By Christopher Gumina,
The weather outside may be dismal, and springtime might seem far off making it feel like a bleak time for many young baseball players who dream of a first pitch on a sunny day. However, rather than pining away at home and giving in to the winter-time blues, young players can prepare for the upcoming season by joining an offseason winter training program. Not only can it provide a leg up on the competition, but it can also help prevent baseball-related injuries.
Adam Virant, the Director of Baseball at Bulldog Ball Club in Manhattan, is a big proponent of offseason training and why it is so important for young ballplayers. “The idea is every single one of these baseball players is going to play baseball the first weekend in April,” says Virant, “So they have to be ready to go 100 percent. They need to be able to sprint 100 percent, throw a ball 100 percent, and swing a bat 100 percent by that time, and all of these exercises…are going to allow them to be able to follow through 100 percent, without the risk of injury.”
Clearly, Virant is dedicated to helping young players reach their true potential and ensuring that they do so the right way. He begins by saying that although there are many positions on a field, most ballplayers need to focus on many of the same key areas to be successful. He explained that some aspects of baseball, such as rotational movements (i.e. swinging a bat or following through on a throw), apply to all players, no matter what position they play. He also mentions that all players need to work on their flexibility, strength, and quickness.
In regards to specific exercises, Virant explained those in greater detail: “With regard to arm strengthening, what we do is teach players flexibility through different types of stretches, which is really important to help blood flow. We train players with weighted, sand-filled plastic balls. They’re heavier and players are able to throw these in a way that doesn’t create a lot of stress on their arms. For rotational, for that turning-type movement, we do a lot of medicine ball work…to build up the core area. You have to have a strong core in order to throw a baseball and swing a bat hard. And then the last piece is that explosiveness, the quickness.…We teach that through a broad range of ankle-mobility- and hip-mobility-type exercises.”
Virant also understands that, for various reasons, some athletes simply can’t attend a formal winter training session, be it because of cost, transportation, or other obligations. For those athletes, the most important thing is that they still remain active. “You just can’t sit at home eating popcorn and Pop Tarts and waiting for the first pitch in April,” he says. He then mentioned that common baseball exercises, which can be done at home, are easily found on YouTube and that the Internet is a young ballplayer’s best friend.
Finally, Virant explained that although improving play on the field is the main objective of these training sessions, it’s not the only one: “Winter training, offseason training, it’s fun. It can be fun, and we know that. We know a lot more about how to train young players nowadays than ever before, and the main thing is you’ve got to make it fun, and it is. It is fun.”
Chris Gumina is a member of our team of junior journalists. He is an 8th grader at The Dalton School in Manhattan.
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