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“He’s been the same ever since I first saw him in spring training,” said Manuel. “He goes about his work the same way. He’s like a boxer that’s got a 10-round fight and he’s going to train for 20-25 rounds. That’s who he is.” Charlie Manuel on Roy Halladay
Lesson 9 – As soon as you sign a contract, the team is actively looking for your replacement.
In part three I talked at length about the separators of the game, or, in other words, skills that don’t necessarily take talent or natural athletic ability, but rather the mindfulness, responsibility, and toughness to make these tedious and often tricky parts of the sport your strengths.
It is absolutely crucial in baseball to have the basics mastered if you want to play for a long time. I can’t tell you how many players have fallen by the wayside who possess dominant physical tools, yet they still can’t throw an off speed pitch near the plate, control the running game, or sacrifice bunt.
That has ZERO to do with talent, but it has everything to do with effort, as my man Ray Lewis might say. Unfortunately for these players who rely to heavily on their God given ability, there is this thing called the MLB draft. Unlike other professional sports, baseball’s draft is in the middle of the competitive season. Teams assess their depth in their respective farm systems and from there get 40 ( used to be 50ish before the collective bargaining agreement est. 2012 ) selections with the order based on the previous year’s major league team record. This means each year that passes by, a plethora of younger, healthier, and fresher players are now on your heels.
As a competitor, this always frightened me a tad bit. In my early years with Atlanta, I would sit by the computer screen on draft day hoping that we would pick position players instead of stud lefty pitchers. Looking at it in a different light now, that pisses me the hell off. I realize that it was wasted energy and time I could have spent making myself non-expendible by learning and mastering those “controllables” of the game.
The lesson learned here is that you MUST have a sense of urgency in your training. You MUST dedicate yourself to the finer and less sexy parts of the game to be a true success. The game weeds out players so quickly nowadays. So if tonight you laid your head down on that pillow and don’t believe you became a better player, well, truth be told you don’t really want it bad enough. There are simply too many guys who do. You don’t deserve to play for a long time.
Lesson 10 – Having a short memory is easier said than done, but totally necessary.
The minor league and major league schedules are the longest of any professional sport to be sure. 142 games for the MILB, and 162 for the MLB. We only get around 10 days off in that stretch of games, so to say we cram a lot of playing into a summer would be an understatement.
As a pitcher, I understand roughly how many games I will pitch if I am healthy. It’s not really like high school or college where you get a complete week to rest and bounce back from a start. You pitch as a starter every 5th day. As a relief pitcher, I usually pitch once every 2 or 3 days. If I’m lucky to get a lot of rest, it will be somewhere around 4 days between outings. So adding that all up, starting pitchers get to pitch right around 25-30 times. Relief guys 40-50ish on average.
A big adjustment for me coming into professional baseball was being at the ballpark everyday. Just being there and knowing there were games for the next 29 out of 30 days in 4 or 5 different cities was overwhelming. Know how quick I would have to bounce back, good game or bad, made me a bit uneasy at first. After awhile though, I adjusted. No longer would one bad game be the end of the world for me like it used to be in amateur ball.
I learned from some great players by just watching the attitude they approached each day with. The best players had the most consistent approaches. Their routines, no matter how crazy, would keep them in the exact head space needed to succeed on the field. Hanging on to the previous nights struggles or successes wasn’t what the elite player did. You WILL burn out if you keep stressing about the past. My advice to younger players is to practice showing up to the ball field with the same energy and passion for the game everyday. It’s very easy to have a great attitude and take great BP when you have been on a hot streak. But can you come with that energy and effort when things are sucking? The best in the game do. They know it’s just their attitude above all that will change things around.
Lesson 11 – It’s really easy to piss off your arm –
Man oh man. I could write for days on this one, but I’ll keep it to the point. Like I mentioned above, the difference between the amateur seasons in high school and college compared to professional baseball is incredible. Not only do you have to bounce back twice as quickly mentally, but physically, the demand on your arm to perform at a high level is very difficult for a lot of us.
As soon as I got into pro ball, my arm immediately began bugging me. It wasn’t pain, just a different level of soreness I wasn’t used to. I was practicing everyday and getting off the mound every 2 or 3 in practice. In 2008, I began my first full 142 game season. I was 20 years old and healthy, but didn’t understand what it would take to complete the season healthy and strong. I made it to the last month of the season, and my shoulder eventually gave out on me in a bullpen session.
The next offseason I spent learning from Eric Cressey about the strategies I would need to take with me into the rest of my career if I wanted to remain on the field. From trial and error, listening to great coaches like Eric, and training my body and arm to withstand heavy workloads, below are some things I’ve learned to keep my arm performing at a high level.
– Icing isn’t the final answer for soreness. Remember that ice takes the inflammation down, but doesn’t put blood back to the areas of your arm that you need for them to recover.
– If you have a loose arm, don’t spend hardly any time stretching it. Instead, work on the stability of the joints. Rythmic stabilizations, strategic cuff work, throwing, and soft tissue manipulation is what you need most.
– Don’t baby your arm. Everyone has to throw the same amount pretty much. Get used to throwing everyday by stretching it out at a distance you can tolerate with a smooth arm action each day. Taking days off from throwing in season only makes you tighten up and lose precious feel. Feel great? Get off the mound for a few before game time if you are in relief.
– Running isn’t the key to a healthy arm. Maintaining strength levels, mobility in pitching specific ranges of motion (example- internal rotation of shoulder, extension and supination of elbow, front hip internal rotation, ankle mobility, thoracic spine mobility), adequate energy system levels, and keeping your weight at a good number are all more important factors than if you can run a mile in under 7 minutes or not.
Thanks for reading!