Despite the title of this article, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to prioritize an athlete’s competitive/training maturity over chronological age. Consider, for example, two 12-year-old baseball players. One has been playing competitive travel baseball for four years, the other just picked up the game this season. They are the same chronological age, but vastly different in terms of competitive maturity. From a goals perspective, the athlete with more experience can thrive with greater and different challenges compared to the more novice athlete.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

In addition to an athlete’s competitive or training maturity, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to consider the source of an athlete’s motivation when it comes to establishing appropriate goals. Athletes who are motivated by internal, personal achievement have high intrinsic motivation. Athletes motivated by external validation, like social status or prizes, have high extrinsic motivation. Both are important and valuable, but intrinsic motivation is a crucial component for long-term participation and achievement in sport.

If an athlete exhibits high intrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing personal achievement and what success feels like rather than what it looks like, then coaches and parents can help the athlete progress by encouraging the pursuit of extrinsic goals (winning). In contrast, if an athlete exhibits high extrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing winning and elevated status that results from success, then coaches and parents should help the athlete develop intrinsic motivation before reinforcing the athlete’s extrinsic motivation.

Use Language Deliberately

The words parents and coaches use can have a dramatic impact on a young athlete. According to Dr. Kraus, adults tend to be specific with criticism and nebulous with praise. Think about the car ride home after a game. Do you point out specific instances where your young athlete didn’t get to the ball fast enough or a specific time your young athlete wasn’t in the right position on the field? Do you follow that up with nebulous praise for “being aggressive” or “working hard”?

The very specific criticisms paint mental pictures of what went wrong, but nebulous praise doesn’t enable kids to similarly visualize success. It’s important for coaches and parents to be as specific with praise as with criticism. Instead of “you were aggressive,” recall a specific example: “It was great to see you charge for that loose ball and get there first.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t point out areas that need improvement, but rather, that adults need to consider how quickly and specifically we can identify and describe failures, but how important it is to similarly identify and describe achievements.

Apply Consequences and Rewards

In her experience, Dr. Kraus says young athletes tend to impose harsher consequences on themselves for perceived failures compared to the consequences parents and coaches would normally deem reasonable. On the other end of the spectrum, neither young athletes nor their parents and coaches tend to praise effort or achievement to the same extent. In essence, as young athletes, parents, and coaches, we have a bias toward criticism and negative consequences.

To counter the bias toward criticism, coaches and parents should encourage young athletes to establish concrete consequences and rewards related to the effort (not outcomes).

Ask the question: How do you help your team by giving your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s reward. If giving your best effort means you are hustling on and off the field the whole game, that’s what gets rewarded with ice cream or more screen time.

Ask the question: How do you hurt your team when you don’t give your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s consequence. If giving up early rather than chasing a loose ball, or chastising a teammate for committing a foul, is the example of you not giving your best effort, that’s what you pay a consequence for. That consequence could be not playing video games for a period of time, or waking up early on the weekend to do yard work.

The athlete, peers, and teammates should be the first judges of whether an athlete earned his or her reward or should suffer his or her consequence. Team captains should provide input next. And coaches and parents should be the last people to weigh in. For Roberta Kraus, reducing the pressures to specialize and succeed are the most important and impactful things parents and coaches can do to support young athletes. When you foster a young athlete’s sources of motivation and help them value effort over the outcome, you establish a pathway to personal achievements that don’t depend on a case full of trophies.

Roberta holds two master’s degrees, one in Higher Education from the University of Northern Colorado and one in Sports Psychology from the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. from the University of Denver is in Communications, specializing in its application to individual and team effectiveness. She played competitive tennis and basketball at Montclair State College earning her a spot as an alternate to the Women’s Olympic Basketball team.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 What's the Call? Disabled Player Following Home Run

What's the Call? Disabled Player Following Home Run

What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media

A batter hits a home run then injures themselves running the bases and is unable to continue. What's the Call?

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.

 Teaching Respect for Officials

Teaching Respect for Officials

7 Steps to teaching youth athletes to respect umpires and officials

Most people recognize being an umpire, official, or referee is a difficult (and often thankless) job. Yet ironically, many youth sport parents, coaches, and athletes insist on making this job even harder by shouting ridicule and criticism the referee’s way. While fans empathize with an athlete who makes a mistake, referees (who are sometimes not much older than the athletes) are more likely to be condemned, demeaned, and chastised. Teaching respect for referees doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging blind obedience, but rather, how to self-advocate, take responsibility for your own actions, and overcome adversity.

A Crisis of Disrespect

It’s probably no coincidence that as society’s win-at-all-costs attitude has increased, youth sports organizations are facing a severe referee shortage.

While incidences of violence against referees were extremely rare, they are now occurring more frequently: in 2013, a Utah youth soccer referee died after being punched in the head by a player upset about being called for a foul. A few years later, two high school football players in Texas received national attention when they blindsided a referee during a game. While those tragic incidences represent the extreme, young athletes can see professional athletes and coaches verbally confronting officials on television almost every night.

Even at the youth sports level, it isn’t difficult to find instances of players, coaches, and parents verbally abusing officials. If we’re being honest, most parents have probably – even unintentionally – let a “You’ve got to be kidding me, Blue” come out of their mouths. The ease with which these comments emerge makes it more important to increase awareness about how parents, coaches, and athletes treat officials.

The 7 Lessons for Umpire Respect

Like with sportsmanship and teamwork, umpire respect is an important value that needs to be specifically taught to athletes, parents, and coaches. However, even though there are officials at every game, there is virtually never a direct conversation about the expectations for respecting officials.

Teaching respect for umpires doesn’t have to be hard, hokey, or time-consuming, as long as you can remember the seven lessons for umpire respect:


No matter how experienced or knowledgeable an athlete or parent is, it’s important to remember officials have specific training in the rules of the game, how to observe the game, and how to make difficult calls. They are also often in a better position to see the play, especially compared to parents on the sidelines or in the stands. If you’re still convinced you can do a better job, leagues are always hiring.


There are many aspects of sports that are unpredictable and out of a player’s control. However, there are some things an athlete can control. Players, spectators, and coaches can’t control officiating, but if players are overly focused on how the officials are calling the game, they are likely less focused on playing the game to the best of their abilities. Similarly, coaches should advocate for their team, but focus more on instructing and guiding players than haranguing umpires. For parents in the stands, you could spend your time focused on the umpire, or spend that time focused on watching and encouraging your young athletes to do their best with the one thing they can control: their own performance.


One of the ways coaches can model respect for officials is to make an effort to personally greet officials before the game, just as you would the coach of the opposing team. And while it may not be practical for every player to greet the officials, encourage captains at the pre-game meeting or coin flip to introduce themselves to the officials. These efforts help turn nameless, faceless referees into people, particularly people to be respected, in the eyes of young players.


Officials do their best to call games objectively, but they are still human. On a tough call that could go either way, an umpire may be more likely to rule in favor of a team whose players (and coaches) have been respectful and focused on fair play throughout the game. It’s a natural bias to reward favorable behavior and the people who have treated them respectfully.


For parents and coaches, it’s important to think about what yelling at officials teaches young athletes. Youth sport advocacy organization, Play by the Rules, has outlined several different ways yelling at umpires hurts kids by communicating to them that:
Mistakes are not acceptable.
There’s no need to take accountability for your own performance when you can blame others.
It’s acceptable to disrespect an authority figure whenever you disagree with their decision.
Even though it’s rude, disruptive, and distracting to others, yelling is acceptable behavior.


Having athletes and parents try officiating during scrimmages at practices is a great way of illustrating the difficulties umpires face. It’s the old “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” lesson, but it’s effective for helping parents and athletes be more empathetic toward officials.


No missed call during a youth sports game is going to make or break an athlete’s career. Youth sports are an environment for learning about and falling in love with sports, not heaping pressure on athletes, coaches, and officials. And in the off-chance a player, coach, or parent makes a mistake and is disrespectful to an official during the game, make an effort to resolve the conflict after the game with a face-to-face conversation with the umpire. This helps illustrate to young athletes that after a conflict with another person it is important to take responsibility for your actions and make amends with the other person.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 Rehab Process from Tommy John Surgery

Rehab Process from Tommy John Surgery

Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard

Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses the rehabilitation process and what to expect after Tommy John Surgery.

Marc Richard, MD, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University, specializing in elbow, wrist and hand injuries. Dr. Richard’s research evaluates the clinical outcomes of fractures of the upper extremity, with a particular interest in wrist and elbow fractures and improving ways to treat elbow arthritis in young patients. He also has a clinical and research interest in adolescent elbow throwing injuries.

 Misplayed Grounder

Misplayed Grounder

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow

In this week’s edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a misplayed ground ball to left field.

Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.

 So...You Wanna Work in Pro Ball, Huh?

So...You Want to Work in Pro Ball, Huh?

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Everyone has their own unique journey in the game. Some set out on a life path as a kid, and are able to follow it every step of the way. Others, like myself, set out on one road, only to get sidetracked and re-routed a handful of times on an incredible ride I never envisioned taking. For me, that road of happenstance brought me into the coaching ranks of professional baseball. My experiences in the game have been incredible, from the rewarding to the surreal.

A few years ago, when I was at a crossroads in my professional life, debating between continuing in the game and starting a new career path in the medical device sales field, countless people volunteered their time, offering their insight as to what working in professional baseball is really like. It was their collective experiences in the game that made me believe that there was still a place for me on a baseball field. And I’ve never been happier professionally since choosing that path.

Over the past seven-plus years, many have reached out to me both asking for insight as to what it is like to work in professional baseball, along with help getting into that side of the game, just as I did to others a short time ago. Here is my insight for all those inspired to find a position with a Major League club.

First, allow me to begin by offering some background as to how my career path took shape in the first place.

My playing career as a Minor Leaguer in the Royals system ended abruptly due to a knee injury, and I wasn’t prepared by any means to start a life after baseball, and had no plan B. So when I was released in the spring of 2006, I reached out to Fred Hill, the coach I played for at Rutgers, an ABCA hall of famer who has been like a second father to me, basically asking, “what do I do now?” He asked if I had any interest in coaching (I didn’t), because he thought I would make a good one if I got into it, and would create the Director of Operations position on his staff, specifically for me if I said the word. Well, without any other plans, I agreed, and by sheer good fortune, right place, right time, a position on a Big East Baseball program’s staff was created for me. Coach Hill saw something in me before I was ready to see it in myself. A huge break for me, which I didn’t realize at the time as I’ve since seen how incredibly hard it is to get a coaching position at any school, let alone one with a “big time” athletics department.

At the time, Division I programs could only have four “coaches” on the field, working with players, so, in the Director of Operations position, I was not allowed in uniform or on the field. That was actually a good thing because it enabled me to learn the complete inner workings of a college baseball program, and prepared me to step into an assistant coach/recruiting role when the opportunity presented itself a couple years later. In the meantime, I was able to get on the field, coaching experience, hooking on for one summer as an assistant in St. Cloud in the Northwoods League in 2007 when we won it all, and then the following summer in Orleans in the Cape Cod League.

After a few years on the coaching staff at Rutgers, and after testing the waters looking into a career in medical device sales, I began getting the itch to get back into professional baseball in a more baseball-centric position without having to recruit or worry about the countless off-the-field responsibilities of the college game. Having played for six years professionally myself, combined with the time I spent at RU, I felt like I had an incredibly strong resume that would make me a slam dunk hire for any professional team, well-equipped for a number of different areas in the game, that I would essentially be able to pick. My expectations were far off.

I spent the entire summer of 2011 discussing my desire to return to professional baseball with those who had positions with clubs that I already had relationships with. I went through the Baseball America team directory and highlighted every single name that I knew (or played with or against) and reached out with a call, text, or email. After three full months of conversations, when September rolled around, I got one, yes, just one, phone interview with the Rockies for an open hitting coach job. I didn’t get a second interview. Then I started considering internships in baseball operations, and was up for two: one with the Indians that had an amazing track record with some very big wigs in the game, and the other with the Mets working in baseball operations with a variety of departments. I was ready and willing to leave a full-time position, with benefits, and a mortgage to pay, just to get back into the pro game.

So as the fall of 2011 was progressing, and while going thru the long interview process for those internships, I was preparing for another year at Rutgers. During instructional league in mid-October, I followed up with the Red Sox assistant General Manager at the time, Mike Hazen (now running the Diamondbacks), who I played against when he was at Princeton, and he said there was a possibility of something opening up in a few weeks, but nothing for sure. For the next month and a half, crickets. Figured nothing was open after all, or they filled it with someone else. Then, during Winter Meetings in December, he called me out of the blue to ask if I was still interested in the hitting coach job, as the A-ball job had opened, and later that day I did a phone interview with the Farm Director. A week later I was up at Fenway for a face to face, and the following week they offered me the job. Literally six months-worth of banging doors down with next to no opportunities, and then just like that, within a quick two weeks, I had the job. That transition has been thenbest move of my professional life. Simply getting my foot in the door was also the hardest transition of my professional life.

Having just completed my seventh season with the Red Sox, I can unequivocally say that working in professional baseball is awesome. I absolutely love it, and honestly can’t really see myself doing anything else outside of the game. But rest assure, it is not an easy lifestyle on a number of different fronts. My days are spent teaching the game I love. I have a passion for what I do, and a purpose to my days that go far beyond the field. While much of the world is inside, making a living doing something they may not enjoy, I’m outside throwing BP and hitting ground balls. I’ve been a part of, and have had an impact on, one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports. I’ve worked in the cage with a future hall-of-famer. I have a World Series ring…with my name on it.


But for as rewarding as a career can be to work in professional baseball at the highest levels of the game, there are many challenges that come with doing something that we love.

In Player Development, you will work from one extreme to the other. Yes, our days are spent on the field, making our players better; nights spent competing under the lights. But being a coach in professional baseball means sacrificing any sense of a work-life balance. Days are long, often times arriving at the ballpark before noon for a 7:00 p.m. game and staying as late as midnight or later. Our schedule is one of the extremes, pretty much working just about every day from mid-February thru Labor Day before enjoying an off-season with little to no responsibility. The fall and winter provide me with a ton of flexibility to branch out and do a handful of other things in the game that has literally taken me all over the world and have given me life experiences that most could only dream.

There is a culture and camaraderie in our organization that is very much a family atmosphere full of like-minded people who truly have a passion for the game and helping those in it. I have built relationships with both colleagues and players that I hold as dear as I do my own relatives and people I grew up with. Sustaining a “normal” family life, however, is a huge challenge. I am not married, and don’t have any kids, so it’s very easy for me to up and go where I want when I want, or to go wherever the Red Sox tell me to go. Some guys will go weeks and months without seeing their wives or kids and are able to make it work.

And lastly, there is a big misconception when it comes to compensation in professional baseball. Put simply, you’re either in the Big Leagues, or you’re not. Unless you are a Major League manager or a long-tenured guy on a Major League staff, you will not get rich working in professional baseball. It is in many senses a labor of love. The majority of those working in the game are doing it for the love first, the money, second. But, if you’re financially responsible, you’ll be able to pay your bills, and will have opportunities to make money in the off-season if you find your way in as a coach.

Scouting, both amateur and professional, and baseball operations are other departments that every Major League club employs, and while I don’t have personal experience in either, much of the same premise applies as does in Player Development. No job in baseball is a traditional 9-5, and few will be able to sustain a career in the game without a genuine love for the game.

A life in the game requires many sacrifices. Sacrifices that many don’t want to give up or can’t give up. But those sacrifices come from a place of passion. And that passion is a bond we all share, and one that keeps us enthusiastically coming to work day after day, year after year. We all take a great sense of pride in being a part of something that is so much bigger than any single one of us.

Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 Score on a Wild Pitch

Score on a Wild Pitch

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow

In this week’s edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses scoring on a wild pitch during the bottom of the fifth with a tied score.

Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.



Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer

Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how comparing yourself and your game to other players can be both beneficial and detrimental. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.

 What's the Call? Overrunning First Base

What's the Call? Overrunning First Base

What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media

After overrunning first base, is the batter-runner ever in jeopardy of being put out before returning to the base? What's the Call?

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.

 Tagging Up on a Foul Ball

Tagging Up on a Foul Ball

Monday Manager
By Skip Schumaker

In this edition of Monday Manager, Skip Schumaker talks about how to properly tag up on a foul ball.

Schumaker is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is a two-time World Series Champion. Schumaker was drafted in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals following his career at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition to his two World Series titles, Schumaker was a member of the USA Baseball 2006 Olympic Qualifying team that won a gold medal in Cuba and secured a spot in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

 Principles of Off-Season Strength and Conditioning

Principles of Off-Season Strength and Conditioning

Basic principles to make the most of your off-season

There are fundamental principles that must be considered when preparing yourself for a sport. Baseball presents some very unique challenges in regard to athlete preparation. The human body was really not designed for rotational movement and certainly, throwing and hitting a baseball are some of the most demanding movements the body will have to deal with in a sport setting. With this in mind, we would like you to consider the following training principles as you begin your off-season training program.


The main goal of any well-designed strength and conditioning program is three-fold:

• Decrease risk of injury
• Maximize sport performance
• Maximize career longevity

In a perfect world a program is designed with an individual athlete in mind. What we have compiled here is a well-rounded program that addresses all of the areas of development needed for success in the game of baseball.

“If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”- Abraham Lincoln


More is not better! There is absolutely no better way for you to approach your training. This mind set is often difficult to adhere to as a young athlete. At times even seasoned veterans of the game find it difficult to narrow the scope of their training. All we can say to this is; more often than not it is the quality of your work and not the quantity of your work that will generate the greatest gains in performance. Stick to the program, listen to your body and stay focused on your task.


Ideally, we all want to be players. But it is the smart player that succeeds and excels in sport. These players understand that in order to approach your playing potential you must be first prepared as an athlete. This means you will have to put the game aside for a time to develop the athletic traits that will, ultimately, make you a better baseball player. And that is how we would like you to approach your off-season program. Develop as an athlete so you can maximize your abilities as a player!


Inside the program you will find exercises and drills addressing ALL of the areas of development.

Flexibility, Endurance, Strength, Speed, Agility, Power, Sport Vision and Rest; are the areas of development you need to focus on to maximize your performance over the off-season. You will also have to address other important factors such as Nutrition, Mental Training and Injury Rehabilitation. A well-rounded, complete program is critical to reaching your potential!

With these basic principles in mind we challenge you to make the most of your off-season.

 Organize to Maximize

Organize to Maximize

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


It’s the most valuable commodity in the world.

We may have the fortune of living our entire lives without ever going hungry. We may be blessed to never have to struggle with our finances. We may not go a single day worrying about where we are going to sleep. But every single one of us at one point or another will run out of time.

On the diamond, our time is just as precious. Division I baseball programs have very specific rules as to how many hours a week they are permitted to spend on the field with their student-athletes. At the youth level, with teams sharing the same few complex fields, every minute counts when it comes to teaching kids the game for the first time, while sharing our passion for it to the next generation of players. In professional baseball, playing every single day for six to seven months forces us to actually limit our time on the field so that they are able to physically get through an entire season.

All said and told, there is a common theme: regardless of the level, we want to maximize whatever time we do have on the field to help our players and teams develop to the very best of their abilities. In order to do that, coaches need to be both organized and creative when it comes to putting together their practice schedules.

The worst possible thing we can do as coaches is just roll the balls out and take batting practice with one player hitting and the rest of the team out chasing balls in the field. The more standing around there is, the quicker players will become bored, not just at practice, but of the entire game. And we want to give them a reason to come and be excited for the next practice, not a reason to stay away and quit the sport.

While there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to practice, keep the following two words at the front of your mind: fun and active. No matter what is on the schedule for the day, if a workout is fun for players and it keeps them active on the field, they will be engaged and attentive, and they can’t help but get better. When we create a practice that is both fun and active, we are creating an environment where players will willingly want to practice.

So how exactly do we do that?

First, we must take inventory on the following five things:

                PLAYERS. How many are on the team and will be at practice?
                COACHES. How many can attend practice, and offer knowledgeable help in one area or another?
                FACILITY. What amenities does a field offer, i.e. batting cages, pitching mounds, open space?
                EQUIPMENT. How many baseballs? Do you have training tools? Protective screens or catch nets?
                TIME. How long do you have your players for?

Once we are able to take account of what exactly we have to work with from the list above, we can then get moving on a detailed schedule. Most college and professional teams break down their practice time into a handful of specific segments, from individual defense to team fundamentals, cage work to batting practice, throwing program to bullpen sessions. College and professional teams also have anywhere from 25 to 35 players, with three or four coaches on staff to help turn a big group into smaller groups with a very manageable number of players. But even with smaller rosters of 12 to 15 players, that same premise should apply: by creating smaller groups (with a coach or parent to lead/supervise each), every player is offered more reps, and the entire team becomes more active, one of our two vital elements of practice organization.

With smaller groups, practice can be organized into specific station rotations, each working on one part of the game, like defense, hitting, baserunning, or pitching. Ten minutes of each baseball skill, plus another 15-20 allotted for warming up and playing catch, and you can have a well planned and efficient hour-long practice with all of your players moving around all of the time. Those shorter segments created within practice breeds more focus, and in turn, a higher quality and effort of work from players when they know that a specific period is only going to last for a set, condensed block of time.

The fun aspect to the time spent on the field has two different parts to it, both of which do take some thought. The first part is developmental, which is the reason why we practice in the first place, to get our players better. Because of the fact that every player on a team is at a different ability level, with the gap the greatest at the lowest of levels, it’s important to meet each player at the level they are at. We can do that by putting together more challenging drills for our more advanced players, and some simpler activities for those who have limited talent. The fun side of all of this comes into play because we are different elements to practices where our players can be successful, and it’s that success that players obviously enjoy. That kid who struggles to make contact will go home miserable if he spent his entire time swinging and missing during normal batting practice. But that same kid will go home with a smile on his face after hitting every ball off of the tee or soft toss.

The second part of making our practices fun is by adding a competitive component to them. We can turn every single part of practice into some sort of a game, and by doing so, that simple extra part to the same drill or activity changes the entire complexion of the drill or activity. Take for example a daily staple of every baseball practice: playing catch. Rather than just throwing the ball back and forth, often without focus or care, by creating a simple point system for each throw with two points for every ball at the head and one to the chest, our players’ concentration level is taken to a whole new level. And that happens when just playing for pride… Imagine the focus when you offer some kind of a prize at the end. Any kid loves to play any game, and when we give them the opportunity to do that in practice, not only will they naturally start having fun, but we are also improving their focus and building their competitive gene without them even realizing it.

Practice is a coach’s opportunity to leave his mark on his team and players. That can be good, or bad. When we put some genuine thought into how we want to approach and organize that time on the diamond, we not only maximize our productivity, but we are giving our players every reason in the world to want to come back. And that’s what the game is all about.

Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 Sports Nutrition Products

Sports Nutrition Products

A list of the best nutrition products for athletes


Athletes should take a “food first” approach to supply their nutrition and energy needs throughout the day. Sports nutrition products such as sports drinks, bars and gels have been designed to supplement an athlete’s nutritional program before, during and after athletic activity and not be a replacement or substitute for real food.


There are many sports nutrition products on the market, and it can be difficult to make good nutrition choices to meet an athlete’s physical development, training and performance goals. Below is a description of the three main sports nutrition products:

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain mostly carbohydrate and electrolytes and are typically consumed before, during and after training sessions. Sports drinks will help maintain hydration and carbohydrate replacement for optimal performance before, during and after training.

Energy Bars

Energy bars are designed to provide athletes a compact source of calories, carbohydrate and protein before, during or after training sessions. Although the size and composition of these energy bars varies, it is typically best to consume one that contains 30-100 grams of carbohydrate and 6-20 grams of protein.

Energy Gels

Energy gels are semi-solid forms of mostly carbohydrate that help to maintain blood sugar levels during training and competition. Most energy gels will contain at least 20 grams of carbohydrates, and some contain vitamins and minerals. If used during exercise, athletes should consume 1-2 gels per hour with 4-8 ounces of water.

Because the sports nutrition product industry is not subject to strict government regulations, some products may be mislabeled, or may be contaminated with banned substances or additives that are not listed as an ingredient on the label. The only sports nutrition products that athletes can use without the risk of contamination are those products that have been certified under the NSF Certified for Sport program. A current list of NSF Certified for Sport products is available at: should consult with a qualified sport dietitian for more information about choosing products and developing a nutrition protocol.

Courtesy of the United States Olympic Committee and Major League Baseball

 Written Risk Management Program

Written Risk Management Program

Elements of a Written Risk Management Program for Baseball Organizations

One of the best ways for baseball organizations to reduce the risk of injuries and related lawsuits is to formally adopt by board action, disseminate and implement a written risk management awareness program. The practice of risk management does not need to be complicated. It is often simply a matter of educating personnel on risk identification and training them on the appropriate response, whether that’s taking action or notifying management.

Below are the critical elements that must be addressed in a comprehensive risk management program for any local baseball organization:


A baseball organization should select a Risk Management Officer (RMO) and a Risk Management Committee to oversee the development, implementation and oversight of the program.


The proper insurance policies should be purchased from financially sound insurance carriers. They should contain high limits of protection with the proper customizations for the sports niche with the elimination of certain inappropriate exclusions. Most sports organizations will need to carry Excess Accident, General Liability, Directors and Officers Liability, Crime and Equipment. Other policies may also be needed.


Baseball organizations should avoid certain high-risk activities such as group and individual transportation of participants, use of 12- and 15-passenger vans, overnight sleepover social events, serving of alcoholic beverages, swimming events and certain high-risk fundraisers. If such high-risk events are undertaken, specific risk management controls must be put in place.


Contractual risk transfer techniques must be used to transfer the risk of loss to the other party whenever feasible and generally accepted in the industry. Participant registration forms should be used to protect against certain liabilities arising from bodily injury or invasion of privacy of participants. Examples of such participant registration forms include waiver/release, emergency information and medical consent and image release. Other situations arise when the sports organization will need to impose insurance requirements and indemnification/hold harmless provisions on parties with which it enters into contracts, such as facility users, visiting teams and service providers and vendors. On the other hand, when other parties impose insurance requirements and indemnification/hold harmless provisions on the baseball organization, such contractual agreements should be reviewed by insurance agents and legal counsel. Examples of parties imposing such contractual requirements include facility owners and tournament hosts.


The basic elements of any sex abuse and molestation risk management program include the implementation of a system to run criminal background checks on all staff with access to youth, written policies and procedures to make an incident less likely to occur (ex: use of a “buddy system” and prohibition of overnight sleepovers) and a written allegation response plan that includes the requirement to notify law enforcement. The improper running of criminal background checks can result in liability and steps must be taken to safeguard the confidentiality of results and to protect the rights of others under federal and state law before any adverse action is taken. In addition, written disqualification criteria should be established prior to running criminal background checks.


Lack of adequate supervision is the No. 1 allegation in sports litigation. The baseball organization as an entity and its board of directors are responsible for exerting proper general supervision over all aspects of the program. A written risk management program is an excellent way to satisfy this responsibility. On the other hand, individual staff members are responsible for exerting specific supervisory control over individual participants or small groups of participants. Examples of such responsibility include the duty to stop rowdiness, the location of the supervisor and proper selection and the proper grouping of the size, age and skill of participants.


Proper instruction involves a qualified coach who has been formally trained through some type of coach training program, such as can be provided through a governing body or other recognized source. Many leagues provide in-house training of coaches as part of a pre-season seminar. Coaches are required to instruct participants on baseball-specific safety rules and procedures and to stress the more hazardous aspects of baseball where a mistake could lead to a serious injury (ex: how to avoid a wild pitch).


Sports injury care involves prevention as well as pre-injury planning and post-injury response. Prevention includes pre-participation screening, which may include pre-season physicals or the completion of a medical clearance form, as well as a program for flexibility, conditioning and strength training. Pre-injury planning includes an emergency medical service plan, first aid stations, first aid training and the use of athletic trainers. Post-injury planning includes assessment, administration of first aid, decision on 911 vs. other transport, availability of emergency information and medical consent form, notification of parents and risk management officer and return-to-play protocol. Sports injury care also includes policies on emergency weather response, the lightning safety 30/30 rule, heat illness avoidance and concussion/brain injury protocols.


Problems with facilities arising from playing areas, spectator areas, concession areas, parking areas and paths between are another major cause of injuries and litigation. Most of the classes of facility-related lawsuits arise from: improper design and layout; inadequate or inappropriate physical features for sport or age group; lack of controlled access; improper inspection, maintenance or repair on pre-season, weekly or pre-event basis; and failure to document maintenance or repair. An inspection checklist should be customized for each facility.


The most common equipment-related classes of lawsuits arise from the purchase of inadequate equipment, modification, inspection, fitting, maintenance and repair, reconditioning, replacement and record-keeping. An inventory of all equipment should be maintained with documentation of all maintenance, repair and reconditioning.


An auto policy should outline permissible group transportation, individual transportation and position on the use of 12- and 15-passenger vans, including any motor vehicle registration driver requirements.


The written risk management plan should be distributed to all administrators and staff on an annual basis with the collection and retention of a signed and dated statement that the plan has been reviewed and that it will be followed.

Courtesy of John M. Sadler, JD, CIC; Member of the USA Baseball Medical & Safety Advisory Committee; President Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance

 Tener una alimentación saludable

Tener una alimentación saludable

USA Baseball

Tomar decisiones saludables es la clave para la buena salud a largo plazo y el rendimiento atlético óptimo. Al seguir algunos principios básicos de la nutrición deportiva, usted puede influir positivamente en su capacidad para obtener ganancias tanto en el campo como en la sala de pesas.

• Coma más frutas y verduras. La mayoría de los expertos en nutrición recomiendan consumir un mínimo de cinco porciones por día. Las frutas y verduras son ricas en nutrientes esenciales como vitaminas y minerales y son una excelente fuente de fibra alimentaria. Los productos agrícolas son ricos en nutrientes, lo que significa que contiene un alto contenido nutricional a un costo calórico relativamente bajo. Asegúrese de elegir una variedad de colores al seleccionar sus frutas y verduras todos los días. Intente conseguir: el verde (tonos oscuros y claros) como se encuentra en el brócoli, las espinacas y la lechuga romana; el anaranjado (las zanahorias, las naranjas, los pimientos, las batatas); el rojo (los pimientos, los tomates, las fresas); y el morado (las moras, los arándanos, las remolachas). Agregar estos ingredientes clave a los batidos y licuados de frutas es una excelente manera de garantizar que los atletas consuman cantidades adecuadas de estos valiosos alimentos.

• Beba suficiente agua. El agua es esencial para la salud de los tejidos y la mayoría de nuestras funciones corporales esenciales. La deshidratación puede hacer trabajar en exceso a los órganos y también puede provocar una disminución de la función cognitiva y motora. Los expertos en salud sugieren la regla general de dividir el peso del cuerpo a la mitad para determinar cuántas onzas de agua debe consumir cada día. Por ejemplo, si pesa 150 libras, debe consumir un mínimo de 75 onzas de agua al día. Los requisitos más altos de fluidos se aplicarían a los atletas que practican, entrenan y compiten activamente, especialmente en climas cálidos y húmedos. El consumo constante de líquidos antes, durante y después del ejercicio también juega un papel en el rendimiento óptimo. Tenga en cuenta que si tiene sed, es probable que ya esté deshidratado o en camino a la deshidratación.

• Limite los alimentos procesados salados y grasos. Los alimentos que han sido muy procesados generalmente contienen grandes cantidades de grasas no saludables, azúcares añadidos y sal. Los alimentos procesados también tienen una baja densidad de nutrientes, lo que significa que proporcionan poco valor nutricional y un alto costo calórico. Los estudios vinculan las dietas muy procesadas con el desarrollo de una serie de problemas médicos como la obesidad, la diabetes, la hipertensión y las enfermedades del corazón. Para los atletas, comer alimentos altamente procesados puede impedir el rendimiento al crear cambios en el azúcar en la sangre y el estrés en el sistema gastrointestinal durante la práctica y la competencia. En la tienda de comestibles y la cocina, concéntrese en las fuentes de alimentos naturales que son ricas en nutrientes y bajas en ingredientes procesados. Aprenda a reconocer las fuentes ocultas de ingredientes menos saludables (el azúcar agregado puede mencionarse como jarabe de maíz, concentrado de jugo de fruta o melaza).

• Comer a intervalos adecuados durante todo el día. Comer de acuerdo con un programa regular mantiene los niveles de azúcar en la sangre estables y proporciona a un cuerpo trabajador el combustible esencial que necesita para un rendimiento constante. Los carbohidratos son nutrientes esenciales que permiten la producción de energía para todos. Para los atletas, los carbohidratos proporcionan la glucosa necesaria para reemplazar las reservas de glucógeno que se agotan de los músculos y órganos que trabajan durante la práctica y la competencia. El consumo de carbohidratos a intervalos regulares (antes, durante y después de la competición) garantiza un rendimiento deportivo y una recuperación consistentes.

• El tipo de carbohidrato puede afectar el rendimiento. Tanto los atletas de poder como los de resistencia necesitan energía para rendir al máximo. Sus músculos convierten el glucógeno conservado para producir la energía necesaria para la función muscular. Las demandas que se exigen al cuerpo relacionadas con el tiempo dedicado a cada repetición, jugada o la duración total de la práctica y la competencia pueden dictar qué tipo de carbohidratos es el mejor. De hecho, el tipo de carbohidratos ingeridos antes, durante y después de la actividad física puede ser la diferencia entre un rendimiento ideal y un resultado por debajo del promedio. Si bien este tema es complejo y va más allá del alcance de este artículo, los siguientes consejos pueden guiar al jugador promedio de béisbol y su familia a maximizar las opciones de carbohidratos: aunque las prácticas y los partidos de béisbol pueden durar más de dos horas, estos eventos se caracterizan por períodos de actividad física submáxima e incluso varios minutos de descanso completo entre entradas. Los jugadores de béisbol deben ser conscientes de que el tipo y el tiempo de los alimentos que se consumen durante el deporte pueden afectar su rendimiento. Mediante el uso de una herramienta llamada índice glucémico (IG), los atletas pueden determinar qué alimentos producirán un nivel de azúcar en la sangre estable y sostenido versus una respuesta más rápida y de corto plazo. Es aconsejable elegir alimentos con IG más bajo para establecer un nivel base previo al partido y a la práctica (como un pita de grano entero relleno con pechuga de pavo o una manzana con mantequilla de maní) y comer cuidadosamente pequeñas cantidades de alimentos con IG alto (como una bebida deportiva diluida al 6 por ciento de carbohidratos (14 gramos por 8 onzas), un plátano o incluso una porción más pequeña de una barra de dulce a base de maní) para mantener los niveles de azúcar en la sangre y evitar la fatiga y las disminuciones en la cognición y el rendimiento motor.

• Elsuplemento de proteínas ha conseguido atención significativa en el mundo del atletismo. Los suplementos dietéticos, incluyendo la proteína, representan una industria multimillonaria en los Estados Unidos. La verdad es que muchos atletas no entienden las funciones de las proteínas o del metabolismo de las proteínas y, por lo tanto, confían en anécdotas no científicas para su información. Los aminoácidos son los componentes básicos de las proteínas y son lo que el cuerpo utiliza para alimentar muchas funciones corporales esenciales. La proteína es un nutriente importante y una clave para la construcción, reparación y recuperación muscular. También es un componente importante de la función inmune, la formación de los huesos, el metabolismo de las células sanguíneas y el crecimiento del cabello y las uñas. Existen muchas fuentes saludables de proteína que los atletas pueden consumir como comidas y refrigerios de recuperación, que son muy importantes. Los huevos, la carne de res, ave y cerdo, el pescado, los frijoles, los productos lácteos y algunos frijoles y nueces son solo algunos ejemplos de las fuentes naturales de proteínas. El consumo de estos alimentos ricos en proteínas en los momentos apropiados antes y después de la actividad puede preparar a un atleta para la construcción y reparación muscular más eficiente. Los productos basados en proteínas comerciales pueden considerarse para complementar una dieta que es deficiente en proteínas alimentarias, pero los consumidores corren el riesgo de una contaminación cruzada con otros aditivos o contenidos que pueden no aparecer en la etiqueta de un producto. Productos como la proteína de suero de leche o de soja en polvo pueden agregarse a la dieta como una forma de aumentar la ingesta total de proteínas por día, pero estos productos no son necesarios si la cantidad de proteína alimentaria diaria consumida a través de las fuentes de alimentos es lo suficientemente alta y ocurre en los momentos correctos. El consumo de cualquier suplemento dietético como la proteína debe realizarse bajo la supervisión de un profesional capacitado como un dietista registrado que comprende los pros y los contras asociados con el uso. Una forma simple de determinar la cantidad correcta de proteína requerida para un adulto promedio, de 18 años o más, es consumir 0.8 gramos de proteína por kilogramo o 0.36 gramos por libra de peso corporal. Las personas entre las edades de 14-18 años necesitan un poco más (0.85 y 0.39). Los atletas requieren más proteína que los promedios establecidos, pero cuánto más depende de la edad, el tipo de actividad, la intensidad y la duración de la actividad. El momento del consumo también es importantísimo para la digestión y utilización óptimas. Dado que las diferentes fuentes de proteínas se degradan a diferentes velocidades, la ingestión de cantidades más pequeñas de proteína en cada comida a lo largo del día, de una variedad de fuentes, ayuda a optimizar la absorción y la utilización. Para evitar problemas gastrointestinales, limite la cantidad de proteína consumida antes de la práctica y la competición y cambie la ingesta a posterior a la actividad o varias horas antes de la actividad. Comer una variedad de alimentos, incluyendo alguna proteína, en realidad ayuda a acelerar la descomposición y la absorción de proteínas. La digestión de carbohidratos desencadena la liberación de insulina que hace que las células sean más receptivas a los aminoácidos y permite que el cuerpo los utilice de manera más eficiente para construir y reparar el tejido muscular. Los estudios demuestran que consumir 10-15 gramos de proteína en 30-45 minutos de ejercicio es óptimo para el crecimiento y la reparación muscular. Una excelente comida de recuperación posterior al ejercicio sugerida por muchos expertos que contiene un balance de carbohidratos, proteínas y grasas es 12 onzas de leche con chocolate (entera o 2 por ciento) y dos cucharadas de mantequilla de maní con el pan blanco.


• Un mínimo de cinco porciones de frutas / verduras por día - una variedad de colores.
• Hidratación: 50 por ciento del peso corporal. Una onza por libra (los atletas pueden necesitar más).
• Reemplace gradualmente el peso perdido durante un entrenamiento con 20 onzas de agua por libra perdida.
• Evite los alimentos salados, grasos y procesados, particularmente antes de los partidos y las prácticas.
• Picotee a lo largo del día; coma cantidades más pequeñas de nutrientes mezclados cada dos horas.
• Use el índice glucémico (GI) para seleccionar alimentos con IG más bajo y equilibrar el nivel de azúcar en la sangre antes y durante la actividad, y cantidades más pequeñas de alimentos con IG alto durante la actividad.
• Proteínas: 0.8 a 1.1 gramos por kilogramo de peso corporal por día, dependiendo de la actividad, en pequeñas cantidades a lo largo del día. Los estudios demuestran que consumir 10-15 gramos de proteína dentro de 30-45 minutos después de hacer ejercicio es óptimo para el crecimiento y la reparación musculares.


Burke, LM, Collier, GR, y Hargreaves, M. 1993. Almacenamiento de glucógeno muscular después del ejercicio prolongado: efecto del índice glucémico de la alimentación de carbohidratos. Revista de Fisiología Aplicada, 75, 1019-23.

Kirwan, JP, O'Gorman, D., y Evans, WJ 1998. Una comida con glucemia moderada antes del ejercicio de resistencia puede mejorar el rendimiento. Journal of Applied Physiology, 84 (1), 53-9.

Manore, Melinda M. 2004 IDEA Fitness Journal, Volumen 1, Número 4

Skolnik, H. y Chernus, A., 2010. Tiempo de nutrientes para un rendimiento máximo

Editado por Courtney Sansonetti, RD, CDE, CD-N, Terapeuta de Nutrición Médica para Rehab Assoc. Inc.

Cortesía de Jim Ronai MS PT ATC, L, CSCS, miembro del Comité Asesor de Seguridad y Béisbol de EE. UU., Director de PT / Sports Medicine en Rehabilitation Associates Inc., y Competitive Edge Sports Performance, LLC de Jim Ronai.


 Athleticism Before Skills

Athleticism Before Skills

Athleticism is achieved through consistent conditioning

By Jim Ronai MS, PT, ATC, CSCS, Member, USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee

It is well documented that baseball maintains enormous popularity in the United States. The fundamentals of how the game is played remain relatively constant. However, the methods and practices whereby players are coached and developed continue to evolve. The definition of successful participation has taken on new meaning to many of the 9 million participants between the ages of 9-17.

In many instances, the goal of learning and perfecting the fundamentals of baseball, while having fun, has been replaced by an emphasis on outcome and performance statistics. Opportunities for participation and exposure to baseball continue to increase. The youth baseball season is now longer and consists of 2 parts: the regular season and the all-star season.

Participation on multiple teams, year-round participation and the evolution of scouting showcases are just a few of the many well documented factors identified as contributors to a rise in the incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries to young baseball players.

The majority of injuries in youth baseball are of the overuse variety and typically affect the athletes whom are involved most in games and practices. Specifically, overuse injuries to the pitcher are in all likelihood related to increases in intensity and volume of pitching along with increased frequency and duration of play.

Another major contributor to the rise in injury rates to youth baseball pitchers is the lack of age appropriate, year-round formal conditioning.

In the absence of developmentally appropriate flexibility, core balance, neuromuscular coordination, agility, strength and endurance, players are unable to meet the progressive physical and skill specific demands of the game as they graduate through the various levels of youth baseball.

Time Constraints

Most coaches will agree that the most limiting factor associated with their ability to teach and coach is a lack of practice time. Consequently, the emphasis of most practices is on batting practice and position specific fielding and throwing. The goal of the practice is to raise the level of fundamental execution of the players, whether in the batter’s box, on the mound or in the field.

Unfortunately, coaches ignore the fact that without the basic elements of athleticism achieved through consistent conditioning, most players do not possess the physical skills necessary for them to assimilate a coach’s instruction and master a given baseball specific skill.

Most people would agree, a stable, well-built home cannot be constructed without some form of solid foundation or footing. Nor can an athlete properly and efficiently execute a complex athletic movement without a foundation of athletic skills. To that end, it is not reasonable for coaches and parents to expect 10 and 11-year-old physically immature kids to throw a ball with velocity, accuracy and consistency without a foundation of core strength, balance coordination, strength, agility or endurance.

Without taking away from the intent of baseball practices and games, efficient and effective methods of team athletic conditioning need to be implemented by trained strength and conditioning professionals and adopted by leagues.

Food for Thought

Baseball is a game that involves bursts of energy expenditure followed by periods of recovery and relative inactivity. The game requires balance, coordination, core strength, agility, endurance, speed and general upper and lower body strength. The challenge for most coaches is to implement a pre-practice or pre-game conditioning routine that effectively addresses these areas while allowing for most remaining time to be spent on baseball skills.

Preparation for sport

Substituting sport specific movement based dynamic flexibility in place of traditional static stretching exercises is an efficient way of preparing a player for the demands of their sport. After all, baseball is a sport that is played in an upright, weight-bearing position. From a performance enhancement perspective, there is very little carry over from static; ground-based stretching routines performed in a seated or laying position.

Ideas for successful programming

Organizing a team into several equally distributed lines and having them perform a series of weight bearing, multiplane and rotational movements while stabilizing their abdominal muscles is an excellent method of gaining flexibility, balance, coordination and core strength. Repeating the routine before each game or practice in the same order facilitates motor learning and skill acquisition that equates to consistent improvement over the course of the entire season, thus positively influencing overall athleticism. As participants gain proficiency in their routines, the time required to execute, the routine diminishes thus leaving more time for other activities.

Coaches and parents interested in developing movement based athletic development routines can do so by contacting a local strength and conditioning certified coach in their area or by researching programs documented in books and journal publications. The National Strength and Conditioning Association is an excellent source of information in the area of age and sport specific athletic skill enhancement. ( Additional, current sources of information and programming in the area of athletic skill development are current texts by Strength and Conditioning coaches Mark Verstegen and Mike Boyle. Verstegen’s Core Performance and Boyle’s Functional Training for Sport are excellent references for parents and coaches. Coaches, athletes and parents can also direct questions to the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee: Jim Ronai is a Physical Therapist, Certified Athletic Trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is the Director of Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine at Rehabilitation Associates, Inc. in Milford, Connecticut and is the Director of Jim Ronai’s Competitive Edge,LLC, Speed, Conditioning and Strength training in Connecticut.

 Keeping Perspective

Keeping Perspective

Tools and tactics to stay clear minded during the season

Sports can bring out competitiveness in everyone. It can be easy to get caught up in the game and become emotional, especially when your kid is the one in a high-pressure situation like being the batter in the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs, runner on third, and it’s a tied game. Parents often take great pride in their children’s athletic success when for example, their child gets a hit in this situation, but too often also show negative emotion when their child strikes out. If your athlete’s success is linked to your self-esteem as a parent, or maybe if you have high hopes for your child to play at higher levels, then emotional reactions and bad sportsmanship are more likely to happen. At the end of the day, baseball is just a game, it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable for everyone involved. In a year, it won’t matter if someone made an error in the second inning of today’s game.

So how do you know if you’ve lost perspective of youth sports? One way to find out is to ask a coach or parent that knows you, sees you at practice and games, and that you trust. Another way is to check for these warning signs:

• Conversations at home are dominated by baseball. Either hours are spent reviewing and breaking down opponents, or they are spent giving your child feedback on their performance in the last game or practice they had.
• Your child has little time to spend with friends because of the amount of time devoted to sports outside of practice and games, restricting their social activity.
• Your child’s education has become a second priority to competition and talent development.
• During games or practices, your child often looks to you for approval.
• Your child is overly nervous about practicing or playing, especially in front of you.
• Arguments between you and your child are often related to baseball or other sports.

When you feel like you’re getting a little too emotional and worked up about a game, try to take a step back. To help you find a way to keep your perspective during practice or games, try these tips:

• Before practice and games, take a moment to remind yourself of the true meaning of youth sports. Think about how you plan to cheer on your child through being positive and calm.
• If you feel yourself getting too worked up during a practice or game, try holding a normal conversation with another parent about anything other than baseball or sports. If that doesn’t help, try going for a short walk to separate yourself from the game and allow yourself time to calm down.
• When your child is in the spotlight (think about the bottom of the 7th situation again), do your best acting to look calm and at ease. If your child sneaks a peek at you during the pressure situation, you want them to see you being relaxed and confident in them!
• Taking deep breaths from your stomach always helps to calm nerves and can also help you remember that you are always setting an example for your child. If you are composed and confident, your child will be more likely to be composed and confident as well.

Youth sports have the potential to offer great benefits to your child, but it’s up to you to make sure they have a fair chance by keeping your perspective that baseball is a game. It’s not the end-all be-all, and it definitely isn’t your child’s job! By keeping the perspective that baseball, and all other youth sports, are just games, your child will have a better chance at not only enjoying sports, but also fully getting all the benefits that can come from sports.

 Get Your Team to Love Practice

Get Your Team to Love Practice

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Picture this…it’s a hot summer day, and you just finished mowing the lawn and washing the car. With sweat still dripping down your forehead, you head into the man cave, and sit down on your favorite recliner to the relaxing feeling of “Ahhh” from the moment you hit the cushion. Remote in one hand, the TV turns on and your team is playing an exciting afternoon ball game. All that’s missing right now from this becoming THE perfect day is that ice cold, frosty beverage in your other hand. But at this point, you are way too comfortable, having become one with the couch, to even think about getting up.

Enter Little Jimmy, who saddles up next to you for some quality father/son bonding time, cheering every time Jeter comes through with a clutch hit, while lamenting with every A-Rod whiff that leaves the bases loaded. An idea pops into your head.

“Hey Jimmy…Want to do your dad a big favor and get him a soda from the fridge?”

Crickets. Not even a flinch to indicate that he heard you. And if he did, that seven-year-old of yours has learned the fine art of selective hearing that took you decades to perfect. So, you ask again, this time making sure to grab his attention.

“Hey buddy… daddy is really thirsty. Can you please grab me a drink from the kitchen?” And in the whiniest of replies, Jimmy moans, “nooooooooo!”

What to do now about this drink? You know that the second it hits your lips it will be so refreshing, but you still can’t bear the thought of leaving your sanctuary to get it yourself. And then, a light bulb goes on in your head.

“Hey Jimmy! I bet that you can’t bring me a Pepsi in ten seconds.”

Like a lightning bolt, you watch your son race into the kitchen and a mere seven seconds later, there’s a bottle in hand. The simple challenge of time just completely motivated your kid to enthusiastically do something that he originally wanted no part of. Well, the same rule can be applied to your practices, often times garnering a similar result.

Any successful coach will tell you how much they love the competitiveness that comes with playing games, and the desire to do whatever it takes to beat their opponent. That same coach, however, will likely tell you how much they live for practice, because it’s during practice where a coach can truly leave a mark on his team, seen both collectively in wins and losses, as well as individually in their players’ athletic development.

One of the greatest challenges in coaching is to get our players to embrace practice as much as we do. While there is no cookie-cutter way of doing so, if you find creative ways to make your workouts competitive, things will start moving in the right direction. Additionally, by consistently putting together practice plans that force the players on your team to go up against one another and against themselves, when it come times to go to battle against a true opponent WITH one another, their inner fight will likely go to another level, as they have been practicing the competition even though they haven’t actually been playing.

The minor league baseball season is 140 games, played in a matter of about 150 days. Add a month or so of spring training, and then another few weeks for fall mini-camp, to see that players are spending well over 200 days on the field, honing their craft, trying to get better every day in an effort to get to the Major Leagues. It is every bit of a grind physically, and maybe even more so mentally as players work through the many ups and downs of the year. Keeping guys as engaged on that sweltering July day as they were the first day of spring training in February is not an easy task, but it is an achievable one.

Here in Greenville, South Carolina, with a group of 19 to 24 year old’s (for many of which this is their first full professional season as members of the Greenville Drive, class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) one of our primary points of emphasis is teaching these guys how to get into a routine, and how to work properly where they ideally are getting something out of every repetition they take. A daily routine will help create the consistency in their day-to-day business that will allow them to develop their skills. It is within their daily routine where our staff is challenged to find those ways to keep guys enthusiastic towards the work necessary to get better. We do that both by varying the drills we do, in addition to adding some kind of game within those drills that forces competitiveness as well as focus.

The different aspects of baseball give us some pretty good flexibility to allow our creativity to take over in all of our pre-game work, which is done as many as five hours prior to first pitch. Below are a few examples of how we try to get the most out of our guys both competitively and developmentally:

Infielders take ground balls every single day. They are as much a part of the daily routine as taking batting practice is for hitters, or playing catch is for pitchers. As we get into the grind of the season, a few months in, perhaps weeks without a day off, the day to day work can get monotonous and it’s up to us to keep that work productive. This concept we use with infielders has a number of different variations. One can entail just ten ground balls for the player, with the stipulation that each is taken with 100% focus and technique. Another pins two infielders up against one another at the same time to see who can field the most out of ten cleanly. By keeping reps at a minimum, you can ensure a player’s best concentration to do each rep right, since they are not being asked to lock in for a prolonged period of time.

Over the course of our season, hitters can take upwards of 20,000 swings. And that is not including all of the work most do in the off-season at home. With that much of a workload, in order to keep guys strong for the year, we need to find a balance between making sure they are getting enough reps to improve without completely wearing them down. To do that, we set up various drills that force a level of concentration that breeds development, with a side of competition. We take two protective screens and stand them up in the middle of the field, one on each side of second base about 50 feet from one another. The goal is simple - for the player to hit the ball in between the screens. We don’t talk a word of mechanics, yet when this is accomplished, by putting the emphasis on a specific result those mechanics of the swing have to fall into place. This is a drill that is done in small groups, with each player striving to beat the next. By the end of the drill, the result is often three or four players that just made their swing better through competitive work.

Baseball is such a unique team sport for the fact that a single individual has a disproportionately large impact on a win or loss. That individual is the pitcher. The pitcher controls everything. With that kind of a burden on one person’s shoulders, there is a natural pressure that comes with that responsibility. In between outings, pitchers work in the bullpen, throwing to a catcher with no hitter in the batter’s box. That in and of itself is not a very game-like situation. But when specific game situations are presented to the pitcher in this environment, all of a sudden, they are now practicing under pressure to execute a certain pitch in a certain location. Now a few days later, when the game does come along, and that specific situation just practiced in the bullpen appears in the game, it will be easier to work through because it’s been worked on. For whatever reason, practice has often brought a negative connotation with it amongst athletes. While most in sports love to play, the best love to practice as well. Allow your players to stay in the comfort of their daily routines but enable them to grow each and every day by making those routines even more productive with the added element of competition.

No matter the sport, and no matter the level, the competitiveness of an athlete will always come in to play. We’ve long believed that if a guy is not willing to compete, then his natural ability does not mean a thing. Some players innately have that gene to battle, and for the others who don’t, it’s our job as coaches to ingrain it in them, and we can do that every single day in practice.

This article appeared in the August 2014 edition of Coach and AD Magazine.

Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 Can We Help Players Compete Better?

Can We Help Players Compete Better?

Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon

One of the hot topics thrown around in coaching and scouting discussions is that competing is a separator tool that determines if a player will play in the major leagues or reach their potential. It then leads to the question: Can a coach help someone get better at competing? There are 2 schools of thought: First, coaches with a growth mindset would say “absolutely I can!” With a little bit of “want to” and a plan, we can grow somebody’s ability to compete in a huge way. The second school of thought, a fixed mindset, is that people are born with the DNA to compete or they aren’t and no amount of coaching will change that. Let’s do a deeper dive into these two very different mindsets.

The Fixed Mindset

The fixed mindset believes that we are born with certain talents or skills (intelligence, athleticism, ability to compete) that cannot be taught. You are simply dealt a hand that you have to play as is. With this mindset comes the art of labeling by coaches and even teachers! I was guilty of this line of thinking and was a product of the system of professional baseball that was very much a “natural selection”, “survival of the fittest” or “cream rises to the top” philosophy. Any of these phrases sound familiar? You also hear coaches say “he was born to play baseball.” As a coach with a fixed mindset you will give the most to those you believe compete. The rest of your players get whatever is left over. Labelling undermines and even destroys our ability to help our players grow. They can sense if you are committed to them or not. This labeling is more common than not, especially when it comes to attaching “he competes” or “he doesn’t compete” to a player. A label sticks with a player and could disqualify them as a prospect without ever giving them the tools to grow.

Joe Martinez

Joe Martinez is the player that started to rearrange the furniture in my head starting in 2003. After managing in professional baseball for a couple years I jumped over to college ball and my first gig brought me to Boston College and Joe Martinez. Joe possessed all the tools you want in a player and pitcher; athleticism, plus pitches and intelligence. As a bonus he came from a tremendous family that instilled a strong value system. He also put together good work days and displayed a great attitude. What was not to like? In the spring of 2003 the team went south to play some other cold weather teams and the first game was against Holy Cross. Holy Cross is a Division I baseball program but certainly not a powerhouse. My thoughts going into the game were that Joe’s talent level was well above Holy Cross. Well, Murphy’s law took over and Holy Cross was hitting him around pretty hard. I made a couple of mound visits to settle Joe down and as I went out the second time Joe was so nervous he was shaking. We eventually pulled him and put in another pitcher. Instead of recognizing where Joe was in his ability to compete and putting together a plan to help him get better, the easy way out was to say he simply doesn’t compete and that is that. Six years later on Aug 7, 2009, Joe made his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants. Guess he got better at competing? Not only did he get better at competing but competed in the best league in the world! Tracking Joe after 2003, his growth was so steady and so amazing I was surprised his debut did not come until 2009! Players can get better at competing! We as coaches mislabel kids who do not know they are ready to compete as “soft” when the reality is that competing and maturity are fluid. As young players mature as people emotionally and physically this will usually play out on the field of play in a huge way. It is a culmination of all of the above. The evolution of the physical, emotional and then skill level of a player is very hard to project especially with a fixed mindset when nothing is projectable! Thanks, Joe, for starting my true growth journey.

Growth Mindset and Pete Rose

The growth mindset is that we can improve at anything we do by putting in the effort and learning from our successes and failures. This is my mindset today. This idea that an intangible like competing is a tool and can be grown evolved in me first by having players prove me wrong (Joe Martinez was the first of many) year after year and then by digging in and doing some research. Carol Dweck writes articles online and her book “Mindset” was game-changing for my thought process. The “compete” tool is arguably the greatest tool for allowing players’ abilities to either play up or down. I discussed this with a friend of mine, Mike Lum (member of Big Red Machine, among his many accomplishments) who currently is an Advisor in the Pirates Player Development system. I asked him what player he played with or against or coached had the greatest compete tool? He never hesitated and immediately responded, “Pete Rose because he came to beat you every day and on every play.” If you actually broke down Rose’s physical tools of hit, hit for power, field, run, and throw, you are hard pressed to find any above average outside his plus tool of barreling the baseball for singles. Mike Lum played with the likes of Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez (all in The Baseball Hall of Fame). These guys had some great tools and they competed like mad men but Mike did not hesitate for a moment to throw Rose’s name out there. And by the way, Mike Lum is 70 and operates with a growth mindset!


I see it as a person’s ability to take his skill level (wherever that is) and perform to their maximum capability in the heat of competition. It is also the ability to get back up every single time you get knocked down regardless of the outcome. It’s that simple. I love the term Justin Meccage (Pirates AA pitching coach) shared with me once regarding a player who competes when things are going well but then goes away when things go wrong. He referred to him as a “convenient competitor.” I see convenient competitors as simply in the larvae stage of potentially becoming a true “competitor.” We can help them reach that competitor stage with time and preparation (we will get to the how later). Baseball can illustrate these differences in many ways. The most obvious occurs on the mound and in the batter’s box. The pitcher may be moving along easily getting outs and then all of a sudden finds himself in a jam after a couple of hits and a walk. You might see the body language go south, the velocity drop off, the command go away, and the results spiral out of control. He was competing well when the results were good but stopped once the results went bad. Hitters can illustrate this as well. At times when you watch hitters in advantage counts (0-0 ,1-0, 2-0, 2-1) be extremely disciplined and hit well then become unglued as the counts go the other way (0-1, 0-2, 1-2) and lose all ability to swing at or recognize a strike. Now in both cases (the pitcher and the hitter) the players who compete have the ability to get knocked down and get back up and keep coming. The pitcher who competes will continue to fight and when results go bad they have a tendency to be able to minimize the damage of an inning and regain their form. They keep attacking their opponent relentlessly. Hitters who compete have a tendency to fight pitches off when behind in counts many times fouling off tough pitches with two strikes and eventually putting the ball in play. This grit factor has become easy to spot over the years and I believe the “compete” or grit factor is a true separator among players.

Now that we have established that we need to have a growth mindset when teaching and coaching, and what it means to compete, we can finally attack the question: How can we get them better at competing?

There are two parts to this process; the first one is to increase the skill level of each player with purposeful progression (skill building) and purposeful preparation (testing the skills under pressure). The progression form of teaching this game is critical for players in building the wiring or muscle memory of their swings or deliveries in order to go out and have a chance to compete. Think of the practice of a player as crawl, walk, run on a daily basis. Let’s use the progression of skill building for an infielder in our system as one example.

Purposeful Progression

Throwing Program (TP): this is not a get loose drill for the arm as much as it is a slowed down form of learning how to handle the baseball and throw accurately with the proper footwork. This TP is the foundation of the skill building of the day. Poor TP or mechanics will show up in the other parts of his game or even in the game itself. We take our time with this and do not rush it. After focusing on form we then begin to speed things up and give them 30 seconds of speed in catching and throwing the ball. Crawl, walk, run.

Knees wide base is the next phase for our infielders. They start on their knees to emphasize the proper hand/glove presentation to the ball and proper funnel to the chest. Next, the proper separation and grip of the ball. In the next phase they are on their feet and do the same drill with the proper set up. After these progressions we get them to their positions to work on fielding ground balls properly and then throwing accurately to bases. We then progress to hitting them ground balls at game speed to a game clock to develop the internal clock and to add some pressure to the drill. We finally progress to random groundballs with the same clock speeding things up on them. Crawl, walk, run.

These are just two examples of progression, where you slow down teaching in order to build the skill level so that they can now have a chance to compete. We do this in every single aspect of the game: hitting, base running, pitching and defense. Now comes the fun part which is how to grow the COMPETE tool!

Purposeful Preparation

The ultimate test of our progression work is to see how it holds up under the stress and pressure of the game. If the first time our player experiences stress or pressure to perform his skill is the game, we may have failed him in helping him compete. Purposeful preparation is doing all of the above work on a daily basis but we now blend in some competitive fun, consequences, stress and pressure to help him get better at the transfer of those skills. The growth mindset coach realizes that in order for the skills to transfer under game pressure we must provide that for them at some point in the prep day.

Consequences: One example of creating competitive consequences can be after the hitters go through their progression, the last round of BP consists of opposite field line drives. If he fails to execute the rep he either loses his round or has to do five pushups. Maybe you can add a layer of every foul ball a player hits he has to go get it on the spot. Maybe you hit with no turtle as well for a different feel. The level of pressure goes up, the level of focus goes up and his swing and skill level are being tested in a little adversity.

Rewards: The same round of BP could be taken and for every executed rep (whatever the objective is in that round) there is a point earned. The player with the most points is awarded a Gatorade or t-shirt after a clear winner is established. The swing is tested under stress or pressure and he is competing to win.

Make the preparation take their skills to the edge of their abilities and a little beyond. If we were to do the same competition as above but had the BP thrower move the L Screen five feet closer it may be the reaction time of 96 miles per hour which may be more than they will see that night. However, players will make adjustments and grow their skill levels in many cases to meet that challenge. We are stretching their skill level and their ability to compete.

The Biosphere 2

How can the Biosphere 2 have anything to with helping kids compete better? Well, our Mental Conditioning Coordinator, Bernie Holiday, told us this story that helped make perfect sense of this compete tool development. The biosphere is an artificial ecological system that is indoors. It was created perfectly in every way. Perfect air, water, dirt and vegetation. A problem kept occurring in that the trees they were growing would all grow to a certain height and then fall over and uproot. Time and time again this occurred until they figured out that the missing ingredient in this perfect environment was the wind. The stress of the wind helped the trees grow deep roots to make them stronger and help support an even bigger tree. As coaches we have the ability to grow the compete tool of players by adding pressure or stress and competitive fun into the environment all the time. We are providing them the wind that will help their games grow strong and with deep roots. The wind that will allow the preparation to transfer into performance at game time.


If we go through a preparation day without adding pressure to it we have not prepared our players for what they are about to face come game time.  We are not developing the compete muscle that allows them to maximize their potential.  But it is more than this. I believe that building the “grit factor” has much more impact on what they will face in life than even at game time.  At your level, how many of the players you coach will ever get to reach their dream of playing in the Major League? How many will stay there after making it? The percentage is extremely small, somewhere between 1% and 3%, or less. This game mirrors real life; it’s hard and competitive. Will the grit factor we help develop help them in their jobs, marriages and whatever else life offers them? Absolutely! They will learn that the “hard” is what makes it satisfying and even fun. Their ability to compete gives them the drive/energy to keep getting back up time and time again after getting knocked down.  Where in life do we not need this “compete/grit” factor? The greatest gift we may give our players is the ability to compete.

Turgeon is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turgeon played in the New York Yankees farm system from 1987-1990 under Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter after being drafted out of Davidson College. Before playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 1998 he spent eight years playing abroad. From 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching in the Cleveland Indians organization before entering the college ranks where he coached with Boston College, the University of Connecticut, Duke University and Virginia Tech.