I’ve got a bone to pick. A few actually..but as a relatively newish retired baseball player, I’ve grown to see my past, the current state of the game, and the future of the sport in a different light.
When playing, I had blinders on. I was totally wrapped up and obsessed in accomplishment and achieving the highest level of my own individual human potential that I could give two shits about anything anyone else was doing.
I was in love with the game and the process.
I’ve ironically been very hesitant getting back into the baseball world post career for a few reasons. The first is that I became psychologically bored and aggravated with the game. Loads of being on the “other side of the fence” so to speak with rehab and being sidelined due to injury has a way of making a player iritable and hungry for something else..anything else besides baseball.
Long road rehabilitation has a way of detaching a competitor from the game or at minimum, inducing reflection on his or her craft.
Thats what the journey back from Tommy John, several shoulder setbacks, and a hamstring tear will teach you. The compilation of the hours alone, not competing, and drooling to get back give you no choice but to reflect and watch the game from a distance. It’s either that or drive yourself nuts worrying and overanalyzing to the point of insanity. It’s like keeping a tiger in it’s cage with all the necessary items to survive but not thrive. Taking competition away from a competitor is frustrating.
Anyways, being away has allowed me to see clearly the mistakes I’ve made, in addition to things I did really, really well which kept me in possession of a job as long as I possibly could have.
This is key because baseball is not a game of perfection. It is not linear. It is abstract, strange, and messy. It will screw the player who thinks it should be perfect. It will reward the player who respects it but doesn’t bow to it.
Unfortunately, I was one of those players who thought it should be perfect. I wanted the work I put in to be directly equal to the outcome I saw on the field. As I said before, the game is messy and doesn’t really mesh well with perfectionists and over achievers at all.
From being away for awhile, I see clearly the gaps that need filled in the game. I see what the underachievers do wrong, and I see where the overachievers screw themselves.
The ones that lie somewhere in the middle are the ones that survive. They are the ones that are rewarded in the game of baseball, and I suspect other sports as well.
Here’s one of those “gaps”..
Enter the offseason…A clean slate…A time to rejuvenate, relax, and recharge….right?….Kinda. The game goes on without you whether you like it or not. It’s a brutal business, and everyone who ever plays has a day when the game says it’s time to hang em up. As a ballplayer you have a pre-sized window in which you can either optimize your potential or spit it out like like a sunflower seed from the dugout on an August afternoon.
There are ceilings.
We haven’t found what they are yet, and YOU certainly haven’t discovered them in your athletic career unless of course you have truly given your soul to discover what the best of the performance world has to offer.
A big step, in my experience, is having a plan for when the season is over that basically outlines how to dominate the next one.
The following is a list of 4 ways many baseball players sabotage their offseason, and give away their potential to the universe along with solutions to mitigate the issues…
Most of your problems are as follows. Listen up baseballers..
1.) You don’t begin your preparation soon enough. – When the season ends, there is no question there are issues to resolve from a fitness standpoint, a movement standpoint, and likely a rehabilitation and arm care standpoint. I know the last thing you want to do the day after the season ends is get back in the gym, but the reality is your window closes on your human potential one day at a time…and it closes faster than you think.
No, this doesn’t mean go squat the world and run 10 miles on day one, but you should already have a plan of action. On day one or very soon their after, you need to get to work on your weaknesses. You must solve your aches and pains, and you must have a plan of action with your nutrition and strength/conditioning.
Action Step – Before your season ends, have a plan for how your offseason will evolve. Some questions that need answered are –
Where will I be training? Is it the best place available for the resources I have and have access to? Where will I throw once my throwing program begins?
On what date will I begin my skill work, my throwing program, and strength & conditioning program? Will this give me plenty of time to be more than prepared?
What are the core issues I need to address with my body and mind to make myself a better player?
What are the issues in my game that need improvement?
What are the nutritional deficiencies and gaps that I have? Do I need to gain muscle mass and weight or lose weight and become more fit?
What weight do I feel best playing at? What are my goals in this game, and how can next season get me closer?
Write these questions down. They all need to be answered before the offseason begins.
2.) You don’t get started soon enough on your skill work – Improving your weaknesses in the game can be a humbling experience. It’s like the cold. We avoid it at all costs, and seek the warm comfort. The same goes for sports. If we are good at throwing curveballs, we tend to throw a ton in practice to boost our egos. If we are a good hitter but a horse shit infielder, we find comfort in staying in the cage taking b.p. We stay away from the cold that is our weaknesses. Deliberate effort on the weak parts of our game is a grueling but necessary step during the offseason months.
The season sneaks up on you before you know it, so you better have some of these deficiencies addressed whether it’s hitting to the opposite field, a pickoff move to first base or getting a jump when stealing a base. If you’re not any better than you were at the end of last season, you don’t deserve a spot on the team or a job in your organization. It’s a simple as that. Brutal truth, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
Get to work and progress toward efficiency at these weaknesses as the offseason progresses. The physical issues like mobility restrictions, imbalances, and strength and conditioning improvement should be priority number one at the beginning, however.
3.) Your nutrition doesn’t have performance or even health in mind – Fellow Show Me Strength writer, and resident nutrition expert, Andrew Ferreira has written extensively on this topic as it pertains to performance in the baseball sphere.
I don’t need to delve further into the subject, as A.F. has written everything that you need to get started and successfully dominate the nutrition aspect of the season and offseason for baseball.
It’s a huge issue, however because you keep showing up to camp looking less than intimidating, and your insides aren’t functioning in a way that promotes performance.
In baseball, we must control the controllables which clearly means that we need to keep eating with on field and in gym performance/recovery in mind. As I said before, the door closes fast on your time to make a mark in the game, so you wouldn’t want to cite poor eating habits as a reason why you never reached your maximum potential.
Give those reads above some thought and start eating like a savage on a mission.
4.) You’re training doesn’t evolve with the spring in mind – There is nothing wrong with training hard and heavy as a baseball player. The timing of going hard and heavy, however, matters quite a bit.
I am guilty as charged with making the mistake of training too slow and too heavy late in a few of my offseason’s. As a result, I had a hard time feeling explosive right out of the gate in spring training. This was my own wrong doing, as I just love to lift heavy, but got caught up in pushing that specific training envelope too far into my winter.
The early winter months (typically Nov, Dec, Jan) long before your first practice is the time to make significant strength improvement. Waiting too long to train hard or continuing to train heavy too close to go time can cause you to be slow and unprepared as an explosive athlete on the field.
Here is a bare bones, simple guide to structuring your offseason training. This is by no means a specific program, but as a baseball player, you need to appreciate the different stages in the off-season process.
Beginning “restorative phase” (First 4-6 weeks) – Restore mobility and soft tissue restrictions. Take care of pain. Dial in nutrition as well as caffeine reliance. Begin strength and conditioning ramping toward the middle phase. Pick a date to get started on a throwing program, and build your body and prepare your arm accordingly. Get on a solid sleep schedule. Starting on day one of your offseason, you need to start the process of resetting your body after a long season that has deteriorated your health. Foam rolling alone might get you sweating, but that’s exactly why you must get started right away.
Middle “gains phase” (The middle chunk of your offseason. At least a month after the restorative phase, and ending around 4-8 weeks weeks before your first official team practice.) Primary focus on strength development, energy systems development, arm strength, and throwing volume. This is where the deposits are made into your performance bank account. This is where you make the biggest changes to your body and your capabilities in terms of resiliency and performance. These winter months will make or break your offseason, and will truly determine if you reach your potential or not. By now you should be getting significantly stronger, more powerful, and more healthy. You should be eating with your goals in mind, and sleeping/recovering like a beast. Leading into the final phase, you should be moving optimally, have plenty of applicable strength for the sport, and be free of nagging pains. This will be huge as you dedicate the next phase to working yourself into game shape.
End or “refinery phase” (Last 8-12 weeks before spring training, tryouts, or first practice) – Primary focus on skill work, explosive/speed work, maintaining strength gains, and increasing arm speed. In my experience, this is the most fun part of the offseason if timed correctly. There were a couple situations where I pushed my strength end of the continuum too hard and got started too late on the refinery phase. Big mistake. On the flip side, when I did time it right, I went into this stage excited and more than prepared for the ensuing skill, speed, and refinery work. This is the time to start ramping up the sprint work to a appropriate level, increase your intensity off the mound, and get your swing dialed in. Strength work should be fast, not get you too sore, and mimic the explosiveness required on the field. Of course we are still hammering the mobility and soft tissue stuff, but more from a maintenance standpoint. Everything you do at this stage should be geared around feeling good, feeling fast, and feeling ready for the demands at your position. You’ve put the plan in place, done the restorative work on your imbalances and restriction. You’ve put on applicable strength. Now’s the time to become the athlete.
Don’t screw up these phases.
Know the time to ramp, train, and refine the animal you intend to be this season.
If you need more help, we’ll be right here showmestrength.com/coaching