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Progressing the Reverse Lunge for Improved Performance

Guest post written by Brian Donofrio, C.S.C.S.

When working with athletes (especially our baseball guys), I’ve found the reverse lunge to be one of the best bang for your buck exercises we do in the weight room.  It’s great for teaching proper loading of the hips, core control through the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes, as well as building stability, strength and power in a lunge pattern.  And the carry over to sport is huge.  Whether the athlete is running, throwing, or swinging, developing both stability and strength in the reverse lunge will lead to huge success.  And through proper progressions and coaching of the reverse lunge, we can set our guys up to be stronger, faster and more powerful athletes.

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Once an athlete successfully learns how to complete a reverse lunge, the benefits are huge.  Getting to that point, though, requires allocating the time needed to build a strong foundation for the athlete to be successful in the movement.  I’ll go over how exactly we attack the reverse lunge and how we get our guys into great positions that lead to success on the field.

When teaching a reverse lunge, or any exercise for that matter, you need to perfect the athlete’s baseline for the movement before you can progress them and start loading it.  For some advanced lifters, you might be able to show them a proper reverse lunge a few times and they immediately crush it.  But more often than not we need to start from the ground up, and work our way to performing the reverse lunge. 

½ Kneeling Position

For most of our guys, this baseline means just getting them into a perfect ½ kneeling position on the ground.  We teach them to have a good amount of dorsiflexion and a positive shin angle in the front leg.  In the trail leg we look for full hip extension, and the back ankle dorsiflexed with the toes driving into the ground.  We get them set up with the ribs down with the chest tall, neck back and chin tucked.  The basic cues we use are to engage the core, feel the hips, and drive the toe into the ground.  Here they can understand where we want them to feel tension through lower level activation.  It also gives us the benefit of using kinesthetic cues to get the athletes exactly where we want them to be and give them more points of contact to reference and stabilize from.  We might also incorporate some thoracic rotational work or overhead reaching in this position to train more dynamic stabilization in the position before moving forward.  This allows the athlete to get a basic understanding of positioning and gain a kinesthetic sense for the position we’re asking them to get into.

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Split Squat Hold

The next progression is to have the athlete perform a split squat hold (the bottom position of the reverse lunge).  We’re looking for similar position as in the ½ kneeling position, except now the back knee is just off the ground, removing a point of contact to the ground.  This makes it a more demanding position to be in and further challenges the athlete to build stability in the unilateral pattern.  We’ll also incorporate proper breathing techniques to get them more comfortable in this position and improve their ability to hold it for a longer period of time.  We typically like to work an athlete up to the point where they can hold that position for about 2 minutes/side.  Just like with the ½ kneeling position, adding in rotational work or overhead reaching increases the transference to the field in terms of dynamic stabilization requirements.

Split Squat Hold Split Squat Hold

 

 

 

 

 

Split Squat

Once the athlete is successful with the split squat hold, we can move on to a full split squat.  Start with the athlete standing upright, with front and trail leg about 1 stride length apart with feet at hip width.  The athlete then descends into the bottom position (the split squat hold described above).  We have the athlete briefly pause here before driving back up.  The key for carry over to the reverse lunge is to focus on the eccentric and isometric portion of the movement.  This helps engrain the pattern and improves the athlete’s kinesthetic sense throughout.  To further load this movement we may use a KB in a goblet or unilateral/bilateral front grip hold, a barbell in the front or back position or a safety bar to increase the demand of the tissues and further challenge the stability demands.

 

Reverse Lunge

As the athlete successfully completes the split squat, with the end positions and movement pattern performed to our standards, we can then start utilizing the reverse lunge in training.  The athlete stands tall, with feet even about hip width apart.   We’ll start by having the athlete take a step back and sink into the bottom position, holding there for a set amount of time.

The big cue here is to load the hips through the decent, building up tension and force to transfer through the ground on the concentric portion of the lift.  We progress with a slight pause at the bottom followed by a powerful drive to the starting position.  I coach my athletes to drive at an angle, using the hips to move forward to the starting position as if they are throwing a baseball to home plate or sprinting away from the line of scrimmage towards the end zone.  We look to see that the athlete can maintain an upright position in the torso, and is able to stay balanced through the motion without leaning to one side or the other.  Make sure the athlete is stabilizing through the core the for the entire lift, which is apparent if they can keep their weight shifted forward rather than swaying back in the bottom position or as they begin the concentric portion of the lift.

As the athlete becomes successful with the movement, we can load it in a number of ways, from a goblet hold with a kettlebell to a safety bar to a barbell.  As long as they maintain good positioning and movement pattern, we can really challenge our athletes here.

Summary

If you want your athletes to keep progressing in the weight room, then you have to ensure they master the basics before attempting more complex movements.  Give them the framework of proper position and movement patterns in more foundational exercises, and you can see a huge carry over.  By establishing a strong foundation through positioning and proper progression, we set our athletes up for success not only in the weight room but on the field.  Take time perfecting the basics, and the benefits will be huge for your athletes.

 

About the Author

BDBrian is a strength coach based out of Advanced Therapy and Performance in Stamford, CT.  He trains athletes from the high school to professional level, drawing upon his experiences in athletic performance and rehabilitation.  He has worked extensively with collegiate athletics at his alma mater, the University of Connecticut, where he earned his B.S. in Exercise Science.  After graduation, he worked with UConn Football Strength and Conditioning, as well as with a number of the school’s D1 athletic programs, including Men’s Soccer and Men’s Track and Field, as an undergrad. Brian holds his CSCS through the NSCA.  You can find Brian on Instagram or at advancedtherapyperformance.com

 

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Want to Run a Faster 60-Yard Dash? START HERE

My right hand man Brian Donofrio did an outstanding presentation on the 40-yard dash for football players. After re-watching this webinar, I realized that he nails down so many  points that we attack baseball players with it would be a disservice to not share it with you. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone wishing to play college or pro baseball.

If you have further questions please comment below in the comments sections and Brian or I will follow-up.

 

Josh’s notes on training the 40 or 60-yard dash:

  • In training, we are most concerned with acceleration, not top speed. Teaching someone how to properly accelerate can drop their time .2 in a matter of one session.
  • Muscle mass, broad jump, and reverse lunges are great indicators of acceleration potential.
  • Stop wasting time running more than 100 yards. Get stronger and everything else works itself out.
  • The fastest athletes/best movers I’ve every worked with have amazing abilities to bear crawl.

 

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Shoulder Pain in Baseball Players

Anterior (front) shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints we get from all overhead athletes especially baseball players. This pain is often palpable at the origin of the bicep tendon. Although every case can have countless pathologies (such as labral tears, impingement, poor movement mechanics) causing the pain at the bicep tendon region, about 90% of the time we find that this pain is referred pain.

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Referred pain is pain felt in a part of the body other than its actual source. Through my studies of Chinese Medicine, I can validate that many times the science and theory behind referred pain make little sense. Fortunately, pain that would be considered “bicipital tendonitis” is often very clear cut referred from the rotator cuff— most specifically the infraspinatus. The “X”s in the image below shows how the infraspinatus connects to the humerus (arm bone). Altered length, strength, movement mechanics, tissue quality or timing of the infraspinatus will throw off the mechanics of overhead movements.

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To determine if this a true referred pain issue, we find the painful motion (usually reaching overhead) and have the athlete give us a number 1-10 (10 being terrible pain). After establishing a baseline for pain, we find tender points in the infraspinatus, apply firm pressure and retest the motion. This is uncomfortable for the athlete in the spot being pressed but often brings a 6-8/10 pain down to a 0-1. If that is the case, we have found the problem.

Fixing the soft tissue quality is usually done by aggressive treatment. This can be active release, cupping, Graston’s, or Gua Sha. Cupping has been the tool that gets the quickest and longest lasting results (see below). I believe this is the case because almost all therapeutic techniques are compressive in nature. Cupping offer a decompressive component often causing discoloration. Most athletes walk away pain-free in 1-2 treatments even if they have been suffering symptoms for years.

 

 

If you do not have access to a manual therapist, a lacrosse ball jammed into the infraspinatus often does the trick.

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Are You Ready For a College Baseball Showcase?

60-Yard-Dash
Summer time is almost here and for many high school players wishing to play college baseball this means showcase season. Showcases are a double edge sward. There are some outstanding showcases that allow you the opportunity to interact in with college coaches at schools you have interest in while getting a feel for their personality, skill set, and coaching style (yes, you are interviewing them as much as they are you). On the other end of the spectrum, there are factory style showcases that allow you and 500 other ball players just enough time to take 3 ground balls, 10 swings, and run a 60 all for the camera and then you are done for the day. Not the ideal situation for most.

I like to remind my athletes that a showcase is a job interview. A part of getting the job is absolutely how well you perform, but do you look the part? How well do you interact with the other players? What are your interactions with coaches? Do you look like you are having fun? Remember coaches are looking for people they want to have apart of their baseball family for 20-60 hours a week for 4-5 years!

ARE YOU READY FOR A SHOWCASE?

  1. Have you done skill work for baseball at least 2x per week outside of practice?Realize that practice is just the beginning. Routinely, our college guys take swings from 8-10pm on a Friday night. If you are not working on your skills while your competition is out partying on a regular basis you rarely have a leg up on them.
  2. Have you trained in the weight room at least 2x per week for the last 3-months?


    If not, you are at a distinct disadvantage in regards to athletic potential and injury prevention. I believe for an athlete to even bother to go to a showcase he should have a solid 3-6 months minimum of organized training under their belt. If you don’t enjoy the process of getting better and training, you will likily not make a great college player.

    Check out this day in the life of a college baseball player article https://www.theodysseyonline.com/college-baseball-the-16-hour-day

  3. Have you recently taken a video of your 60-yard dash?I can’t tell you how many athletes tell me they run a 6.8-7.0 60-yard dash and when I ask them for a video of it they can only produce a video of them running an 8.2. Video does not lie. Get over the fact that you are not fast and figure out how to fix it.Unless you are a pitcher that throws mid 80s+ MPH or skill position guy that can legit hit the ball 400 feet, I would not recommend showing off your “skills” unless you run below a 7.5 60-yard dash.
  4. Have you recently taken a video of yourself… pitching, fielding, hitting?Pitchers —get on video with multiple shots at different angles— and at least one behind the backstop with a radar gun in view.Hitters —get a few views of you swinging and fielding/throwing.For all position, be honest with yourself. How athletic do you look? What do your mechanics and movements look like compared to the MLB version of you? Adjust accordingly.
  5. What’s your GPA?We all hear stories of guys who throw 90 MPH and rock a 2.0 GPA and he got a college scholarship, but let’s face it, you are probably not that guy— and that story was probably fabricated.Just like point #3, unless you are a pitcher throws mid 80s+ MPH or skill position guy that can legit hit the ball 400 feet, I would skip the showcase if your GPA is under a 2.5. Do yourself a favor and take summer classes to bring your GPA to that 3.0 range.Don’t think it really matters? Ask any DI program what their minimum team GPA and SAT scores need to be.
  6. Do you look the part?Coaches will say that looking the part is not that important as they are looking more for the skill and potential of the player but in my experience, this is incorrect. In fact, I often hear coaches state things like “look at that guy, he has obviously put in the work in the weight room” or “this kid swings well, but he needs to figure out where the kitchen is”.
  7. 90 MPH Formula fileMy 90 MPH formula for pitchers gives a guideline on weight I like to see our pitchers at. It get’s a little trickier for position players, but as a general rule, take your height in inches and multiple it by 2.5 and that is a good baseline for most athletes to start “looking the part”.

What other aspects do you think are important at your showcase? Where do you think you are lacking the most?  

Leave your feedback below in the comments and I will gladly reply.

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From No Offers to DI Baseball Player

I can’t get recruited

I get overlooked

My son doesn’t get fair playing time

They are prejudice because I’m too… short, skinny, slow, etc.

 

These are phrases we hear all the time.

 

The “I get over looked… I can’t… my coach…” garbage is just that, garbage. When presented with athletes or families that come saying those phrases we try to change word choice and outlook from day one. Many think they are going to be the next Bryce Harper, but let’s face it, the odds are highly against you.

To be fair, we are lucky to have many amazing athletes and families that are supportive and realistic with where they currently are and where they need to go to reach their goals.

Enter Tom Henderson

After working a showcase with Wayne Mazzoni, he suggested I reached out to Tom as he was a LHP senior in high school with good arm action, good grades, but just needed to get bigger and stronger to have a chance at the next level.

Tom was a whopping 135 lbs at 6’2″ with strength to match his frame— practically none.

Increase Pitching Velocity

Completely out of his comfort zone, Tom came to train 3-4x a week for the next 12 weeks along side pro, college, and signed high school ball players. Being able to do only 1 push-up on day one is pretty humbling when you have athletes tossing around 100lb dumbbells or 14-year olds doing 20 push-ups in a set.

But bust his butt day in and day out he did

After about 2 weeks we sat down and had our nutritional talk. We evaluated where he currently was with his eating and created a plan on how to add some serious size to his frame over the next 12 weeks. We implemented simple weekly check-ins to monitor progress, but attached some deterrents for each missed a weigh-in.

Tom soon felt what it was like to be truly “full”. The first weekly weigh-in he was up 5 lbs. Second week, another 4. Third week, another 4. For those 12 weeks, Tom treated eating like it was a full time job.

Those 12 weeks passed without a missed weigh-in and Tom was now tipping the scales at 170lbs. Along with his new found weight, his strength gains were impressive to say the least. Push-ups had become relatively easy and his deadlift was up over 100 lbs. Most importantly, Tom’s velocity on the mound had jumped.

Prior to his weight gain adventure, I promised Tom if he put in the work, I would vouch for him at his #1 prospective school, Marist College. Upon speaking with the coach I realized they had no more roster spots for the following year. Without any hesitation, Tom said he would end up going there when he was accepted and walk on. Little did he know that 6 weeks later I would get a call from that coach stating they just cut a handful of guys from there program and wanted to extend a roster spot for Tom for the coming year.

Fast forward to today

Tom is now a role player for his DI program and touts a .077 batting average against. Currently sitting at 185lbs with a fastball that nearly tops the 90mph mark. With a frame that can still handle adding another 30-40lbs and project him to add another 5-10 mph on his fastball and 3 more years of eligibility, Tom has a lot to look forward to.

Throw Harder

Without Josh’s expertise and connections I would not have had the opportunity to play baseball at Marist College. Josh, along with his terrific staff, have pushed me for two years, and have helped me gain a total of 60 lbs, 35 of those in my first 12 weeks of training. This weight has taken stress of my elbow and shoulder while allowing me to increase my velocity by upwards of 10 MPH, nearing 90 MPH. The key to our training is the focus on muscles and movements that put by body in better positions on the mound, which directly correlates to what you need to continue to succeed and play at the next level.

 

Are these the type of results you are looking for?

Email me for more information about personalized distance coaching josh@joshheenan.com

or

Check out my Building The Perfect Pitcher Program for 52-weeks of customized training (including in-season)

Strength Program to Increase Velocity

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12-Week Weight Gain Coaching For Baseball Players

12-weeks ago a group of readers started my private distance weight gain program. After an initial evaluation, movement screen, and goal setting we proceeded with both a training and nutritional plan for each athlete.

The groups average results were:
-20lbs of bodyweight gained
-100+ lbs added to their front squat
-125+ lbs added to their deadlift
-10+ reps added to their chin-ups

I couldn’t be more proud of these athletes (and families!) for making the short term sacrifice of eating a large amount of food and truly dedicating themselves to hard training.

Although we do have one problem

I promised the person with the most dramatic transformation to receive a full refund for their hard work. After much deliberation with my colleagues, we have not been able to determine a winner, so I am enlisting you, my readers to help choose a winner.

Please Vote Below– Voting Ends Friday February 5th at Midnight!

 

Brad

Today I weight 221, a total weight gain of 23lbs.  I have been consistent with weight training throughout the entire 12 weeks. I was able to do a dead lift of 255 as of the end of my weight training. Before I started this training, the most I was attempting was 135. When I started I was doing about 4 or 5 chin ups, now I can do 12.  Since baseball practice started I have gone out and am only throwing about 70% effort and my coach noticed I’m throwing harder than last year. When I was pitching I was able to get 8 batters out in 25 pitches at practice. The most important thing is that a college coach I’m talking to noticed the big change in my size since I went to their training camp in the summer and they asked me to throw a “tryout” bullpen at the college next week. Each week I followed your advice and I never had a hard time reaching the weight goals; I was usually ahead of schedule. My goal was to get to 220 and I reached that with 2 weeks to go to the end of the weight program.

Brad

 

Garrett

First off, thanks for making my money well spent whether or not Garrett wins the contest.  I can tell a difference as well as many friends and family.

Though he didn’t meet the full expectations; we offer the following results:
Total weight gain – 139lb to 159lb
Squats – 135lb to 200lb
Chin-ups – 6 to 25
Pushups – 30 to 70
Dumbbell incline press – 30 lb to 60lb
these are all his working weights, not max outs.  – Garrett’s Father

Garrett

Keanu

My current weight is 171.8 after starting off on an even 148. Being up almost 24 lbs seems huge for 12-weeks worth of work. Strength wise I’ve been noticing major increases in each and every workout, but I haven’t been keeping track of how much exactly except in certain workouts like my rows being up 30 lbs and my deadlift going up 150+ lbs with a max that’s just shy of 200 lbs more than when I first started the program.

This whole experience has been very critical to me in not only playing baseball going forward, but in life because I always wanted to become a bigger person and weighing 150 on a good day wasn’t going to get me anywhere I wanted to go. I wish I could be gained more in this 3 month span, but I’ve learned a lot about how much I need to eat, on top of taking protein and creatine consistently. This definitely won’t be the end of my quest to gain muscle mass and I will without a doubt take what I have learned and incorporate it into my everyday life to become a stronger and better baseball player. Thank you for this opportunity, Josh.

Keanu

 

Who had the most dramatic transformation?

Brad
Garrett
Keanu

Do Quizzes

 

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What Does A 100MPH Fastball Look Like In The Gym?

Throwing 100MPH is the goal of many baseball players, pitchers and position players alike. 100 MPH is a tremendous goal, but to be realistic, on average less than 10 MLB pitchers touch 100MPH per season. There is a reason why guys like Aroldis Chapman make 8 million a year.

So how do you create the ability to throw that hard?

Great arm mechanics? YEP
Shoulder-hip separation? YEP
Adequate stride length? YEP

There is no substitute for great arm mechanics and throwing with maximum intent, but many throwers have pretty good arm mechanics and throw with intent. The biggest difference I see with our extremely hard throwers (95+MPH) is they are BIGGER AND STRONGER than those who throw with less velocity.

A great example of this is one of our guys in the Brewers Organization, Alex Farina. Alex touched 95 with regularity in his first season of pro ball.

Returning from the season Alex was a solid 215lbs. Not bad for a 6-foot tall athlete, but we knew he had some growing to do and some strength to gain.

Fast forward 5 months

Alex has busted his butt both in the weight room and kitchen. As of February 1st, he will be a solid 240 lbs. That’s a solid 25lbs to his frame in less than 5 months. What’s just as impressive (AND IMPORTANT!) is that his strength gains have matched every new pound of bodyweight. Sure, he can now deadlift over 600lbs and perform strict chin-ups with 75lbs of external load… for reps… BUT the real impressive feat of strength and power for Alex is his reverse lunge. See below

 

Many professional athletes wish to posses a 335lb back squat, their dream back squat is what Alex puts on his back and lunges… for reps.

Technique and position are incredibly important to our programming as this prevents injuries and allows us to transfer strength gains to the on-field needs of the athlete.

Think the lunge position matters to throw hard?

WE DO!

So what is your next step today to throw harder?

If you are local to our new facility in Stamford, CT shoot me a message (josh@joshheenan.com)

Not Local? No problem.
Check out my Building the Perfect Pitcher Program for the same template we have used to progress Alex since High School.
-Same Training Template (both in-season and out of season)
-Same Assessments
-Many of the same exercise progressions and much more!

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5 Reasons Why You Can’t Gain Weight

Having coached hundreds both in person and as distance clients that routinely put on 20-30lbs in their first 12 weeks of training. I can vouch that many are dedicated to reaching their goals but often have 1-2 major faults that inhibit them from putting on the weight they desire.

Here are my top 5 reasons why people are unsuccessful in gaining weight

 

5- You are not training with intensity

It’s beyond the scope of this article to dictate if you are on the correct training program or not to gain weight, but regardless of the program, you need to be training with intensity.

Intense training will create the physiological effects that will signal your body to increase muscle mass. Just as important, a solid training program executed with intensity will help increase appetite and allow you to consume more calories over time.

Don’t go through the motions, Train your butt off.

 

4- You don’t prioritize sleep

Sleep is the time to recover and grow.

Yann Le Meur

Many athletes stay up watching TV and playing video games until 2-4am. Leaving them only 4-6 hours to sleep. When you are able to get deep sleep, your body produces a hormone profile that is optimal for increasing muscle mass and dropping body fat.

For more tips on sleep check out my T-nation article 4 Sleep Strategies for Athletes’

 

3- You don’t meal prep

This one drives me absolutely nuts.

Without preparing your food in advance you are going to find it near impossible to get enough food in throughout the day. Unless you are a professional athlete, you have to contend with class and/or work on top of everyday life. Having a bunch of meals prepared and snacks always by your side is the easiest way to reach your goals.

I’ve had high school athletes hide PB&J in their backpacks and sneak them in during class or in between class.

I’ve had professional athletes prepare 10-20 meals prior to a long road trip where they know the only options will be McDonald’s for for dinner just about every night.

It doesn’t matter how you get it done, you need to consume enough nutrients for your body to grow. Make it easy on yourself and pack your meals.

 

2- You have the wrong mindset

Being a skinny kid gaining weight is uncomfortable. It requires preparation, extra time cooking, extra time cleaning, extra time eating, and food will get boring.

GET OVER IT

If it was easy EVERYONE would be their ideal bodyweight, throw 95MPH, and drop 500 foot bombs.

Having a task oriented mindset and understanding that being uncomfortable is a part of the process.

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1- You do not have big enough consequences and a support team

I’m a big fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Results-focused
Time-bound

Every weight gain athlete I’ve ever had in person or distance coached has implemented S.M.A.R.T. goals with weekly check-ins. These small weekly goals along with surrounding yourself with a team who has the experience and knowledge of how to add some serious weight in a short amount of time makes a world of difference. In our Southport facility, some of the best coaches we have are athletes who have previously gained 30-40 lbs in previous years talking to other athletes.

In regards to consequences, rarely does anyone ever fails to reach their goal when the stakes are high enough. In house, athletes often pick the punishment of eating a can of dog food if they miss a weekly goal. No wonder why no one misses goals.

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Move Fast, Throw Hard, Live Well – Early Off-Season

With the fall upon us and our baseball guys entering their off-season, we get an increase in volume of athletes looking to overhaul their fitness and performance training. The follow articles offer good info for the early off-season.

A Peek Into The Sleep Habits Of Teenagers Around The World – Sleep length and quality is not only important for recovery from training and sport, but is immense for long-term health. Sleep is one of the most abused recovery tool we have available for each and every athlete.

High Level Throwing – I had the pleasure of meeting Austin this past winter. Austin does a great job at breaking down high level throwing mechanics. This is the perfect time of year to implement Austin’s tools to fix your mechanics.

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Why Your Conditioning is Hurting Your Performance on the Mound – This throwback article gives some insight to how we condition pitcher and prepare our position players to have a powerful first step.

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Alex Farina Signs with Milwaukee Brewers

On August 2nd 2013, I made the following post on facebook:

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As I mentioned in that post, Alex is the type of client that makes me look great. Simply put, my job is to keep our athletes healthy and progressing while providing guidance wherever needed. For an athlete like Alex who shows up early, stays late, listens, asks well thought out questions, is process oriented, and consistent– he will be successful no matter what he puts his mind to.

Alex spent the summer entering his junior year of college split between the New England Collegiate Baseball League and the Cape Cod Baseball League. Having MLB scouts show interest there was some talk of getting drafted junior year, but to be honest, coming from a program with 3 draft picks in the last 34 years, it was a long shot and not expected.

Eventually, the draft came and went without a call and he reported back to the NECBL for the summer. During that time we spoke openly about how the next 12 months were going to go. The primary goal was to graduate on time with his mechanical engineering degree and play affiliated pro-ball whether or not he was drafted.

Speeding up to present time, Alex earned his degree and got the call he was waiting for from the Brewers and as I write this he is on a plane to their Arizona Rookie Ball affiliate. A well-earned opportunity for someone who dedicated themselves to taking one step at a time, staying focused, and never excepting anything less than being better than yesterday. That is how big goals are accomplished and dreams are realized.

farina

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