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YEAR-ROUND-COVER

Jaeger Sports Founder Alan Jaeger has released his Year Round Throwing Manual October 26th at 6pm PST.

One of the primary goals of every athlete is to optimize their skills and abilities. In baseball, there is not a more important skill than throwing. Put rather bluntly, if you can’t throw, you can’t play.

But throwing is more than just being injury free. It should be the goal of every baseball player to find out “what’s in your arm” — to find out how healthy, strong and durable 

your arm can be. Considering that pitching wins championships and defense clearly influences games it’s safe to say that throwing — and more specifically, arm training and development — should be given it’s proper due.

Our philosophy toward throwing is simple — the arm is waiting and willing to go to work for us. It has so much potential and upside if given the time and attention. And contrary to opinions that suggest that you “only have so many throws in your arm”, we come from an entirely different school of thought whereby you “build” throws in your arm by throwing more, rather than less. Just as you don’t “count” how many steps you take each day for fear of “using them up”, the arm responds best to activity rather than inactivity. The arm is ready to go to work for you — the questions is, are you ready to make the investment into it?

Over the past 25 years we have not only seen and experienced the incredible benefits of a well trained arm, but likewise, how avoidable arm injuries can be if the “Seasons” or “Periods” throughout the year are navigated properly: the Off-Season Build Up (Period 1), the In-Season Maintenance (Period 2), Rest Periods (Period 3) and the Summer Months (Period 4).

As you will see, our Year Round Throwing Manual is designed to do just this — address these “seasons” with a plan that helps you understand, strategically, “when” to Build Up, “how” to Maintenance, “when” to Rest, and “how” to navigate the Summer Months.

This is best accomplished by understanding a few of our most essential principles up front, namely: 1) That all arms are unique, 2) The importance of “listening to the arm” and allowing it to dictate what it needs from day to day, 3) The positive effects on an arm (Health, Strength, Endurance, improved Recovery Period) by throwing more, rather than less, and 4) The importance of Arm Care and Long Toss.

As you will see, figuring out how to navigate an entire year can be very tricky. Therefore, the goal of our Year Round Throwing Manual is to take the guess work out — to establish a plan that makes sense and is easy to follow…a plan that gives you clarity and confidence as you make your way through each season.

In addition to the guidelines of the Year Round Throwing Plan, you will also find an Addendum section at the end of the Manual that will address a number of additional topics, including: the Mental Side of Throwing, Pitch Counts, Rehabilitation Protocols, Inclement Weather (Indoor) Training, and Protecting Your Arm as you move forward in your career.

As you implement this Year Round Throwing Plan, you may be pleasantly surprised how Healthy, Strong, Durable and Accurate your arm can become just by making a major investment into it, and how well it can actually thrive throughout the year.

It’s simply amazing what our bodies (arms) are capable of doing if there is a clear and direct intention toward training, along with a map that gives us the guidance to best navigate that path. This Manual was written with this in mind.

Enjoy the process.

—  Alan Jaeger

To purchase the Year Round Throwing Manual Click Here

 

What is covered in the Year Round Throwing Manual

Introduction/Year Round Plan for Arm Training, Maintenance,

• Rest & Protection

• The Four “Periods” of the Year Round Plan

• 4 Keys to Training the Arm

• Throwing Philosophy: Principle Number One — Listen to your Arm

• The Role of Long Toss (Stretching Out & Pulling Down)

• Note: Warning Regarding Pull Downs

• Crow Hopping

• “When” to Start your Throwing Cycle

• “How” to Approach your Throwing Cycle

• Pre-Throwing Arm Care (Arm Circles, Band Work)

• Arm Circles

• Band Work

• Band Warning

• Post Throwing Arm Care

• PERIOD 1: Off Season Build Up Overview

• Building The Base, Stacking The Base, Volume Over Distance

• Sample Schedule, Period 1, Off-Season Build Up

• PERIOD 2: In Season Maintenance (Fall/Winter) — Integrating Mound Work

• In Season (Fall/Winter) — The Introduction of Mound Work

• PERIOD 3: Rest, Restore, Recover (Early Winter, Prior to the Spring Season)

• Rest Period is over (Fall/Winter) – Build Up into the Spring (Period 1 Revisited)

• The Spring Is Here — In Season Throwing and Maintenance (Period 2 Revisited)

• Starting Pitchers 5 or 7 Day Cycle with Sample Schedule

• In Season, 7 Day Routine & Sample Schedule (Cycle)

• Relief Pitchers Guidelines — “Opening The Door, Keeping The Arm Incubated”

• Summary, Relief Pitchers

• Summary, In Season (Spring)

• PERIOD 4: The Summer Is Here — Transitioning From Spring Into Summer, And Summer Into Fall (Plus Rest Period Revisited)

• Options to Take a Mini-Break in the Summer

• The Summer In Summary (Navigating The Summer)

• A Reminder About Arm Care During Extended Breaks

• The Fall/Winter is here again — Summary of the Year Round Program

 

ADDENDUM

 

• Additional Topics To Keep Your Arm Healthy Year Round

• Mental Training and Throwing

• Position Players/Catchers and Throwing Mechanics: Macro and Micro.

• Suggestions For Two Way Players

Post  Throwing  Arm Care Revisited

• Inclement Weather (Indoor) Throwing

• YOUR Arm Knows Best: How to Protect Your Arm: Stand Your Ground & Do Your Homework — Your Arm Knows Best

• Pitch Counts

• Rehabilitation Protocols for players — Rehabilitation Versus Training

• Soreness versus Pain

• For The Kids

• Resources: Arm Training/Sport Science/Strength and Conditioning

 

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Source: Collegiate Baseball Magazine | Published: January 2014
By Alan Jaeger

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Part 2 of a two part series: Batters Box Management

 

Introduction

(Part 2 of a 2 Part Series)

The Swing follows the mind, not the other way around

Hitting is not just about physical mechanics. Though, mechanics are important in the grand scheme of things, the support of a players mind, or lack thereof, is what ultimately dictates a hitters success.

When hitters go from batting practice to game situations they simply don’t forget how to swing a bat. They’ve had thousands and thousands of mechanical repetitions. But what mental repetitions have hitters earned through practice to rely on when they enter the batters box? What mental skills are in place to deal with the potential pressures, consequences and statistics of a game situation? What have hitters done through a daily mental practice to insure that their mind is Quiet, Clear, Relaxed and Free? Does a physically prepared swing necessarily translate into a prepared mind?

One of the major reasons why hitters may find that their physically prepared swing may not be translating into game situations is because they haven’t worked on their mental approach to hitting. In many cases, it may simply be because they’ve never delved into this part of the game…they’ve never identified what their mental approach is, and/or how to work on it through various Drills, Strategies and Mental Exercises (e.g. Relaxation, Imagery, Visualization).

The goal of this article is to do just that — to help you understand how to have a more consistent, mental approach to hitting by: 1) incorporating various mental drills that can be applied on a daily basis (at the practice field) without even swinging a bat, 2) understanding, philosophically, the importance of eliminating the distinction between the practice field and the game environment, and 3) developing a daily mental practice routine away from the playing field.

For unless the mental approach to hitting is identified and addressed, players (and coaches) may wonder why a physically, well earned swing, is not translating into game situations.

“It’s not your swing that changes between the lines”

In all of my years of consulting, it seems pretty clear that most hitters seem to make a major distinction between how they approach and experience the “practice” environment, and how they approach and experience the “performance” environment. For example, in the practice environment, players tend to get used to repeating their swing in a “relaxed” state of mind compared to the potential “stressors” of a game situation. They get “familiar” with this environment, as does their mind, because there aren’t any “real” distractions or consequences at stake (winning, losing, statistics, playing time).

As familiar as practice is, game situations are inversely “unfamiliar” (at least until the daily schedule of professional baseball). For example, the average at-bat in a game situation may last one to two minutes. Four to five at-bats a game equate to approximately five to ten minutes — five to ten minutes of being in an actual game situation “mind-set” pales in comparison to the countless hours a week in a practice environment. The reality is, players spend way more time a “practice” mode, and thus, tend to get a false sense of comfort with their preparation.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the typical characteristics that players will tend to associate with a “practice situation” relative to that of a “game situation”. These characteristics include: relaxed, clear minded, free, confident and the absence of major distractions (consequences, statistics, fans, media, umpires, scouts, etc.). Now let’s take a look at those characteristics that may be associated with a game situation because things “count”: tension, pressure, over-thinking and the presence of major distractions (consequences, statistics, fans, media, umpires, scouts, etc.).

What do you think happens when the typical hitter crosses the line and puts the uniform on? Do you think that their mind is as relaxed and comfortable as it is in practice? Do you think that they are the same hitter in the batters box on game day? For most hitters, “putting the uniform on” when “statistics count” can bring into play a lot more variables not only because “consequences” are now in play, but because the mind may be dealing with the foreign elements of a game situation. Unlike a players physical swing, which doesn’t need to “compute” the changing environment, the mind will tend to need some type of mental strategy and/or skill work to make the adjustments to this potentially foreign territory.

In short, the variables that a hitter must deal with in a game situation are relatively foreign compared to the familiarity of a practice environment. This is the irony of why a large percentage of hitters, who work so hard on their hitting in practice, may find it difficult to translate this hard work into a game situation.

Mental Training: Skills Are Learned And Earned

So, how do you work on your mind? How do you get your “mental mechanics” to be as reliable and consistent as your physical mechanics? Well, the first thing you must do is realize that you earned your physical swing mechanics, and that earning your mental mechanics aren’t any different.

The good news is that your mind, like your swing, wants to be trained, taught and practiced. But to do this, it needs your help…it needs input.

Files in the Computer

The beauty of a computer is that it can be programmed to do what you want it to do. It can store files that can be retrieved much in the same manner that the human brain stores memory that can be retrieved. This is the reason why you don’t think about “how” to ride a bike. You do it because the muscle memory has been ingrained and the brain “recalls” those “files”. It happens unconsciously.

Similarly, physical swing mechanics get ingrained due to muscle memory and become stored as a “file”. This is why you don’t think about your mechanics while you are hitting. You also just do it. Theoretically, you could say that from a physical standpoint, your swing mechanics also happen unconsciously.

But what happens when you haven’t “filed” away any mental mechanics? What happens when you get into a game situation and you want to recall such files as clear, relax, free, patient, disciplined, confident, and they haven’t been “programmed”? Not to mention that the computer tends to be more inefficient when it is cluttered by the potential additional “data” of a game situation (potential consequences, statistics, results, distractions). How efficient is your computer going to run now? How clear are your messages going to be? How smooth are your actions going to be? If you don’t store “mental files” through mental practice then how can you expect to recall any of this data from your computer?

4 Drills to Input Data (Files) into the Mind and Body

“Don’t just know your swing…know your mind”

The following 4 drills were designed to help hitters identify their mental approach to hitting by understanding what it means to 1) Get in the batters box with an ideal state of mind (Drills #1 and #2), 2) Get to know their ideal hitting zones through improved pitch selection and discipline (Drill #3), and 3) Learn to maintain the same approach by eliminating the consequences of the situation by committing to their process (Drill #4). Drill #4 helps hitters learn to focus on what they can control (their process) rather than those things that tend to be out of their control.

Drill #1: The Box of Unconscious

When you get down to the most fundamental elements of having a good at-bat, it would be hard to disagree with the notion that it starts with a clear and relaxed mind. When the mind is clear and relaxed, it’s safe to say that your natural instincts (reactions) are in the most ideal position to take over without any inhibition.

Likewise, physical muscle memory (files) can best take over when tension, stress and pressure is not blocking its path. A relaxed mind also allows you to see the ball better, longer and more specifically. In baseball terms, this equates, to more patience and better plate discipline. With improvement in those two areas alone, we’re off to a great start.

In order to develop a clear and relaxed mind in the batters box it would be helpful to learn how to “clear” and “relax” your mind prior to getting in the batters box. This can be done several different ways: 1) by taking 10-15 deep breaths, 2) by focusing on a specific spot on either your bat, batting glove or other specific spot on the field for a period of time, 3) by using an image or visual that helps you symbolically identify with this feeling, like a clear sky or placid lake (Note: The familiarity of a daily mental training practice, ie breath work, can be extremely helpful in enabling you get to this place more effectively (Please see Mental Practice Plans, Collegiate Baseball, January 2012 — http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php?psid=31).

In any case, in Drill #1, the idea is to spend a few minutes getting as clear and relaxed as possible prior to entering the batters box. For many hitters, this alone can be extremely valuable by simply bringing into their awareness what their “mind-set” is like both outside, and inside the batters box. This Drill also provides a second major benefit in that the effectiveness of the next 3 drills are impacted by how clear and relaxed you can get the mind (and body) to be.

Drill #1 is called the “Box of Unconscious” for just this reason — the idea is that once the mind and body are in an ideal state, we want to transfer this state into the batters box without having any other thoughts on our mind, including, swinging the bat (all 3 drills are done with a bat in hand, but without swinging).

Since the batters box has a deleination already (the chalk), the idea is that once a players steps into the “Box of “Unconsciousness”, they are in instinct mode. No thought…pure reaction. This is an ideal state of mind because senses are heightened, and the mind can see things clearer (in the same manner that hitters will see a ball extremely well when they are bunting or given the take sign on a 3-0 pitch).

The rule of thumb here is that the hitter doesn’t step into the batters box until their mind is as clear, quiet and as thought-less as possible.

Thus, the hitter should draw a line in the batters box (if it’s not already chalked) and make a distinction between “inside” and “outside” the batters box. Inside the batters box represents “The Box of Unconscious.” Anything the hitter would theoretically want to think about (mechanics, the count, the defense, coaches sign, etc) must be done outside the batters box. The mind needs to be as quiet, silent and thought-less as possible before entering the box (they are allowed to have a “visual”, as will be discussed later).

Practice this drill each day, and see if you can get each hitter to a point where they are getting much better (skilled) at “getting into the batters box with little or nothing on your mind”. This is invaluable to not only understanding the importance of getting into the batters box “with a quiet mind”, but creating an awareness of their mental and physical state in the batters box. By learning how to get in the batters box with a clear mind and relaxed body in Drill #1, it not only bring a high level of awareness of optimizing your state of mind in the batters box, but again, sets the stage for optimizing drills 2, 3 and 4.

Note: If you find that hitters have a hard time making this transition from “thinking” to non-thinking at first, it‘s simply a sign that hitters minds may be typically more active then they were aware of. Naturally, this is very useful information.

Drill #2: Identifying Your Ideal State of Mind

“When you’re not free in the mind, you’re not free in the swing”

What is the most ideal state of mind to be in when hitting? If you asked 100 successful hitters you’ll probably hear them describe very similar characteristics: relaxation, clarity of mind, discipline, balance, confidence. Not that there aren’t other characteristics to include, but I think it’s safe to say that if a players mind is Clear, Relaxed and Confident, they are in a great position to excel.

Drill #2 is designed to help players become both aware of their ideal state of mind when they are in the batters box, and their ability to maintain this state of mind while tracking balls.

The way this drill works is each hitter should pick approximately three of the most ideal characteristics (have them write these down ahead of time) that they identify with both physically and mentally when they are in the batters box (e.g. Clear, Relaxed, Trusting). Next, have each player enter the “Box of Unconscious” experiencing these feelings as much as possible.

Once in the box, the goal of this drill is to see how well each hitter can maintain those characteristics that had previously been written down (e.g Clear, Relaxed, Trusting) as a ball is thrown to them by someone standing approximately 45 feet away (at about 50% of batting practice speed). As each hitter tracks the ball from the release point until the ball crosses the plate, they should rate themselves on how well they experienced and maintained these characteristics on a scale of 1 to 100. This rating is based on how each hitters mind responded in relation to their “ideal” state of mind. If the mind/body was completely immersed with these three predetermined characteristics (e.g. Clear, Relaxed, Trusting) then they would give themselves a high rating, in the range of 90-100. If the hitter felt considerably tense, anxious, impatient, over-analytical, etc., they would then rate themselves near the bottom of the scale, like 0-20.

As a side note, over a 15 year stretch of doing these drills with professional hitters for the first time, the typical “rating” would average around 55 — and this was done in a bull-pen environment, in the Fall, with very little distractions around (with practice, these numbers were consistently 80 and above). This shows you how much may be going on in the mind without even the potential added distractions, pressures and consequences of a game situation.

You can see that if a well prepared swing is guided by a mind that has not been trained to identify with it’s most strategically beneficial qualities (e.g. Relaxed, Clarity, Trust), it would be unrealistic to assume that these ideal characteristics would translate into game situation, where even a well prepared swing can be especially vulnerable to the potential stressors and consequences of a game situation without any mental practice.

Essentially, Drill #2 is designed to isolate the mind and evaluate its’ response to tracking pitches without worrying about having to focus on swing mechanics, or even hitting the ball. It’s the mind that you are working on here, not your swing. As you get more practiced at these drills, you will tend to find that your mind is more in tune and identified with this ideal state of mind rather than the typical things a hitter may think about in batting practice or game situations. And this is a major goal of mental practice — to train your mind how to default to those characteristics that are going to best support you in a game situation (e.g. Relaxed, Clarity, Trust), rather than those characteristics that may come with the environment of a game environment.

Drill 3: Plate Discipline — Identifying Your Hitting Lanes

Give the mind a reason to swing at strikes

Once you’ve become well practiced at entering the Box Of Unconscious with your Ideal State Of Mind, you are in an great position to see the ball longer, clearer and with more patience and discipline. For any hitter, this is so important because hitting is so much about pitch selection and plate discipline.

Drill #3 is about knowing the strike zone, and identifying your most ideal hitting zones or lanes.

As you know, there are 3 basic hitting zones: the inner (Lane 1), middle (Lane 2) and outer portion (Lane 3) of the plate. If each hitter sees the ball better as a result of getting into the Box Of Unconscious effectively (Drill #1), and having a 90-100 rating (Drill 2), then they are already in a better position to see and identify their specific hitting lanes more clearly. Seeing the ball more clearly naturally allows hitters to distinguish between those lanes that they want to swing at (green light) and those they want to avoid (red light).

In Drill #3, the goal of the hitter is to identify their ideal fastball to hit (you can eventually work on other pitches) on the inner third of the plate, or “lane” 1 (we’ll do lane 2 and 3 in a moment). The idea is that the “Lane” starts at the pitchers release point and ends at the point of contact on the sweet part of the bat. This lane should be at the ideal height over the inner third of the plate (e.g. thigh high), and should be a pitch that is drivable. To keep it very specific, the lane should be about the size of a softball in diameter (eventually, you’ll probably end up hitting balls well that are a little broader, or blend into your ideal lane 2 and 3).

The way this drill works is as follows — again, have someone throw fastballs at 50% speed from about 45 feet away. The hitters job is to say “yes” only if the ball is in lane 1, again, using the circumference of a softball as the measuring stick. The idea is to be so specific within this hitting lane that anything else becomes a “no” (even an ideal pitch in lane 2 or 3). The first time you do this, you may find it difficult to identify and isolate only lane 1, and if you are able to identify it as being in the correct lane, saying “yes” before the ball crosses the plate. With practice, hitters will tend to not only know their lanes more consistently, but the “yes’s” will tend to come with less “mental effort” and closer to the pitchers’ release point.

This is a powerful connection for the hitter to make. To be able to pick up the ball closer to the pitchers release point has so much to do with a clear, patient and disciplined mind. This drill would be extremely beneficial for a hitter who only has a split second to decide whether or not to swing. It also starts to reinforce to each hitter through repetition and muscle memory what pitches they will naturally swing at and what pitches they will naturally take. All of a sudden a hitters mind is getting used to swinging at specific hitting lanes (green light) while getting used to taking balls outside of these hitting lanes (red light).

One of the great benefits of this drill is that the mind wants to get specific — it wants a game plan — it wants to know where to go, and where not to go. With that in mind, Drill #3 is about teaching the mind how to “hunt” for those lanes it’s interested in, and leave alone those lanes that can get the hitter in trouble. This “sculpting” of the mind helps the mind assimilates to those specific, ideal hitting lanes, or “bread and butter lanes” (this drill is designed to optimize your most preferred zones in “luxury counts”).

This is why you hear hitters talking about “getting locked-in”. They may not realize it but their mind is so tuned into what it wants and what it expects. This expectation of the lane creates a sensation or “light” that attracts the muscle memory to respond to it because of the practice. What can then happen in a game situation is that if the pitch is a ball or outside the stored lanes, the mind can be in a position to not respond to it (red light). If you train the mind to look for something specific through repetition then it tends to gravitate toward that stimuli. This is classic habituation — the body responding to a specific reinforcement that has been repeated over and over.

The same is done for Lanes 2 and 3. Hitters should be only looking for the perfect pitch to hit in Lane 2. If the perfect pitch comes into Lane 1, the response is still a “no”. Remember, we are working on lane identification and plate discipline, not hitting at this point.

When a player can stand in the batters box with their mind at a rating of 90-100, and their “yes’s” are happening naturally and closer to the pitchers release point, than you know that their mind is being sculpted and developed just as their physical mechanics have been developed. And just as the physical swing has been well practiced to be relied on, the practicing of these lanes can lead to mental reliability in game situations. Remember, reliability leads to trust. Trust is the source of confidence.

Drill #4: Consequential At-Bats — Eliminating the Distinction

‘When the mind is consumed by the Process of hitting, consequences eliminate themselves”

Once players can get into the “Box of Unconscious” with a 90-100 state of mind, and have “filed” away both their hitting (green) and non hitting (red) lanes, you can now work on teaching hitters how to “stay connected” or default back to their mental practice (Drills 1, 2, 3) without focusing on the potential distractions of a game situation. Through this drill, you’ll find out if players are able to maintain these drills or approach (process) or whether or not they are effected by game like situations that are “simulated” in this drill.

For Drill #4, call out a specific, consequential situation (e.g. bases loaded, winning run on third) prior to each hitter entering the Box of Unconscious. Then, remind them that the situation is actually irrelevant because their process (commitment to the way they get into the box, and their commitment to the hitting lane they are looking for) is all that matters.

Next, ask each hitter to choose a lane (which is based on favorable counts, for example, 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1). When hitters have the luxury to look for a specific “bread and butter” lane, their mind will tend to want to “recall” those lanes that have been previously ingrained. Though, this approach is based on luxury counts, and specific lanes, a player still has a great chance of hitting other pitches that are “close” to this predetermined lane (green lights) due to previous mental practice. Even with two strikes, hitters can’t really afford to sit on one lane, they can still trust that their lanes will “take over” (Note: the more ingrained these lanes get the more a player can look for a specific lane and still react instinctively to the other lanes).

The idea of this drill is to prove to each hitter that when they trust their process, consequences are naturally eliminated. In other words, each hitter no longer needs to worry about the consequences of the situation because they are too preoccupied with their approach or process. This is the key to a great at-bat — to be so consumed by your approach that everything else becomes irrelevant — to be so consumed by the present moment that the past and future cease to exist.

Thus, Drill #4 is about learning to rely on a hitters process (Drills 1, 2, 3) rather than “buying” into the consequences of the at bat. By having the ability, through practice, to get into the batters box (Box Of Unconscious) with an ideal state of mind and know to look for an ideal lane (visual) that the mind has been trained to look for (green light), each hitter can learn to focus on committing to a plan (process) that has been put in place.

Ideally, when a hitter sees that the “bases are loaded” or the winning run is on third in a game situation, the situation can be seen as secondary if the mind has been trained to default back to its plan (process).

Heed The Call

“Prepare your mind and your swing will follow…not the other way around”

Physical mechanics rarely change unless the mind changes from one environment to the next. Because the mind is more of an unknown commodity due to its lack of training and skill development, it’s safe to say that until the mind gets a great deal more of the attention it deserves, hitters may be rolling the dice with their careers.

Remember, skills like Relaxation, Clarity, Confidence, Discipline and Freedom are earned. These four drills were designed to provide some “practice time” and mental development to prepare the mind so it can be better prepared to be relied upon — that it is in a better position to default to those things that have to do with your approach or process in a game situation. And once these drills have had a chance to be integrated, hitting can be simplified to mastering your process and recognizing that if anything else comes into your mind, it is secondary.

But keep in mind that as beneficial as these drills can be, they are just part of the training. I would strongly suggest that you consider and additional 10-20 minutes a day of some form of mental practice (Relaxation, Breath Work, Meditation, Visualization) away from the playing field to augment these drills (Please see Mental Practice Plans, Collegiate Baseball, January 2012 — http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php?psid=31).

Remember, the mind wants to be developed like any other skill. I hope you make the time to nurture it.

Alan Jaeger has consulted with several high school/college programs including National Champions UCLA (2013), U of Arizona (2012) and Cal State Fullerton (2004), and MLB Organizations including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians. For more information about Jaeger Sports and their products (“Thrive On Throwing 2” DVD or Digital Download, J-Bands and Mental Training Book, “Getting Focused, Staying Focused”), please visit their website at www.jaegersports.com or call 310-665-0746. You may also download additional articles/videos at http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php/, and you tube.com, keyword jaeger sports. Twitter: @jaegersports

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Source: Collegiate Baseball Magazine | Published: January 2014
By Alan Jaeger

(Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)

Mental Game Management: In Game Strategies for Pitchers and Hitters

Process Oriented: To be consumed by your current action independent of the consequences of your action

The “Mental Game” may be a rather broad topic, but ultimately, it can be broken down into two fundamental categories: “Game Management” and “Mental Practice”.

In a recent Collegiate Baseball article entitled “Mental Practice Plans” (January, 2012), I specifically addressed the importance of implementing Mental Practice on a DAILY basis as part of any player or coach’s Practice Plan.  Though I still feel that Mental Practice (e.g. Relaxation, Visualization, Meditation) is where the rubber hit’s the road for a players Mental Game development, how players strategically “Manage” their mental approach in “Game situations” is also paramount to a players performance between the lines.

This concept of “Managing the Game” naturally has many aspects (pitching, hitting, defense, throwing, base running).  However, for the purpose of this article I am only going to address two of the most primary aspects of baseball: Pitching (Mound Management) and Hitting (Batters Box Management).

 

Part 1: Mound Management

“Be great at Committing to your Process — everything else is secondary”

Being “Process Oriented” (as opposed to Result Oriented) is the single most important principle to understand about a players’ Mental Game approach.  Being Process Oriented means that you are so committed to this action that the results of your action no longer exist.  The present moment is all that matters.  And the instinctive nature of an athlete can take over because “thoughts” cease to exist.

This state of mind, which has also been characterized by being in The Zone or being Unconscious, allows the athlete to feel a sense of relaxation, freedom and trust because the only thing that matters is NOW — the mind is no longer concerned with what happened, or what may happen because it is too preoccupied with what is happening.

The irony is that this state of mind seems to be more familiar in practice situations because there tends to be little “real” consequences at stake in practice, and little to think about.  However, in game situations, when the uniform goes on, statistics count, wins and losses are at stake and peers and scouts are watching, this environment tends to invite a lot more “variables”.  Because things begin to matter, players seem to be more vulnerable to focusing on the consequences of their actions, rather than the actions themselves.  And these “variables” can bring elements that didn’t exist in the practice environment, like stress, tension, distractions and over thinking.

In the case of a Pitcher, these variables may include: the “consequences of my next pitch”, “thinking about what may happen or what did happen”, “worrying how my coaches/teammates are judging me”, “who’s in the stands”, “statistics”, “mechanics” and so on.  These variables are countless and have nothing to do with a pitchers ultimate goal — to Identify what his or her Process (approach) is, Commit to it and Trust it.

 

Constant Versus Variables

The only time you see obstacles is when you take your eyes off of your focus

Whereas consequences and results can have countless “variables” the Process is more of a “constant” — it is a few, predetermined components that each individual pitcher identifies as their key to executing their best pitch possible.

For example, the following basic elements illustrate what a typical pitchers Process could look like: 1) Take a Deep Breath, 2) Look for a Focal Point (Intent), 3) Have a simple mechanical cue, and 4) Attack the Focal Point (Commit).  Because these four elements (in this example) are both tactical and knowable it will tend to be very relaxing to the mind.  Also, because they are constants, ANYTHING else that may come up in a pitchers mind outside of these constants (e.g. the future or past, the consequences or results of their action), can now be considered a “variable”.  Thus, your Process keeps things simple — it is based on a few predetermined elements that you have identified as putting you in the best position possible to execute your most ideal pitch;  elements that are intrinsically motivated, repeatable,  and independent of the variables going on around you.

The beauty of having this Process Oriented plan in place is that whatever components you choose, they are yours and they are knowable.  Again, it is a relief (and advantageous) to the mind to know that there are just a few constants in place that can be relied on rather than having to worry about innumerable “variables” that may come up in game situations.

Conversely, without a Process in place for the mind to focus on pitchers may be vulnerable to over thinking simply because baseball has so much “dead time” (30 seconds between pitches, 30 minutes between at-bats), and because it’s a statistics driven sport (e.g. Batting Average/ERA).  It’s probably not unusual for players to focus on things in game situations like, “how many hits do I have”, “how many innings have I thrown”, “what inning is it”, “what’s the score”, “where’s my batting average or era at now”, and so on.  Dead time and Statistics are two factors that can put players in a vulnerable position in game situations.  And performing independent of “thoughts and statistics” could be seen as quite challenging — thoughts that may have nothing to do with a players ideal approach or Process — thoughts that have nothing to do with putting a player in the best position possible to execute their plan.

 

Defining A Typical Pitchers Process

From my experience of working with pitchers over the years I have found that the characteristics of their Process tends to be very similar.  For example, in the previous section, where we defined the Process with four checkpoints — 1) Deep Breath, 2) Look for Focal Point, 3) Mechanical Cue, and 4) Commitment to Focal Point — I have found that most pitchers eventually identify with a similar approach.  And it makes sense because all four of these checkpoints are reliable, tactical and chronological with regard to a pitchers bottom line.

Let’s briefly go over each one of these checkpoints and see if any of these components resonate with you.

Checkpoint #1 — Taking a Deep Breath is a good reminder to slow down and relax — most people in this day and age have a better understanding of the beneficial role breathing plays in our physical and mental health (especially if you have a daily mental practice that may involve breath work, tuning into your breath may be a natural fit and starting point to your Process).

Checkpoint #2 — Having a Focal Point is great because pitchers ultimately want to know where they are going (Intent/End Point), and this gives the mind somewhere tangible to go (“energy follows attention”).  In the natural course of events, once you have given the mind a specific place to go, you have positioned it to “complete” this intention.

Checkpoint #3 — A Mechanical Cue can be a great “physical” reminder as part of your process.  I personally liked the feeling of hitting my balance point or “checking in” before I went to the plate.  For others, it may be something about your front side, direction, and so on.  This physical cue can be a great link between your Focal Point/Intention, and your last step, your Finish.

Checkpoint #4 — Your Commitment/Conviction to “finish” the job is very important because the mind not only wants to know where it’s starting point or Intention is, but equally important, the completion of this Intention.  This sense of Intent (where do I want to go) and Finish (Commitment/Conviction) are fundamental to most, if not all pitchers, consciously or unconsciously.

(Note regarding Mechanics): If you feel a mechanical checkpoint is helpful to your Process, that’s great.  Ultimately, just know that your Process may be as simple as having a Focal Point (Intention), and Attacking your Focal Point (Commitment/Conviction).  Therefore, don’t feel a need to have a mechanical checkpoint in place.  I’ve been told by a number of pitchers that one of the reasons they love this approach is because the feeling of seeing and attacking their focal point actually eliminates their need to focus on their mechanics in game situations.  Again, try a few different checkpoints and see what works for you.

The point is, whatever feels right for you is YOUR Process.  It could be one element, like, “take a deep breath and go”, or it could be “see my focal point and attack”.  Regardless, your Process is simply about controlling the 1, 2, 3 or 4 keys to executing your best pitch possible.  Once you know this, it is very empowering because you realize that pitching now comes down to being GREAT at what you can control, your Process, as opposed to trying to control countless, changing variables that may arise simply because you are in a game situation.

 

Identifying Your Process

Control what’s controllable — Let the rest go

If you are a pitcher, I’d suggest that you take a few moments and think about a few, common characteristics that occur when you execute the perfect pitch.  Generally speaking, less is more, so 1 to 3 components is probably ideal.  It could be something physical, mental or visual — it could be a feeling or a sense.  Whatever feels right is all that matters.  It is YOUR Process — those components that you know will put you in the best position possible to execute the most ideal pitch, repeatedly.

You will probably find it very helpful to start with what I call your “bookends” — where you start, or your Focal Point (Intention) and how you Finish, or your Commitment/Conviction.  If so, figure out if your starting point or Intention is a general area (catchers glove), or a specific area (E in Easton).  Next, figure out what kind of word works for you with regard to your Finish.  For example, I happened to love the word “Attack”.  Other suggestions: Conviction, Commitment, Aggressive, Explode.

Once you’ve identified your Intent (opening the door) and your Finish (closing the door), fill in the blanks with other pieces, like the Role of your Breath and possibly a Mechanical Checkpoint.  Perhaps it feels good to take a deep breath before each pitch — perhaps you like the idea of one mechanical checkpoint (balance point, front side, direction, etc).  The bottom line is to establish those elements and/or feelings that are reliable, repeatable and give you a sense of knowingness that these components are the key to executing the best pitch possible.

The Role of the Breath and Visualization with your Process

The Breath is always happening now

Though a great deal of time was spent on “mental practice” in the previous article (January 2012, Collegiate Baseball), I’d like to revisit the topic due to the influence that Breathing and Visualization can have on your Process.

Much has been written about the role and benefits of the Breath over the past several years.  Among other things, the breath can be very calming, relaxing and quieting to the body and mind.  But it has other great benefits that can be especially helpful for an athletes “process” in a performance setting.  For example, because the breath is always happening now, taking a deep breath is a reminder to not only bring your attention to the present moment, but it’s a great way to initiate your Process.

Also, the breath is not a thought.  Therefore, if your mind does start thinking of things that are outside of your process, taking a deep breath is a reminder to come back to a non-thinking place.  Remember, your Process is designed around checkpoints that are ultimately feelings, not thoughts.  Therefore, a deep breath can really help you reconnect to your Process if you find that your thoughts are trying to take your attention somewhere else.  Lastly, if you have a regular mental practice in place that involves breath work, the familiarity of taking a deep breath can reconnect you unconsciously to a calm, clear and focused place.

 

The Benefits of Visualization, Pitching Lanes

What you can imagine is real
Pablo Picasso

Because a pitchers Process will tend to entail a starting point and end point (lane), it can be very valuable to teach your mind how to make this connection and strengthen this pathway through Visualization.  Visualization is the practice of seeing (feeling) and executing in your mind’s eye an ideal action that you would want to promote or reinforce.  And because the body doesn’t differentiate between physical practice (muscle memory) and the mind visualizing the physical practice (muscle memory), you can actually get a lot of work done to strengthen these pathways and improve your pitching accuracy without even picking up a baseball.  In fact, one could argue that you could reinforce optimal muscle memory by executing 10 out of 10 perfect pitches in your mind, as opposed to actually being on the mound physically, where it would be considered successful to execute approximately 6 out of 10 perfect pitches (thus, the other 4 pitches could be considered “mixed” muscle memory).

Thus, you can really make a difference in your pitching accuracy by seeing specific visuals or “lanes” that reflect the exact, desired path of the ball from your release point to the end point.  These “lanes” are typically the length of the pitch, and the diameter of a baseball (though some players may see a tunnel, track, string or white light).  It is helpful to make everything as realistic as possible, so try and see the lane the same color as the baseball (white with red seams), the natural flight of the ball, and see yourself throwing through the lane, and not just getting on it (to simulate a real throw and the “finishing” aspect of your Process).

These lanes can be straight for a four seam fastball, and bend for breaking balls.  Thus, the focal point and end point are the same for four seamed fastballs.  But for most other pitches, the focal point and end point will be different.  For example, if you wanted to work on your curve ball, you could try a focal point like the catchers left ear (focal point) and find that this starting point leads to the catchers right shin, on the outer third of the plate (for a right handed pitcher).  As long as the Focal Point is in place (constant) and your Conviction to the focal point is the same (constant), this will lead to a repeatable end point.  Experiment with these focal points until you get to a point where you find your ideal end point (Note: experiment first on a physical mound with a catcher to find out where your ideal lanes start and finish on anything that bends).

Once these lanes have been practiced in your mind it’s like putting files in your computer — the mind will tend to look or hunt for these lanes whenever you are on the mound.  Thus, in game situations, having a focal point will serve two important purposes: 1) it can initiate your Process, and 2) it can trigger your mind to hunt for the those lanes that you have worked on in your visualization.

Ultimately, all pitchers are going “somewhere”, and are hopefully “committed” to that somewhere.  Visualization is a very powerful tool because your mind, body, arm and fingers react as if it is actually making the pitch.  It’s neural programming, and the more you groove these lanes the more they can become a part of your “muscle memory”.  This muscle memory can really help to strengthen your identity and intimacy with your Process.

 

Summary

Be Great At Your Process

At the end of the day, the mind want’s to keep things simple.  It wants to know what the plan is, and follow through with it.  It doesn’t want to try and control the countless variables that may arise in game situations because people are in the stands and wins, losses and statistics are at stake.  It wants to know a few constants that are both knowable and repeatable.

When pitchers are Process Oriented, they no longer have to worry about anything that’s out of their control.  The Process is something that has been identified based on predetermined elements that puts you in the best position possible to execute your most ideal pitch.  Alas, pitching becomes all about Mastering Your Process — Being GREAT at your Process, and everything else really becomes secondary.  With this approach, there‘s nothing else to think about.  What a relief.

Ultimately, it starts with awareness — understanding the difference between being Process Oriented and Result Oriented.  Once you’ve identified and built your Process the next step will be to practice your Process.  It will probably make sense to start this practice in your bull-pens, but don’t be surprised if you find that there is a smooth and natural transition to the mound.  The idea that you’ve given your mind a precise and knowable game plan that feels true to you can carry over into game situations quickly.  And this feeling can be very sustainable for the long run because it’s components are known, consistent and reliable.

But keep in mind that if the mind has had years of “practice” at being result oriented from the past, it may take some time to get used to shifting your attention away from the old patterns (worrying about things that are out of your control) that have come with the variables of game situations.   This is where having a daily mental practice (relaxation, visualization, meditation) can be paramount to helping you not only clear your mind, relax your body and practice your pitching lanes, but provide a consistent space that is moving you away from old patterns and more deeply into your Process.

Alan Jaeger has consulted with several high school/college programs including UCLA, Arizona and Cal State Fullerton, and MLB Organizations including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians.  For more information about Jaeger Sports and their products (“Thrive On Throwing 2” DVD or Digital Download, J-Bands and Mental Training Book, “Getting Focused, Staying Focused”), please visit their website at www.jaegersports.com or call 310-665-0746.  You may also download additional articles/videos at http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php/, and Youtube, keyword jaeger sports.  Twitter: @jaegersports

To download a printable Click Here. (updated 1/20/14)

Posted by & filed under Articles.

Introduction

For years, we have been asked a number of questions about the frequency and intensity of throwing for pitchers and position players, both for the Off-Season and In-Season.  Questions like, “When should I start my throwing program”, “How many days a week should I throw”, “How far out should I long toss”, “When should I get aggressive with my throwing”, “How much long toss should I do In-Season”, “When and how often should I take time off”, and for pitchers, “How much over hand throwing should I do” and “When should I begin my bull-pens”.  Of course, these questions are all geared toward trying to understand the best way to position a player to have a healthy, strong and durable arm throughout the year.

First and foremost, the purpose of any throwing program should be to put the arm in the best position possible to be healthy and well conditioned.  The next priority is to build strength, endurance and optimal recovery period.  We have found through over 20 years of experience that the most ideal way to develop an arm is to build a strong base through a progressive build up of both workload and distance.  It is vital to slowly build a base with low impact, arc throwing, and progressively build up the workload with repetitions, and eventually adding distance in this initial phase (Weeks 1 and 2).  This slow build up, free of aggressive, downhill throwing is what we call “stacking the base”, and as you’ll see, takes approximately two weeks (better to take more time than less with the initial build up phase).

Stacking the base allows the arm to slowly build up range of motion, extension, and conditioning (repetitions) over an extended period of time.  This initial phase is the most important part of our throwing program because it best positions the arm to have a strong foundation and sets the tone for the more aggressive phase of our throwing program (the Pull Down Phase) in weeks 3 and 4.

Listening to Your Arm

The most important principle of our throwing program is to “Listen To Your Arm”.  All players are different, so we do not like the idea of having a one size fits all program.  Therefore, please note that despite the incremental throwing program that has been suggested at the end of this article, we prefer that all players throw according to what feels right from day to day.  The throwing program is simply a guide based on a great deal of experience.  But it’s more about how each individual feels, and how each players arm begins to “open up” and get into shape.  We do feel that initially, there should be a heavy emphasis on more throws rather than less at shorter distances, especially in weeks 1 and 2.  But “at what pace” players go out away from their throwing partner, “how” many throws they make at each increment, and “how” many throws the make on the way back in toward their throwing partner is really up to the individual.

Thus, when a player starts a throwing program their arm will let them know how quickly or slowly they need to progress.  There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to time, distance or amount of throws on a given day of throwing.

Again, at the bottom of this article, you will find our guidelines for our throwing program based on a 4 week cycle.  But the key is to teach the players how to listen to their arm, using these guidelines as a reference.  The arm will always dictate what to do on a given day.

The Throwing Program

The following Off-Season Throwing Program is based on the arm strength of a typical in coming college freshman.  It is based on the assumption that players are fully rested and recovered from a long season and that they are starting from scratch.

The Throwing Program is based on a 4 week cycle: 2 weeks for the Stretching Out Phase, and 2 weeks for the Stretching Out and the Pull Down Phase.  Though some players may need longer in the Stretching Out Phase (3 weeks), the bottom line is to refrain from moving into the Pull Down Phase until the arm is conditioned properly.  There is no need to rush aggressive throwing until the arm has been thoroughly prepared for it.

This 4-5 Weeks is the timetable it should take to fully stack the base, condition the arm and work through the strengthening phase completely.  As a side note, all of our throwing comes after a thorough Arm Care Program: Arm Circles and Surgical Tubing Exercises.  These exercises increase blood flow, flexibility and range of motion prior to throwing.  This helps insure that the arm is in a healthy position before beginning to train (throw)

Phase 1: Stretching Out Phase (10-14 Days)

The beginning phase of our off-season throwing program is called the “Stretching Out” phase.  This two week period is dedicated to allowing the arm to “open up” and stretch slowly and surely.  During this phase, the goal is to keep the arm loose, relaxed and free as they players move away from each other.  We also want the players to use arc to throw the ball to each other.  This helps the arm “open up” at different angles, and gives the shoulder an opportunity to optimally stretch out.  There is no need to have any sense of aggressiveness or throw the ball on a line for this 2 week period.  The idea is to use this 2 week period to crawl, walk and jog, setting up the “sprint” (more aggressive throwing) after the initial 2 week build up.  It’s no different than getting your legs stretched out for an aggressive run — you’d want to be sure that your legs are well stretched, and that you’ve done some jogging and measured sprinting before you get real aggressive.

Phase 2: Stretching Out and Pulling Down (10-14 Days)

The second phase of our Throwing Program is the Stretching Out and Pulling Down Phase.  This phase can also be referred to as the “strengthening phase” because it is where players begin to add aggressiveness to their throwing.  This phase should not be started until a players arm has been properly conditioned from the first 2 weeks.  Our general rule of thumb to know if its time to implement aggressive throwing is gauged by whether or not a player has begun to “max out” their distance in the stretching out phase, and is able to maintain that maximum distance for at least a few throws.  We also like to see that a player can get out to their maximum distance (e.g. 180 feet) for two straight days with great recovery period.  This is usually a great sign that the player is in great throwing shape, and the arm is ready to take this great extension and compress it into shorter distances on the way back into their throwing partner on a downward plane.

The Pull Down phase works as follows.  Assuming that a player maxed out at 180 feet, we would instruct the player to come in approximate 5-10 feet per throw, and maintain the same effort of the furthest throw (so there isn’t any deceleration in the arm).  We also want players to learn how to “get through” their throw, so we instruct them to miss “lower than higher”.  The tendency is after two weeks of arc throwing and stretching out to miss high — also, players are traditionally used to easing up on the way back into their throwing partner so they don’t miss over their head (and have to run after the ball).  So we want the ball to end up between the waist and the shoulders (for training purposes, our players have been trained to miss below the knees to learn how to translate this great extension into a downhill, explosive throw, forcing them to stay on top of the ball).

Assuming a player is ready for the Pull Down phase, we suggest that you have the players Pull Down on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of week 3 and 4 (assuming they are ready).  This provides for a rest/recover day in the event that the player needs a lighter workload before getting aggressive again.  In time, the aggressive phase of throwing creates its own rhythm and level of conditioning, whereby players will be able to Pull Down practically every day by weeks 5 and 6 per se.

Again, it will always come down to the conditioning and rhythm of each individual.  And players are always allowed to “go easy” on a given day, or simply take a day off.  We’ve found that the more players throw on flat ground, the more the arm wants to throw(assuming the base has been built right).

Why Long Toss has such an influence on Feel, Accuracy and Mechanical Synching

Because players have to learn how to play catch at so many different distances throughout the throwing program, they are becoming more intimate with their release point and their feel.  Constantly hitting your partner inside the body at these various distances can have a dramatic effect on accuracy.  Also, regarding the Pull Down Phase, we have found that players can really develop a reliable and repeatable release point because they learn the art of “always” accelerating through their throws.  Thus, as a player gets to their position specific distance, they come to understand that since the “effort” is always the same (their maximum distance throw), they can start to use focal points (intent) of where they want to start the ball so that the desired goal (end point) can be achieved.  This “system” can be very helpful because the distance (constant), effort (constant) and intention (constant) are knowable.  For example, a shortstops throw of 90 feet can be deeply ingrained once this player learns how to maintain the effort of their maximum distance throw(180 feet) into 90 feet, and figures out where to aim on their throwing partner so the ball ends up between the waist and shoulders.  This also helps the player get on top of the ball, especially for Softball players who are having to throw with a bigger ball.

Regarding mechanics, when a player gets used to always maintaining the effort of their furthest throw into shorter and shorter distances on their way in (Pull Downs), their mechanics are forced to “organize themselves” in an optimal and repeatable way.  The reason this occurs is because the close a player gets to back in to their throwing partner, the more a players mechanics have to be in synch — any small deviation away from a players furthest throw, or any mechanical hesitation will almost certainly cause the ball to go high or off line.  It’s as if there is a checks and balance with this approach.  Simply put, your mechanics have to get into an ideal position to take your furthest throw into your shortest distance, without decelerating the throw, and missing waist high or lower.

Summary

Our Throwing Program places the bulk of responsibility on the individual player.  The arm dictates how quickly or how slowly the program progresses.  We have guidelines based on years of experience, but most of our experience has taught us that each athlete has their own progression, and ultimately, they know their arm better than anyone.  The key is to build a base through stretching, range of motion and a progressive build up of distance (stacking the base).  Once you’ve fully established the base through the Stretching Out Phase, and the player has proven that they have not only maxed out their distance, but they are able to maintain this distance for multiple throws and consecutive days, they are ready for the Pull Down or Strengthening Phase.

The Pull Down phase (after the arm has completed the Stretching Out Phase that day) consists of aggressive throwing every other day for two weeks, and then can evolve into an additional day or two of aggressive throwing if the arm asks for it.  Remember, a player can always back off or take a day off.

Notes: 
Stretch on the way in for the first 2 weeks: Since the first 2 weeks only comprise the Stretching Out Phase, please be sure to refrain from any aggressive, downhill throwing on the way back in toward your throwing partner.  Maintain a sense of “stretch” in the arm, even though you are getting closer to your partner (again, the Pull Down/Aggressive Phase will come in week 3 and 4).

Crow Hop: It is ideal to get your legs involved as soon as possible for several reasons: First and foremost, health.  Using your legs provides a great deal of support for your arm by minimizing the work load on your arm.  It is also helps you become more athletic and dynamic.  Therefore, we want you to get your legs involved by crow hopping as soon as possible (approximately 40 feet), and maintaining this crow hop for the remainder of the throwing session.  Once you get through the Pull Down Phase, you can actually go back out to your position specific distance, and work on your regular throwing mechanics once your throwing program is done.  We encourage you to crow hop by loading off of your back leg (right leg for right hander, left for left hander), rather than “shuffling” your feet (Crow Hopping properly off of the back leg can be seen on you tube: keyword Anthony Bass + Jaeger and look at the 1:11 mark).


The Throwing Program

The following is a weekly breakdown of our Off-Season Throwing Program to help you structure your schedule.  Even though there is a “suggested number of throws”, remember to listen to your arm and let it dictate how many throws to make and when it’s time to move back.  This program is based on a college freshman with average arm strength is having a normal off-season workload.

For weeks 1 and 2 we encourage throwing 4-5 days a week because the workload is lighter and the focus should be on building repetitions.   For the weeks following weeks 1 and 2 you may choose to increase to throwing almost daily.  It all depends on how your arm initially reacts to the program and how what the needs of your arm are.  Once again, Listen to YOUR arm and make it YOUR throwing program.

Weekly Breakdown of Throwing

Week 1 (Monday through Friday) – Stretching Out

20 feet — 10 throws (arc)
30 feet — 5 throws (arc)
40 feet — 5 throws (arc)
50 feet — 5 throws (arc)
*60 feet — 3 throws (arc)
*Additional time to stay at this distance or move back as distance extends toward 100 feet
60 feet — 3 throws (arc)
50 feet — 3 throws (arc)
**40 feet — 3 throws (arc)
**make additional throws as part of cool down if possible

Note: Remember to keep fluidity in the arm and to think stretch the entire time. This is the crawling/walking portion of the program and the key here is to maintain minimal effort and to allow the arm to slowly open up, stretch out and build endurance.

Week 2 (Monday through Friday) – Stretching Out

20 feet — 10 throws (arc)
30 feet — 5 throws (arc)
40 feet — 3 throws (arc)
50 feet — 3 throws (arc)
60 feet — 3 throws (arc)
70 feet — 3 throws (arc)
75 feet — 2 throws (arc)
80 feet — 2 throws (arc)
85 feet — 2 throws (arc)
90 feet — 2 throws (arc)
95 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*100 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*Additional time to stay at this distance or move back as distance extends toward 100 feet
100 feet — 2 throws (arc)
90 feet — 2 throws (arc)
80 feet — 2 throws (arc)
70 feet — 2 throws (arc)
60 feet — 2 throws (arc)
50 feet — 2 throws (arc)
**40 feet — 2 + throws (arc)
** make additional throws as part of cool down if possible

Note: Remember this is still phase 1 and fluidity and looseness is still the focus. The arm will probably feel really good and want to go out further and faster. However, the focus here is still stretching out and building the base/endurance and not pulling down yet…therefore, remember to maintain arc (stretching sensation) on the way in

Week 3 (Monday through Friday): Pull Downs on MWF

Pull Downs begin on MWF if the arm is fully stretched out and conditioned, otherwise, spend another week on the Stretching Out phase.  Also, once you begin Pull Down Phase, Tu/Thurs are still work days.  How far you go out, and how many throws you make is completely dictated by how the arm feels.

20 feet — 10 throws (arc)
30 feet — 5 throws (arc)
40 feet — 3 throws (arc)
50 feet — 3 throws (arc)
60 feet — 3 throws (arc)
70 feet — 3 throws (arc)
75 feet — 2 throws (arc)
80 feet — 2 throws (arc)
85 feet — 2 throws (arc)
90 feet — 2 throws (arc)
95 feet — 2 throws (arc)
100 feet — 2 throws (arc)
105 feet — 2 throws (arc)
110 feet — 2 throws (arc)
115 feet — 2 throws (arc)
120 feet — 2 throws (arc)
125 feet — 2 throws (arc)
130 feet — 2 throws (arc)
135 feet — 2 throws (arc)
140 feet — 2 throws (arc)
145 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*150 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*Additional time to stay at this distance or move back as distance extends toward 100 feet
PULL DOWN Phase (Maintain same effort of furthest throw;  Miss lower than higher)
150 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
140 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
130 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
120 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
110 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
100 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
90 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
80 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
70 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
60 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
50 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
**40 feet — 2 + throws (pull down)
** make additional throws as part of cool down if possible
Be sure to not get so close that pull down’s become dangerous!

Week 4 (Monday through Friday) – Pull Down Phase

This is identical to week 3. However, the intensity and duration will change in week 4 based on strength, comfort level, etc. If you were comfortable pulling down in week 3 then your pull downs might become more aggressive in week 4. If you didn’t pull down in week 3 you may begin to pull down in week 4.
20 feet — 10 throws (arc)
30 feet — 5 throws (arc)
40 feet — 3 throws (arc)
50 feet — 3 throws (arc)
60 feet — 3 throws (arc)
70 feet — 3 throws (arc)
75 feet — 2 throws (arc)
80 feet — 2 throws (arc)
85 feet — 2 throws (arc)
90 feet — 2 throws (arc)
95 feet — 2 throws (arc)
100 feet — 2 throws (arc)
105 feet — 2 throws (arc)
110 feet — 2 throws (arc)
115 feet — 2 throws (arc)
120 feet — 2 throws (arc)
125 feet — 2 throws (arc)
130 feet — 2 throws (arc)
135 feet — 2 throws (arc)
140 feet — 2 throws (arc)
145 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*150 feet — 2 throws (arc)
*Additional time to stay at this distance or move back as distance extends toward 100 feet

PULL DOWN Phase (Maintain same effort of furthest throw;  Miss lower than higher)
150 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
140 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
130 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
120 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
110 feet — 1 throw (pull down)
100 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
90 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
80 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
70 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
60 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
50 feet — 2 throws (pull down)
**40 feet — 2 + throws (pull down)
** make additional throws as part of cool down if possible
Be sure to not get so close that pull down’s become dangerous!

Week 5 & 6 (Monday through Friday)

 

At this point, the throwing program should run itself.  For position players especially, the arm may want to stretch out completely and pull down most, if not all days once the 4 week cycle has been completed.  Again, the arm will dictate what it wants from day to day.  A player can always go easier on distance or pull downs, or take a day off.

 

To download a printable Click Here. (updated 12/3/13)

Posted by & filed under Jaeger Sports In The News, Press.

jaeger_dvd_tot2

Jaeger Sports is very excited to announce the release of Thrive on Throwing 2, which takes you through our systematic Arm Care and Long Toss Throwing Program that has been at the core of our training program for over 20 years. Based on three major principles — Arm Care, Long Toss and Throwing Mechanics — Thrive On Throwing 2 is a proven system that has helped players maximize the Health, Strength, Endurance and Recovery Period of their arms.

Featuring a detailed explanation and demonstration of our Arm Care Program (Arm Circles and J-Bands) and our Long Toss Throwing Program, this DVD teaches you how to thoroughly warm up your arm and safely prepare it to throw, and culminates with our signature Long Toss Throwing Program — a throwing routine that is at the core of developing Arm Conditioning, Arm Strength, Athleticism, Feel, Mechanical Connection and Mental Focus.

Along with appearances by 2002 Cy Young Award Winner Barry Zito, UCLA Baseball Coach John Savage, 2011 Golden Spikes Award Winner Trevor Bauer, Peak Performance Trainer Dr. Marcus Elliott and Jaeger Sports’ own Jim Vatcher and China McCarney.

Monica Abbott: Softball Throwing Program Featurette: Dedicated to softball players featuring Monica Abbott, the 2007 College Player of the Year and 2008 Olympian. Though the entire video is applicable for softball players, this section will specifically address our throwing program for softball pitchers.

Jaeger Sports has worked with hundreds of professional and amateur players nationwide, including 2002 Cy Young Award Winner Barry Zito, and Major League Baseball All-Stars Dan Haren and Andrew Bailey. Jaeger Sports has also consulted with a number of Major League Organizations including the Texas Rangers and several high school and college programs including 2004 National Champions, Cal State University Fullerton, 2009 National Champions, Fresno State, 2012 National Champions, University of Arizona and 2013 National Champions UCLA Bruins.

The Health, Strength and Longevity of your arm is your lifeline as a baseball or softball player — it’s just that simple. But the arm must be developed like any other part of your game through dedicated work and preparation — by being proactive, instead of reactive. Thrive On Throwing 2 was created with this in mind, and is a must see video for anyone who is serious about having a long and healthy playing career.

Created & Written by Alan Jaeger, Jim Vatcher
Edited by Neil Newman & Tom Pascucci
Directed by Jaeger Sports & Neil Newman
Produced by Alan Jaeger, Jim Vatcher, Neil Newman & Tom Pascucci

Posted by & filed under Articles, Jaeger Sports In The News, Press.

Source: mlb.com | Published: September 2013
By Anthony Castrovince

press_09_13_2013

 

Matt Harvey will get a second opinion on his injured right elbow from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday, hopeful that the partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament won’t require the Tommy John surgery that would all but eliminate his chances of pitching competitively in 2014.

However the surgical situation shakes out, Harvey’s injury was a bummer for baseball. The sport, after all, has gone to great lengths to protect its arms with pitch counts and innings caps.

By and large, though, pitchers keep blowing out their arms at an alarming rate.

Will Carroll, a sportswriter specializing in medical issues, conducted a study for Bleacher Report that found that one-third of pitchers on Major League rosters on Opening Day this season had Tommy John surgery at some point. And the ever-rising tide of arm trouble has created the game’s greatest economic inefficiency. Carroll has estimated that in the decade from 2002-12, teams spent $1.7 billion on pitchers on the disabled list

“It makes you sick,” Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. “You look at a guy like Matt Harvey, and he seems to epitomize the big, strong, hard-working young pitcher. Same thing with Stephen Strasburg. Washington couldn’t have done anything better with how they handled him before he got hurt. They did everything right, and it still happens.”

Now, we can explain away the arm injury epidemic any number of ways.

For one, we can point out that it’s far from a new epidemic. Because while we tend to romanticize the likes of Walter Johnson or Tom Seaver or Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax, baseball history is loaded with the untold tales of the guys who flamed out with fatigue or physical flaws that went undiagnosed or untreated. If anything, that paints a pleasant picture of the current medical marvels that allow Tommy John recipients to be back on a Major League mound as soon as a year after they go under the knife.

We can also say that the game is fundamentally different than it was in the workhorse days of yore. Guys throw harder (the Cardinals played a 16-inning game last week in which the eighth guy out of their bullpen was throwing 99 mph) with more variations of breaking pitches and, ergo, more stress on the arm and shoulder.

Furthermore, we can openly wonder whether year-round baseball at the youth level is compounding the problem, putting undue duress on young arms that can come back to haunt them eventually, if not immediately.

All of these arguments have merit. And the truth is, we can go around and around on this issue, only to throw our hands in the air and come to the conclusion that arm injuries are unavoidable because the pitching motion itself is unnatural.

But there are people inside and outside the baseball industry who aren’t content with that conclusion. They believe the condition of arm conditioning is not quite what it could be and that while baseball will never eliminate arm injuries completely, it would do well to investigate new strategies to stem the tide.

Their arguments have merit, too.

The science

“I’m certain we’re going to look back on what we did here in 2012, 2013 and not too far into the future and think that it was really primitive,” said Dr. Marcus Elliott, a Harvard-trained physician specializing in sports science.

Elliott has worked with athletes in the Olympic Training Center and the Australian Institute of Sport, he’s served as a physiologist and injury prevention specialist to the New England Patriots, he’s been a consultant for the Utah Jazz and, more pointedly, he’s served as baseball’s first Director of Sports Science and Performance, for the Seattle Mariners.

Elliott, therefore, is well-versed in the pitch-count model and the somewhat arbitrary innings-limit ceilings being used in professional baseball today, and he struggles to understand their application.

“There are reasons guys end up tearing their ulnar collateral ligament or end up with repetitive trauma to a rotator cuff,” Elliott said. “There are mechanical explanations for all these things. And we haven’t spent a whole lot of time trying to understand what those reasons are.”

At his Santa Barbara, Calif., lab, Elliott and his team seek to find those reasons. He conducts biomechanical analyses of athletes to discover where they are applying torques that are larger than they can handle. He follows Newtonian physics models to determine where people are going to get broken.

Elliott tells the story of his first year with the Mariners, when the club ran his tests on every member of the organization and came up with a list of the 10 players at the most risk for an injury. By season’s end, seven of the 10 had, indeed, spent significant time on the DL.

So the following year, they did the tests again. And this time, the 10 targets — primarily pitchers — stayed back in Arizona when Spring Training camp broke so that Elliott and his team could develop objective measures for them.

“Some of them had inadequate shoulder mobility or not enough trunk stability or hip stability, so it affected their release point,” Elliott said. “We took anywhere from three weeks to six weeks to keep working on these performance metrics so that they didn’t have the pressure of going out to perform while they were huge injury risks.”

The key here was personalizing the programs, suiting them to a certain guy’s certain needs. It is a goal Dr. Glenn Fleisig, research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, has also sought in his biomechanical studies of thousands of pitchers from all amateur and professional levels.

But the problem with these studies is that their findings are difficult — and expensive — to implement in organizations that employ literally hundreds of players. In baseball, it is easier to take broad preparatory concepts and apply them at large, rather than tailoring them to the individual.

“To people in the medical community,” Elliott said, “the right approach is to be about building systems, understanding the system of the athlete in front of you when you’re exposing him to the risks of the game.”

And to people in the training community, the right approach is to have the body truly ready for the rigors of the game.

The strategy

“My guys don’t get hurt,” said Arizona State University associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Ken Knutson.

Knutson said it has been 13 years — dating back to his time at the University of Washington — since a pitcher in his program has had Tommy John surgery, and only then because the kid in question refused to follow Knutson’s regimented warmup program.

Now, realistically, what Knutson is saying isn’t entirely applicable to the professional level, and he’ll be the first to admit as much. After all, the NCAA’s leader in workload this past season threw 147 innings. Starters at that level work once a week. It’s a totally different job description than it is in MLB.

But Knutson, whose most famous former student is two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, has sent his fair share of pitchers to the professional ranks — 14 since the start of 2010, including five in the first two rounds of the First-Year Player Draft — and he’s seen the disconnect between what he preaches at the amateur level and what is employed in the pros, and it bothers him.

“My thing is getting a connection between my pitchers, emotionally and mentally, about how the arm and body works and what’s good for them,” Knutson said. “I tell them that the most important pitching coach in their life is them.”

So Knutson drills in their head to proper way to train the arm and prepare. For his players, that begins with warmups that stray from the static stretching exercises used by every Major League club a couple hours before first pitch.

“We do a dynamic body warmup,” Knutson said. “Movements and runs and agility things. We do a lot with body blades or shoulder tubes. We do some strength training with a two-pound medicine ball, then we go through some body movement and throwing heavy balls.”

The specifics, for the purposes of this discussion, don’t matter nearly as much as the intent, which is to get the body — and, specifically, the arm — functioning at a high level in training so that it is not revved up to another level in-game. That means being not only a strong thrower but an efficient one, understanding movement patterns and how the joints and muscles work.

To Knutson, the key is to throw more, not less. Not pitch, mind you, but throw.

“I think guys just don’t throw correctly,” he said. “[They] don’t use their body. A lot of them are pitching out of their delivery, and that’s it. They don’t crow hop or use their body right. You want to get their bodies moving so they can use momentum and get their bodies to throw. Just doing those things on a day-to-day basis has a lot of carryover.”

Alan Jaeger, a Los Angeles-based independent pitching instructor who advocates aggressive long-tossing, seconds that notion. He calls the arm a “living, breathing organism that is trying to evolve,” and that evolution, he contends, requires an intimate understanding of how the arm cycles in and out of shape.

“You can’t train someone in second gear and then ask them to perform in fifth gear,” Jaeger said. “We’re heavy into arm training and arm conditioning, and there’s an art form to that. It’s not just long toss or band work. There’s real, deep insight needed into how you condition in the offseason, how you condition in-season, as opposed to a throwing program that’s a model of the rehab program.”

So, do Major League clubs, at large, have sufficient resources on hand to understand the distinctions between those two programs?

The specialization

“I think baseball’s kind of at that point where they want people with a work ethic, they want people that are willing to go the extra mile,” said Cubs Minor League pitching coordinator Derek Johnson.

And Johnson should know. The former associate head coach at Vanderbilt was a significant hire, for it’s rare for a Major League organization to mine the college ranks when filling that type of position. But Johnson had earned esteem within the industry for grooming power pitchers like David Priceand Mike Minor, and his ability to adapt to individual players’ specific needs was lauded. So the Cubs gave him a shot.

“I think it’s a shift that may end up happening more,” Johnson said.

Johnson has spent his first season in the Cubs’ system visiting the various affiliates and gleaning an understanding of the personnel. His goal in the future will be to implement programs that train arms to absorb the stress placed on them in-game and to do so on an individualized basis.

“That’s the tough part,” Johnson said. “Any strength trainer or athletic trainer will tell you guys are built differently. Where baseball is at now is: We bean count. We count pitches, we count innings. I think if that were that easy, you’d see a lot less injuries.”

Injuries can arise when a player’s pitching mechanics and physical preparation aren’t in sync, and perhaps that’s a gap a person with Johnson’s level of expertise can help address.

“The way that I would look at is there are three people involved with a pitchers’ health: the pitching coach, the athletic trainer and the strength and conditioning coach,” Johnson said. “They have to be able to assess what is going on as much as they can inside of this guy, whether it’s his arm or his leg or his core. Anything that can make him more mobile, more flexible, stronger, whatever. And I think sometimes those three people end up … not working against one another, but maybe not understanding each other and what they can all bring to the table.

“If the pitching coach has good understanding of the training and conditioning, and the athletic and strength trainer have a working understanding of the mechanics, then you’ve got three people working in unison on this guy and not taking two steps forward and one back, which probably ends up happening way more than it should.”

The strength coach focuses on implementing routines for the roster at large, the athletic trainer focuses primarily on rehab and the day-to-day bumps and bruises, and the pitching coach has a wide array of responsibilities, from tweaking mechanics to poring over scouting reports to monitoring bullpen sessions.

Given the proliferation of pitcher injuries within this context — and the specialization of sport, in general — perhaps the next logical step is for an organization to add an educated conditioning coach specifically focused on the maintenance and recovery of the arm itself.

“It’s probably the next thing,” Price said. “There’s one of everybody now in this game. It’s probably the next place to be. But I’ll tell you this: One thing I do know is that none of us have figured out this pitching thing, top to bottom.”

That’s for sure. And Harvey’s injury was another cruel reminder — as if we needed one — that the careful attention being paid to pitch counts and workloads isn’t moving the needle on injury prevention. It doesn’t mean those tactics totally lack value; it’s just that they are a part of a bigger picture the game is still struggling to piece together.

Chances are we’ll never fully grasp that picture. Diagnosed or not, major arm injuries have been happening since the beginning of baseball time. But be it through science, strategy or specialization, perhaps there are still relatively untapped methods of improving the condition of conditioning and reducing the rate of injury.

Read the original article on MLB.com

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.