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Baseball Training

  • Ideal World vs. Real World Arm Care By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES, CPPS

    I want to provide some feedback and tips that I have learned from my time as a pitcher.  To provide a little more information about myself, I was an undersized individual with the heart and will to do whatever it took to succeed. I cannot tell you how many times I was told that I was not big enough to accomplish my dreams. But through sheer determination, I became the ace of my high school pitching staff, topped out at 92mph off the mound, and received a college scholarship from a nationally ranked junior college. I would not have had any of this success without proper arm care. I never would have thrown as hard or been able to answer the bell and take the mound each time my coach called on me without it. Proper arm care allowed me to achieve success in my baseball career.  Most people would probably agree that arm care is critical for success, but let me ask you one question. Do you have obstacles preventing you from your ideal arm care routine?

    If you answered no to this question then, like Coach Ron Wolforth often says, “you did not understand the question.”  We all face obstacles in the game of baseball, but there seems to be a lot more when it comes to things like arm care. I am convinced this is because arm care is not glorious or fancy.  After a game, everybody wants to shower and eat, and family and friends want to talk to you, just to name a few of the post-game distractions. Another obstacle is that you often need special (expensive) equipment in order to implement proper warm-up and cool down protocols. I see on Instagram the craze with cryotherapy, deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation devices, and so on. I believe each one of these devices and techniques could have a place in health and recovery. But are these expensive, time-consuming recovery techniques applicable in the REAL WORLD or only in the IDEAL WORLD? I for one believe they realistically could only be used in the IDEAL setting. Perhaps some professional facilities or a fully equipped training room would have these options at your disposal. Realistically, the majority of people do not have the space, money, or expertise to use such equipment day in and day out.

    So now what?  A typical baseball player faces many obstacles such as a lack of time and equipment, so how does one overcome these? I would like to share the way I overcame these obstacles, and how I wish I would have overcome others in the past. I believe first and foremost it is critical to realize arm care is a MUST not just something you hope or strive to do.  The next thing to combat is time. I remember times where we would be late arriving to games because of school, schedules, traffic, and other unavoidable things. So to overcome this, I would carry my glove and a weighted ball to class on game days. I felt like just holding and moving the weighted ball around would help me be loose for the game. I remember carrying my wrist weights to class, and I would perform exercises to loosen up. I would make sure that I had everything in my bag that I needed. I recommend never relying on someone else to bring something when it is this important. I would always find a quick 10 minute window to perform resistance tubing exercises. Finally, I would never pick-up a baseball without throwing weighted balls first, even if it was only a couple of throws, because it was critical for me and the health of my arm.  When I look back, I wish the Baseball Training Sock would have been around for me to use because I could have performed weighted ball throws on the bus or in class.

    All of the above occurred before the game, but after the game there are even more distractions. As I stated earlier, your teammates are ready to go eat or celebrate (if victorious) or people want to see you, which can pressure you to rush or even skip a proper cool down routine. I would do the same things I just mentioned above on the bus ride home. If we were home that day, I would perform my IDEAL cool down. I was and am a big proponent on doing what you did to warm-up to cool down as well. I do believe I would have greatly benefitted from the compression floss to enhance my recovery since I could perform it anywhere, and reap the rewards.

    Now what about equipment? I whole-heartedly believe that some equipment is needed to have a great arm care routine. The equipment that I utilized on a daily basis was resistance tubing, weighted balls, wrist weights, and exercise bands. You would never find me without this equipment. If I was still playing, I would also include the baseball training sock and the compression floss as well. If you look at the cost of these items, they are relatively inexpensive, and certainly far less expensive than some of the items I mentioned previously. One of the reasons I know how blessed I am to work for Oates Specialties LLC is because I personally used the products. They helped me in more ways than I can describe, and it did not cost my parents a fortune. That does not mean to say they did not spend a lot elsewhere, but I remember my mom and dad would let me pick one item at a time. Slowly I began to accumulate everything (including first class instruction) I needed to succeed. Fortunately, you do not need expensive tools to have a good arm care protocol. I believe you only need a few pieces of equipment and the knowledge of how to incorporate them.

    Am I saying there is not a place for the more expensive implements? Absolutely not. You can use all different types of equipment to enhance your arm care and recovery regimen. There are clearly reasons why professional teams spend a ton of money equipping their training rooms with such equipment.  I just believe they are used in an IDEAL setting, which can be attainable sometimes, but not all the time.

    In conclusion, there are numerous obstacles or hurdles that can get in the way of accomplishing your goal. To me, these obstacles were the most acute when dealing with arm care, and I just wanted to provide information on how I personally overcame them. We each have our own specific obstacles, so figure out what it is that may be preventing you from succeeding, and find a way to combat it!

    Be Unique and #BeELITE!

  • Arm Care: It's Not Sexy, But It's the Most Important

    Baseball holds a special place in our society and, because of this, there is often nostalgia associated with the game. We discuss the game's greatest players with such reverence. We talk about the game's unwritten rules, the beauty of a perfectly executed hit and run, and a knee buckling curve ball. Many of us have vivid memories connected to a certain game, team, or players. This is what makes baseball America's Pastime. But the nostalgia for the way the game was played yesteryear, has created generations of baseball people who have been unwilling to adapt--unable to see that certain things about the way baseball athletes train needed to be updated and brought to the 21st century.

    Fortunately, over the last 15 years or so, there has been a titanic shift throughout the baseball world. The baseball community has slowly, but surely, began to change its mindset with regard to training. Oates Specialties has been proud to be a part of this movement.

    Perhaps the greatest change has come with regard to the perspective of how pitchers should train and prepare to pitch. The most notable result of this paradigm shift is the proliferation of academies, coaches, and trainers who are using new training tools and movements in order to help pitchers build a bigger motor. In other words, these coaches and trainers understand that the number one way to increase velocity is to build athleticism and explosiveness in an athlete. The primary focus of this training--as applied to the throwing motion--is on the acceleration phase. This is important. We all know that a pitcher has zero shot of making it to the next level without adequate velocity. But if that pitcher can't stay healthy, it really doesn't matter how hard he throws.

    To provide an illustrative example: say you drive a Honda Accord and one day I walk up to you and give you a Ferrari. I then tell you to go as fast as possible. What I don't tell you is that the Ferrari has faulty brakes. Those brakes may or may not stop the car. Would you want to see how fast that Ferrari could go? Not if you're sane.

    The bottom line is that a Ferrari without good brakes isn't much good at all. It's a recipe for disaster. The same is true for an athlete who successfully improves the acceleration phase of his delivery without intentional and serious focus on the deceleration phase. At the end of the day, assisting an athlete in increasing his velocity isn't the most difficult task. If you help that athlete become a more explosive, athletic version of himself on the mound he will likely gain some MPHs (achieving increased velocity is more nuanced than this, but you get my point). Instead, the most difficult task is to help an athlete increase velocity AND decrease arm tenderness/soreness/pain while also improving recovery between outings. This is a very different task. Think about it: if you increase velocity you are increasing arm speed, which means your arm is having to endure a greater load and more stress placed on it. It also means your body has to bring to a stop an arm that has accelerated to a higher speed in the same amount of time/space.

    Oates Specialties prides itself in carrying the tools every throwing athlete can use to strengthen and care for the arm and improve the deceleration phase of the throwing motion. It is of such importance to us, that we have a category of products on our website entitled "Arm Care" where you will find these tools--most notably, wrist weights, the TAP Baseball Training Sock, First Responder Resistance Tubing, TAP Bell Clubs, Extreme Duty Weighted Balls, Exercise Bands, Rocket Wrap Compression Floss, and the Shoulder Tube. An athlete can, and should, train to both strengthen the arm, but also to properly learn how to decelerate through proper pronation, including how to hold this pronation for as long as possible (short answer: continue rotating over the landing leg).

    Without a healthy arm, a baseball athlete cannot take the field. And without taking the field that athlete cannot compete at his current level, much less make it to the next level. Plus, the longer it takes your arm to recover from an outing the longer it is before you can get back to training to become a better pitcher, regardless of whether the objective is to increase velocity, improve command, or sharpen your breaking ball.

    So my recommendation for each and every one of you is to take some time to assess your arm care routine. How much time do you spend improving your arm's brakes compared to the amount of time you spend on your arm's engine? My guess is that most of you are obsessed with the super charger you are busy building on your engine and haven't really thought about the status of the brake pads. Such a perspective is nothing more than short term gain with long term problems.

    Oates Specialties is here to help you with your arm care needs, so reach out to us if we can assist you in building your arm care and arm health routines.

    Until next time,

    Brian Oates

    Brian@Oatesspecialties.com

  • Jimmy Chitwood, Alex Cunningham, and The Essence Of Life - by Randy Sullivan

    I recently had the honor of attending the ABCA Annual Convention in Anaheim, CA with my friends from The Texas Baseball Ranch. It was my distinct privilege to be in the auditorium to hear the first speaker, NCAA Division 1 Baseball Champion, Coastal Carolina’s head coach, Gary Gilmore.

    In case you’ve been living under a rock, Coastal shocked the baseball world by rising from a preseason 25th ranking and making history by slaying such NCAA Goliaths as NC State, LSU, Florida, and TCU before finally taking the title against Arizona in a thriller. I believe Coastal’s achievement is the best thing to happen to college baseball (and to baseball in general) in the last 20 years. It proved once again that in this glorious game, you don’t always have to be the biggest, strongest, or even the best team… You only have to be the better than the other team for about 3 hours. It also showed the importance of culture, the value of selflessness, love, respect and service, and the powerful synergy those qualities create.

    During our summer program at the Florida Baseball Ranch, we start every day with a 5-10 min mindset segment. It really sets the tone for the day’s work ahead. It’s something I learned from Ron Wolforth, and we never miss a day. Last summer after the CWS ended, I was inspired to create a mindset I called “Jimmy Chitwood, Alex Cunningham, and The Essence of Life.” It starts out with a quote from former Cy Young winner, Barry Zito…

    “I view my pitching on how confident I was out there, period. And if I lose that confidence, I become a prisoner in my own mind.”

    So what is confidence? That’s a tough one… Confidence is kind of like being in love. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

    Let me show you a clip from the movie Hoosier’s that I believe illustrates confidence at its best.

    First of all, if you haven’t ever seen the movie Hoosier’s it’s not your fault. In my opinion that’s just bad parenting. This is one of my top 5 “must see” movies for any serious athlete. For the children of bad parents, let me lay out the plot for you…

    In the state of  Indiana, basketball is a religion. Years ago — before the “participation trophy generation” — every Indiana high school basketball team competed for the same state championship, regardless of size or location. For as long as anyone in Indiana can remember, the annual high school basketball tournament has been a must see event for all.  From the biggest cities, to the smallest country towns, the single elimination race to the title has always captivated an entire state for nearly a month.  In 1954 one team pulled off the stuff of legend.

    The movie is based on the real life story of tiny Milan High School (called Hickory High School in the film). Gene Hackman plays Coach Norman Dale, a former high level collegiate coach who’s rising star has come crashing down in the wake of an unfortunate lapse in judgement resulting in a physical altercation with a player. Attempting to resurrect his career and his life, Dale takes a job as the Head Coach of Hickory High, in rural Indiana.

    The program has a rich history and the community demands success, even though Hickory only has 7 boys on the team. To the expressed dismay of the town leaders, Dale takes on an alcoholic former superstar, “Shooter” Flatch (played by Dennis Hopper) as an assistant coach. After struggling early in the season, Coach Dale learns that the county’s best player, Jimmy Chitwood whose father has passed away and whose mother has recently become ill,  has become disenchanted with basketball and refuses to play. Local teacher, Myra Fleena (played by Barbara Hershey) has been raising Jimmy since his mother’s illness and has concerns about the pressure of playing in such a rabid basketball community.

    Coach Dale visits Jimmy and persuades him to join the team… and everything changes. Hickory starts winning, and they keep winning, grinding through the playoffs until  they find themselves in the state championship game against a much more athletic team with a much larger student body. With their beloved assistant coach, Shooter, in the hospital for alcohol rehab, and the entire town of Hickory having made the trek to Indianapolis in support of the team, they find themselves struggling in the first half of the game. But in the second half, they turn things around and mount a furious comeback. With the score tied at 40 and 19 seconds left in the game, they get a key steal and call a timeout to set up a play. This is what happens next…

    So my next question is, “How do you become Jimmy Chitwood?”

    How do you develop the level of confidence that allows you to look your team, your coach and your entire town directly in the eye and say… “I’ll make it.”?

    The final pitch of Coastal Carolina’s historic campaign provides some insight into that question.

    In the final game, with the tying run on 3rd and the winning run on second, Coastal finds itself down to their last viable arm, Alex Cunningham. In 42 appearances, he has never saved a game. The count runs to 3-2, and here he stands. He is about to make the most important pitch of his season… of his career… of his life. One way or another, he’ll remember this pitch for forever… Either as the the greatest moment of his life… or the worst. Watch what happens…

    Wistia video thumbnail - Coastal Carolina wins College World Series - Final out and postgame celebration copy

    Wow… I get chills every time I see it… and when I talk about it, I’m moved to tears.

    Like Jimmy Chitwood, Alex Cunningham steps up and drains it!

    How did he do it? How does one have that much confidence in a situation of that magnitude?

    I believe the answer can be found in his body language right after the pitch… Watch it again…

    What would most people do right after throwing that pitch? They would throw their hands up in the air and celebrate of course! And their body language would scream, “Look at me!! Look what I just did!!!”

    But what does Alex Cunningham do? Look at the video… He immediately turns to his dugout… to his brothers in arms… to his team. He pounds his heart (an expression of love), he salutes them (an expression of respect and service) and throws his glove to the side, welcoming his beloved teammates into his arms for an embrace that turns into a dog pile.

    I’d love to meet Alex Cunningham some day. I’d love to ask him about his thoughts before that pitch. I’d be willing to bet that as he toed the rubber for the most significant moment of his life, he never once felt like it was about him. I would guess that his thoughts didn’t wander to what this might mean to the rest of his life. And I’ll bet be never once felt alone. You see, according to Coach Gilmore, he and the leaders of the Coastal Carolina squad had cultivated a culture of selflessness. They had forged relationships that created bonds so strong that no player ever felt alone. In a moment of that magnitude, it would be easy to surrender on yourself. But when you are fighting for a greater cause… when you know that your brothers’ survival is at stake, you don’t feel the pressure of “what will happen to me?”

    Like a fighting Marine in a battle against an overwhelming enemy, when you know the guys in the foxhole with you will die if you don’t keep fighting, you never consider waving the white flag. And you don’t feel alone… because you aren’t fighting by yourself. You know that everyone of your teammates, your coaches, and your family is there with you… And that gives you strength… That gives you confidence. That, my friends is the essence of sport... That is why we play the game… That is the lesson I have always wanted my sons to take away from the game when they are done playing…

    As the spring season begins for most players reading this story, I would like to submit my question again… How do you become Jimmy Chitwood?

    I believe you do it by intentionally building relationships and fostering a culture of love, respect, and service among your teammates. I’ve been on teams where it happened spontaneously, and I’ve been on teams where it never happened. I don’t think you should wait for it to happen… I believe you should make it happen… on purpose. But it can’t be for phony or selfish reasons. Your motivation for bonding with your teammates and coaches cannot be for your own gain. You can’t pretend to love your teammates so you can attain personal achievement and glory. That will never work.

    You have to develop those relationships out of genuine love and respect for every teammate and coach. It has to be real… it has to be a projection of what is in your soul.

    How do you do it?

    I’d start with one or two guys and build from there. Spend time with a couple of your closest buddies. Ask questions about what is going on in their lives and really get to know what makes them tick. Find ways to help them in their struggles — big and small. Lead them through service. Soon you’ll notice them acting the same way toward you, and your bond will be strengthened.

    But take caution. If you’re not careful, your immediate connection with a few guys will create a clique. You cannot allow that. Cliquish behavior will sabotage the effort and the team’s goals. As soon as your bond with a few guys is strong enough to support others, you must reach out and invite new members into the group. Before long, the light of love, respect, and service will spread through the entire team. If some resist initially, don’t fight it. Leave them in the dark temporarily and move on. Eventually that light will be too bright to ignore, and they’ll either join in or burn under its intensity.

    Building these kinds of relationships doesn’t mean you’ll win every game… It doesn’t even guarantee you’ll have a winning season. But the bonds you’ll form will be unbreakable, and you’ll carry those relationships with you for the rest of your life. When you’re baseball career has ended and life presents you with struggles, all you’ll need to do is reflect back on this season and the love, respect, and service you shared with your teammates. The memories will be a constant source of strength and courage, and during the biggest pitches… during the biggest challenges of your life, you’ll never ever feel alone.

    And that makes you a winner.

    And THAT is the essence of sport…

    Indeed the essence of life.

    Have a great year everyone.

    We’ll see you at The Ranch.

    Randy Sullivan. MPT
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

    randy-sullivan

    P.S. Our Spring Training Elite Pitchers Boot Camp Featuring the staffs of both the Florida and The Texas Baseball Ranches is all set for March 10-12. Come enjoy the sun, some world-class training, and a Tigers/Blue Jays MLB spring training game. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

  • Are you evidence “based” or evidence “led” in your training? By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES, CPPS

    Evidence and research can be a great thing. It is the basis for our never-ending quest for knowledge. But what if I told you relying on evidence and research could be harmful or even set you back in your training? I would venture to say most people would highly doubt such an opinion. After all, SCIENCE is ALWAYS RIGHT! I am not here to argue the validity of research, but I am here to ask if you need to be absolutely assured by scientific evidence that something is right before you place it into your training program? In my opinion, the answer to this question is no, not really. Let me explain.

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  • Athletes' Performance Pyramid

    Having on-the-field success is the ultimate goal for all athletes. But how is that achieved? The vast majority of people focus on (1) sport specific training and/or (2) athletic abilities, such as strength and speed. Yet, there are more factors that contribute to success than just those two. We all know people with tremendous physical abilities that never achieve success on the field. I think the following graphic is a great example of the building block components that make up a successful athletic performance.

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  • Throwing Weighted Dogs Can Increase Velocity! Wait… What? - by Randy Sullivan

    Seems the rage these days is about these new weighted ball things and how they increase velocity.

    Funny…

    When we started using weighted balls as part of our process in 2009, in my community you
    would have thought I was Jack the Ripper! Naysayers unfairly blasted me privately, and publicly to the point that I finally gave in and stopped using them for a few months.

    I soon came to the realization that critics will be critics and accepting their slings and arrows is simply the price I must pay for the privilege of working with all the fine young men in my care.

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  • Warning: Connection Ball Vandals Could End Your Baseball Career - by Randy Sullivan

    We get banged on a lot on the internet about our TAP connection balls. If you aren’t familiar with the connection ball, it’s pretty simple. It’s a yellow inflatable ball that has a little texture to
    the skin. verlanderconnectionWe use it as a tool to create feel and feed the mistake on a few different arm action inefficiencies. We blend it into a series of drills designed to elicit more efficient, powerful, and durable movement patterns.

    How did we start using them?

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  • How to Implement Khaos Training in Your Program By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES

    By now you know that unpredictable training is the missing link in the majority of performance training programs, and you know some of the tools that can help you train using this potent method which will result in a greater transfer to on the field performance. If you have not read the first and second part in this series of blogs about “Khaos Training,” I recommend you start with those first ("Khaos" Training Old But Becoming New Again, and "Khaotic Equipment" - Unpredictable Training Equipment, Part Two). For those that have read these blogs, it has probably left a question in your mind: “How can I implement this into my programs?”  These are the questions that I will answer in this post.

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  • Denial is NOT a River in Egypt - by Ron Wolforth

    I wish I had a dime for every young athlete who complained to me about working hard and yet… is underachieving in some way… velocity, command, pain/recovery/durability, and/or consistency, etc.

    They are frustrated. They are discouraged. They are sad. They are melancholy. They are despondent. They are at their wits end.

    Coach Gary Ward referred to it as the ‘ain’t it awful’ mindset.

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  • Stay - By Flint Wallace

    Over my career as an athlete, coach, and teacher, I have noticed that the most successful people are the ones who STAY.

    I don't mean they stay where they currently are in their growth…that is definitely one thing successful people do not do. Here is what I mean by ‘they are the ones who stay’.

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