This entry was posted on May 18, 2010
Beckley, West Virginia is a rather small town nestled in the heart of southern WV in an area known for its coal mines, it's in the same county as that tragic mining accident a few months ago, and its appeal to outdoorsmen as you can finding snow skiing, fishing, and white water rafting at your fingertips. However, baseball players and fans in the area are the truly lucky ones in this beautiful community.
The Upper Deck Training Center is a baseball/softball academy in Beckley owned by Tim Epling. Tim has an extensive baseball background as he pitched for national powerhouse North Carolina Methodist College, was a professional baseball umpire, and has been a high school and collegiate head coach. Tim founded his academy to bring his expertise and unique approach to Southern West Virginia. I recently traveled to Beckley to visit Tim and check out his facility and his philosophy on training athletes.
As I entered the Upper Deck Training Center, I recognized many Oates Specialties products throughout the facility. As we walked around Tim begin to describe how they use some of the equipment. Hanging from a beam in one area of the academy were several sets of gymnastic rings. As we discussed these rings he put me on them and showed me how his guys utilize the rings to strengthen the core. He had me take the rings in my hands and assume a plank position forcing my abs to contract to hold my body in place. After holding this position for a few seconds, I extended my hands out in front of me while keeping my body flat. This was extremely difficult and Tim said it was just one of a number of strength exercises he has his players perform.
Other strength and conditioning tools in the facility was large diameter rope and Speed Chains. Tim informed me that this past off-season his athletes really utilized the Speed Chains before and after their workouts. He said this has created substantial power increases as players who have never before hit a homerun have hit several so far this season.
Tim informed me that before his players do anything baseball related he wants them to be as hot and lathered as possible. To accomplish this he puts his athletes though hurdles, ladders, and cones in 5 second durations to get the heart rate elevated. After the agilities his guys and girls concentrate on their scapula and shoulder region to make sure this critical area is warmed up for the work ahead.
As for his pitching philosophy, Tim stated that this past off-season he concentrated more on step behinds and double play type drills rather than specifically on pitching. He was more concerned with developing athleticism throughout the throw and not as much about mechanics or drill work. If the body can be free and loose the ball will jump out of the hand.
This was the same approach he takes with hitting too. He wants to create a looseness in the swing rather than a mechanical, tight hitter. According to Tim, if you teach the timing of the swing then the body will link up and the hitter will have the results he/she is looking for.
Not only does Tim have a highly successful and unique training academy but he is the head coach of the West Virginia Miners, a summer collegiate baseball team in Beckley. This will be the Miners first year in existence and Tim, along with his family, own the team. I was impressed after seeing the Upper Deck Training facility but when I saw the brand new stadium being built for the Miners I was blown away. The Linda K. Epling stadium is a 1200 seat all-turf complex that is as nice as any I've ever seen. I have played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the Coastal Plains League, and the Cape Cod Baseball League and I don't think I ever played in as nice of a stadium. The Miners are part of the Prospect League which is composed of 15 teams throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and West Virginia.
Whether you are a player wanting to improve you game or a fan wanted to watch some great baseball, Beckley is a great place to be. If you are in the area go check out the West Virginia Miners and support them in their inaugural season and watch some future professional prospects.
Or if you are interested in improving your game check out the Upper Deck Training academy website at: www.upperdeckwv.com/
I'd like to say thanks to Tim Epling for being such a great host and taking me around Beckley for the day!
Best of luck this season!
Until next time,