Chris helps lead operations here at Bardo's and is also one of our top hitting and fielding instructors. He played professional baseball for nine years with the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals as a shortstop. He brings with him years of professional experience and prides himself in giving simplistic, personalized, and expert instruction to players of all ages.
We sat down with Chris to ask him a few questions on his playing career and his thoughts on evaluating players.
You had a nine year run as a professional baseball player. What are some things you have learned during your playing career that you try to incorporate into your lessons?
The most important thing I’ve learned is how to interpret information to players. There are many instructors that know what they want a player to change in their mechanics, but few can explain well enough for a player to understand and even harder to execute. I’ve had many coaches in every aspect of the game and the best ones were the ones that could break down what needed to change in a very basic matter.
You are known for your fielding and have been named the “Best Defensive Infielder” in the Kansas City Royals organization multiple times. What is one good piece of advice you could give to infielders?
That’s an easy answer, bend your knees! It’s such a simple change that can make a HUGE difference. Bending your knees puts you in a better position to move, adapt to the ball, a better angle to see the ball, and it cleans up other issues you may have with your hands, like not getting them far enough in front of you body. I noticed that players have a tendency to bend their back and not their knees when they field.
In your career you’ve been an All-Star twice, been recognized by a few publications, and have won a AA championship. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all my accomplishments during my playing days. Individual achievements are great and they are fun to have, but there really isn’t a better feeling then winning a championship. It’s a five game series, but that championship series is a bit of a reflection on what the whole year was like. Nothing seems to matter; stats, mistakes, and accomplishments mean absolutely nothing. Playing in a championship is the best part of baseball.
What are some benefits of playing professional baseball that not many people would think of?
One of the bonuses of playing professional baseball that no one talks about is all the places you get to live. I’ve lived in 10 states and I’ve lived multiple places within those states. It’s the type of life experience that few get to have and it has molded me into the person I am today. Experiencing different cultures and people within the United States has shaped me in so many ways.
You do infield and hitting lessons at Bardo’s. What are the differences between the two when it comes to evaluating players?
Besides the fact that they are two different skills, I evaluate the lower half first. You can’t hit without a solid foundation and you can’t field without one either.
Book a lesson with Chris.
You and Sean McCourt are running the Bardo's Healthy Heat program. How did that all start?
The Healthy Heat program has really been my goal since coming to Bardo's. We were lucky enough to have Randy Sullivan and his staff from the Florida Baseball Ranch come out here in early December and show use how they us how it's done! We really want to change the game for pitching development in the state of Colorado and we are lucky enough to have a relationship with the best in the business!
Why do you think Healthy Heat is so special?
I started doing the Ranch program when I was 20 and I went from throwing 82-84 with constant pain, to 88-90 and pain free. Some of my teammates saw even bigger increases and again hardly any injuries. It's an amazing program that I wish I had found earlier in my career. I think kids of all ages need this program now to maximize their potential and most importantly stay healthy.
What are the first things you look for when evaluating a pitcher?
The first things I look for when evaluating a pitcher are the use of their lower half and their arm action. I believe those are the two biggest keys to long term health. As far as "stuff" goes I look for an aggressive fastball, not a certain velocity but just throwing it with conviction. A guy willing to throw his best heater in the zone is critical. A good secondary pitch is awesome if you establish your fastball. And last but not least I look for a kid who just competes his tail off. It's my job to develop the physical side of things but if they lack competitiveness and drive it makes it much more difficult.
So you are new to Colorado. What are your thoughts so far on the state and how do you feel about Colorado baseball compared to a hot bed like Virginia?
Colorado has blown me away with talent for being a cold weather state! I think the level of talent on the hitting side is on par with the rest of the country. However, the biggest disparity in my opinion is arm strength and just overall quality of movement. Obviously it's difficult to throw as much as a kid in warmer weather states.
A lot of people say you either have it or you don't what are your thoughts?
I for one am firmly against that belief and the "freak" theory. There are without a doubt people who don't have to do near as much as their teammates and will still be the best player on the team. For those of us that aren't that lucky it just means we have to do more. Everyone may not be able to throw 100 that may be a gift, but low 90's just takes hard work.
What is an easy way for players to increase arm strength that isn't often talked about?
Funny all my answers seem to have a common theme. I just think flat out playing catch is the easiest way that no one talks about. A lot of internet gurus claim to have all the answers and there are a few out there that really do work. But if they could just find time and a place to play catch more frequently it could make a drastic difference. Also, if they get burnt out on throwing a baseball throwing a football is another great option. Throwing is throwing, just go do it.
Book a pitching lesson with Wes.
Even though it's only January, the 2017 season will be here before you know it! Players, parents, and coaches are getting excited and getting rosters set up for the Spring. With all the new ongoing communication, we thought it would be nice to answer some questions that are being asked and how rosters affect experience. As an example, we had a great question from a Team Colorado parent the other day, "Does team roster size matter?" Here are some thoughts for you below.
Team Colorado Roster Size
While there is no magic formula on roster size, Team Colorado summer rosters max set between 15-16 players. We believe this is the best balance of maintaining health and preventing injury, while providing an exceptional experience for our players. A parent recently asked, “Who would want their son on a team with more than 20 players on the roster?” In many cases, having too many players on a roster will significantly reduce playing time. Team Colorado prides itself in providing the greatest value for our #bardosfamily in combining player playing time at the lowest cost.
Too often we hear of travel programs that do not fully disclose all costs up front. The Team Colorado approach is pretty simple; our player fee includes all costs EXCEPT travel related player costs and uniforms. Team Colorado also is very clear that EVERY player pays the same amount, unless they are on scholarship for financial reasons. We will not provide “free” spots for players at the expense of their teammates! In addition, our program includes a weekly pro-style workouts in front of area college coaches at no additional charge!
Team Colorado Coaches
Another great question to ask is, “Who will be coaching my child?” Head coaches must be skilled and experienced in managing not only a game schedule and strategy, but also the entire process leading to a successful season. Vision, drive, and the pursuit of excellence are absolutely required characteristics, which is why we are so proud of our Team Colorado coaching staff. All of our coaches have clean background checks and driving records, as safety is a priority.
Without a doubt, tournament selection is important, not only to provide players a benchmark against other great talent around the country, but also to provide adequate college recruiting exposure. Our Team Colorado program includes a D1 college recruiter with 15 years of experience and input from our very own Mike Bard - to the best of our knowledge, we believe Mike was the youngest college recruiter in NCAA history! We balance visibility with competitiveness with select tournaments to get our Team Colorado players to the next level.