al·li·ance (/əˈlīəns/, noun)
1. a union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.
2. a relationship based on an affinity in interests, nature, or qualities.
3. a state of being joined or associated.
Having coached Division 1 baseball for 14 years and being a Colorado native, I’ve had a broad look at Colorado baseball for some time. The baseball culture has changed in Colorado since I heavily recruited this state as a Division 1 coach at Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas-Arlington and Dallas Baptist. The state has always been fertile with a population base that supports and produces fine athletes who want to further their baseball opportunities at higher levels. However, the onset of travel baseball teams and tournaments has changed the culture. Kids are playing more games and getting more opportunities to hone their game. While the volume of game play has increased, the commitment and reality of truthful development becomes a tricky conundrum. Game play is certainly an important part of development, but intentional training is of equal importance. I’ve often witnessed the sacrifice of one in leu of the other, and intentional training is often the choice left on the altar. This doesn’t need to be the case and it shouldn’t be so that every child will develop to their fullest potential.
One of our most successful programs has been our In House Youth Team Training. Our Bardo’s teams have experienced great on-field success thanks to matching excellent development and intentional training with wonderful coaching, appropriate game play opportunities, and talented young players. This past summer, we began the process of branding our In House Teams with “TCA” - Team Colorado Alliance. The idea here is that we have built an alliance with many youth teams in a relationship where we come together for mutual benefit.
Because of the success of that program, we starting to expand this idea and contextualize it to the High School level as well. We started with four different instructional clubs this past fall (Healthy Heat, 3D Hitting, Catcher’s Club, and Impact Infielders) and the results have been very encouraging. We’re seeing players improve, but, more importantly, we’re starting the process of working with the high school coaches so we can all experience the mutual benefit of development. We’re choosing to build alliances with high school coaches for the good of the baseball community and build development opportunities for players of all ages. It is our desire to help and build up the culture of baseball in Colorado through these healthy alliances.
Over the summer, we’ve created a program called High School Summer Alliance Training. It gives players the opportunity to train their arm through our Healthy Heat program and their bat through our 3D Hitting program. The program also provides a 30-minute power-building workout. The program is designed for players playing in any program to come in and train for intentional development. Playing the game is an important step in the process, but every player needs to spend time developing their arm and bat during the season. Playing the game alone can’t accomplish the goals, dreams, and expectations of developing players. We want baseball athletes to experience the freedom to play where they want, and train in a program like our High School Summer Alliance Training. Spend time on your arm and bat during the summer season, and be prepared for an incredible season of improvement.
The link to register for this program is below. There are five options open for training, and players can choose to come once or twice per week. The price comes out to less than $20 per hour for individualized training and protocols provided by both Healthy Heat and 3D Hitting. The program starts on Monday, June 4 and runs to the end of July. I want to encourage all high school players to join us this summer and develop through our High School Summer Alliance Training!
Throwing is like many other athletic movements. If a basketball player wants to get better at his jump shot, he has to get in the gym and get the ball in the air. If you want to improve your lower body strength, you have lift. Now, strength training is probably the most similar to throwing a baseball because you can’t max it out every day. But you can’t just go in once a week, crush your lower body, and then shut it down for a week. You need to take care of auxiliary lifts and make sure that you maintain mobility. For many, the body will actually recover better if they are active in between lifting days.
Throwing is an extreme complex movement that, for some, can be very stressful. As the tissue recovers from this stress, it becomes a jumbled mess. In order to get the tissue to align properly, it needs low intensity work that is specific to its normal movement. To say it another way, you need to make low intensity throws. Youth athletes typically fall into three categories: no pain - great performance, pain - great performance, pain and inconsistent performance. We believe that all three groups could benefit from a recovery day.
Starting with the latter, athletes experiencing pain and inconsistent performance need to refine their movement patterns to lessen the stress on their arm and continue to increase arm strength. They may also have major physical contributors to arm pain that need to be taken seriously or corrected with different forms of arm care. If there is pain, then we need to fix both movement patterns and physical constraints, because it is impossible to know which is causing pain. However, if we take care of all of it, we have a better chance at getting rid of the pain.
For the group that is having pain, but still performing well, they need to do all they can to maintain arm fitness, but also need to improve movement patterns. The Oates Training Sock is the equivalent to ⅓ of the stress of normal throwing. We have athletes throw in constraint drills that will keep them moving efficiently while also speeding up the recovery process. These constraint drills allow them to continue to improve their mechanics which could eliminate many recovery issues (if every pitch becomes less stressful, they will recover faster). We can also use arm care to address specific strength or movement issues that can be contributing to their lack of recovery.
For the guys who have no pain and great performance, their need for recovery is simple. If they improved their recovery, they could be able to train at a higher level of intensity. Our data from the offseason shows that if you are able to throw the ball hard more often, your velocity can continue to improve, even in season. Also if they are able to throw a bullpen at closer to game-like speed, they can improve command and secondary offerings. Again research of skill development shows that a majority of work needs to be done at 80% or above, or movement patterns could regress when they get up to game speed. Therefore, their recovery day would be more geared to making their next training day more intense.
We are shifting Healthy Heat to accommodate in-season work. Youth throwers need to continue to improve their routine. They need an arm care program that is monitored to make sure any movement issues are improving. They also need to continue to refine mechanics so their recovery improves. While bullpens are important, there is more work that can be done to improve efficiency. We want to shift the focus from just pitching and continue to make high-level throwers who have the ability to dominate on the mound. And, most importantly, we want to provide a real plan for guys to overcome arm pain.
With some of you starting your season this weekend we've put together a warm up, pre-throwing routine, and recovery program that you can use with your team if you wish.
As you all know, the baseball season can be a grind and take a toll on player's bodies, a proper warm-up and recovery is crucial to preventing injuries and keeping players performing at their peak. I have attached the program at the bottom and we are posting videos on the Bardo's Baseball University website. All but the two without an asterisk next to them can be done without equipment at whatever field your at.
The two with asterisks, Rocket Wrap and the Oates Throwing Sock, are incredible tools that I would highly recommend every team purchase if not every player. I am sure most of you have seen us use the throwing sock with players at practice. It allows players to throw or do their drills literally about anywhere and it puts 1/3 of the amount of stress on their arm. It also provides instant feedback on if a player is getting to late launch as well as creates healthy deceleration patterns. The Rocket Wrap is my new go to for all of my pitchers after they throw. We now know that ice bad for players after they throw as it slows the blood flow which in turn slows their healing process. Rocket Wrap is a compression wrap which allows new blood to rush in and flush out all of the damage and repair the impaired muscles and tissue.
Both the Throwing Sock and Rocket Wrap are both extremely inexpensive, $30 for the sock and $13 for the wrap, and are two of the best tools I have found on the market. I have included the link to our Healthy Heat page below that has a link for the Throwing Sock and you can also find the Rocket Wrap on the same site as well.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.
I have heard many different keys to throwing strikes from players and coaches, most of which involve varying release points and arm action in some way shape and form. I don’t want you thinking about any of that when you throw. The truth is, if you look at pitchers' Trackman data across the MLB, players very rarely duplicate the same release point throughout the course of a game. A player might have the same release height and extension only once or twice a game despite throwing the same pitch to the same location numerous times a game. So it goes to reason if the most elite pitchers in the game can’t repeat their throwing mechanics pitch-to-pitch, then how could our youth pitchers possible do so? There is no such thing as a repeatable delivery.
Here in Healthy Heat we try to create feel for proper movement patterns to help keep you connected and put your body in the best possible position to maximize your body’s power safely. You are not going to exactly replicate that movement from pitch-to-pitch. As Randy Sullivan of the Florida Baseball Ranch likes to put it, "a repeatable delivery is a unicorn."
So how can you repeatedly throw strikes and command the strike zone if there is no such thing as a repeatable delivery? Here’s the secret in three easy steps: Move Fast, Throw Hard, and Always Pick a Target. It’s really that simple! Throwing accurately requires fine motor control. If you miss your release point by 1 degree that results in you missing your target by 0.96 feet! So you can’t realistically fix your control by trying to release the ball later or feeling your way through your release point. You need to create proprioception, the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself, of throwing accurately to a target and you need to do it at as close to game speed as possible. That is why we tell our players that every throw is a chance to get better or worse. Choose to get better by moving fast, throwing hard, and picking a target. Then do it again and again until you become a master of your craft.
You can speed up the process of creating proprioception by doing what we call myelinating. Myelinating is celebrating or showing emotion after we do something good. Myelin is a substance your body creates to insulate your brain’s wiring. Every action you perform your brain secretes a layer of myelin to coat the neural pathway for that action. This is basically what we call muscle memory. The more insulated a neural pathway is the more likely you are to repeat that action. Studies have shown that if you add emotion to an action your body will secrete more myelin, resulting in increased muscle memory of that action. So every time you move fast, throw hard, and hit your target show some emotion and celebrate that action! However, your body does not distinguish between positive and negative emotion. So if you do not hit your target, do not show a negative emotion or your body will remember that action more than it normally would as well.
So, get out there and move fast, throw hard, pick a target, celebrate when you hit it, and become a master of commanding the strike zone!
Director of Pitching
Come join us in Healthy Heat!
For the last several decades, arm injuries have been steadily on the rise in baseball. The majority of them have occurred within the first month of the season. So, with the start of the baseball season upon us, I wanted to touch on some recovery methods that can help prevent some of these issues.
Proper Deceleration Patterns
One of the first things we teach our players in Healthy Heat are our Decel Drills. Peak Shoulder Internal Rotation can reach 7000° per second. That means if your arm was not attached to your body it would spin around in a circle almost 19 ½ times in 1 second. That is a tremendous amount of force that could lead to a lot of damage in your arm if it is not slowed down in a safe and effective manner. One tool that I like to use with my pitchers the day after they throw is to put them in an Oates Throwing Sock and have them throw a light flat ground. If the player has soreness that is caused by a poor deceleration pattern they will show some discomfort if that pattern is repeated. The Throwing Sock will take the majority of the stress off the players arm allowing them to make some low stress throws and navigate through the discomfort to find a more efficient movement pattern.
Increase Blood Flow
Growing up I was religious about icing after I threw. After the game you could find me strapped up with ice from my neck to my fingertips. We now know that icing will delay your healing process. Ice slows blood flow to the area and we want to get as much blood flow to the injured tissue as possible to remove the waste produced by the lymphatic system and repair the tissue. The way we do that is by dynamic movements as well as using Rocket Wrap after players throw. Rocket Wrap is a compression floss that temporarily restricts blood flow to the area for the 30 seconds that it is wrapped around the desired area which sends a signal to the brain that more blood flow is needed to that area. When the wrap is removed the area receives in increase in blood flow flushing out toxins and promoting healing to the area.
Strength & Mobility
Maintaining a regular strength and conditioning program during the season can be difficult but is critical to staying healthy throughout the course of a long season. Players should have a regular recovery program filled with T-Spine and shoulder mobility exercises as well as exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff, shoulder and scapular stabilizers, and maintain core stability.
Creating a routine that drills/reinforces proper decel patterns, increases blood flow after you throw, and maintains strength and mobility during the season will go a long way to keeping you healthy throughout the year. Our focus in Healthy Heat is shifting as the season starts to accommodate players increasing need for recovery to keep players healthy and throwing hard with the gains that they have put on all offseason. Below I have included links to the aforementioned Oates Throwing Sock and Rocket Wrap. They are both inexpensive and two of the best tools that I have found on the market.
Former big-leaguer Chris Colabello wrote an article on the Bob Tewksbary blog called “Bigger Moves Are More Fragile.” The title grabbed me because it articulated something that I’ve thought, if not said to an even more detrimental degree. Bigger movements are more difficult to master and control so why not be simpler? I hope I didn’t sound like the “old school” coaches Colabello refers to in his article who told him over and over again:
“That’ll never work — when you get to higher levels, guys are too good, you have to keep it simple.”
The fact of the matter, whether intended or not, I probably did sound like those guys. I probably failed to give the player (or players) room to have a conversation, explain their thoughts, or even show me what they’re feeling in their swing movements. Whether it was a leg kick, hand movement, barrel tip, or whatever the player wanted to try, I was probably too quick to disengage and think like the “old school” coaches mentioned above - “You can’t hit like that at the higher levels.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this many years of coaching, it is that you can’t control or manipulate success in the game of baseball, and you certainly can’t be fearful of potential greatness.
Thankfully, some time during the summer of 2012, I started walking down this road of great swing movements. It was here that I started to engage with a player (Jason Mishler, to give credit where credit it due) and ask him about what he was learning. We watched video on baseball road trips. We battled and went back and forth on different ideas. Ultimately, I learned. I grew. I got better. Not only did I get better, I watched players get better. I watched them play with more freedom. I watched them have more fun. I watched our team break program hitting records in spite of the move to BBCOR bat. Hmmmm, something was happening.
Fast forward six years and I’m seeing guys who I work with continue to find success, and I’m seeing guys at the next levels of the game experience great success as well. Take Keenan Eaton as an example. After a couple of stints at different schools at the Division I level, Keenan is now playing at Colorado Mesa University. Keenan is a great kid, a great listener, and willing to do what coaches asked him to do (I mean, he is the son of a coach, after all). Unfortunately for Keenan, it seems like the voices he was listening to at the Division I level were like how mine used to be - attempting to control success and potentially keeping a player from greatness. Out of the gate here in the spring of 2018, Keenan was named RMAC Player of the Week.
Colabello finished his blog post by saying, “Don’t be scared of bigger moves but remember the bigger the moves get, the more accountable a hitter has to be for them." This is the hardest part for any coach - the player is accountable for his moves, not the coach. The coach is accountable for his job, and how his teams comes together. It’s hard to release the control of the movements to the player. But it’s what we’re called to do as coaches. We’re called to serve the player and be a guide on the journey. The sooner we realize that, the sooner our players and teams will experience astronomical success.