Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

It doesn't matter how old I am or how long I've been in the game, the day I receive my uniforms for the upcoming season is always a special day. It has become a ritual every year near the end of spring training to put on each set of uniforms and practice the game moves. As a player, this would consist of getting in your batting stance and taking a few cuts or fielding some grounds balls and although it never applied to me in games, working through a windup from the mound. Now as a coach, this has moved into giving signs into the mirror or hitting fungos, but a few swings or ground balls may find their way into the routine.

Uniform handout was Saturday where players and coaches alike received their three game tops, three pants, belts, socks and stirrups. Having received our two game hats a few weeks earlier, we are ready to go. So I used part of my Sunday to test drive the different combinations of our uniform set. We are still awaiting our fourth jersey top, which should arrive this week, which means there is more test driving ahead...buckle up!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don't Give Her The Weight Room Thing

"Do you know where the weight room is? I'll check it out." Most of the time, people who utter that classic line from Tommy Boy usually haven't spent too much time in the actual weight room. It is apparent that our guys do, in fact, know where the weight room is. It has been a staple in the weekly routine beginning in fall ball and continuing through the winter, the pre-season, and now spring training.

As the game of baseball has evolved over the past five, ten, and even 15 years, and the players have evolved along with it. This includes a year-long commitment to strength and conditioning. This goes well-beyond just bench pressing and running laps. Training itself has evolved and become more sport-specific, focusing on the same movements players will see on the field.

Coordinating the Lake Erie baseball strength and conditioning efforts has quickly become one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. Partly because of the enthusiasm showed by the team, but also because of the availability of new drills, lifts, and training exercises to add to our current regimen. Take a peak into a typical week off the diamond by checking out a compilation of spring training speed and strength workouts by clicking here. For more videos, check out The Cave's YouTube page at www.youtube.com/thecoachscave.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring Training: Final At Bat of the Day

The first pitch of the 2011 Lake Erie baseball season will be thrown two weeks from today in St. Augustine, Florida. We have now been outside two days in-a-row. Live bullpens are in full swing (no pun intended). We are at the point where the players are getting anxious to get between the lines and play for real. To fight baseball's version of cabin fever, we try many different things in practice to keep things competitive, or to add any game-like feel to the drill. Today's live bullpens finished with Matt Vanni on the mound against Zach Mosbarger. With it being the final at bat of the day, the cage drew a crowd quicker than a playoff hole at TPC Sawgrass. Now nearly 80 eye balls focused on the 60'6" battleground, the question was who would prevail, hitter or pitcher? Thanks to modern technology, we have the answer. Check out the video here, and check out The Cave's YouTube page at www.youtube.com/thecoachscave for more videos.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

We Are Official

The countdown to opening day is approaching two weeks and spring training became official today when we were able to get outside for the first time. With temperatures nearing the 60's on Thursday and Friday, conditions were ideal to get on the football field. But Thursday is our off day, and Friday is our day at Lost Nation so we were unable to get on the field turf at Jack Britt Stadium until this morning. The conditions were not nearly ideal, with the temperature just above freezing and extreme winds howling around the confines of Kiwanis Recreation Park but it was exactly what we needed.

The outfielders have been able to long toss every week at Lost Nation but have yet to see a live fly ball. Short of live game action, nothing simulates balls off the bat like batting practice but with live bullpens still taking place in the Osborne Center, that wasn't possible. The outfielders would have to settle for balls off the fungo. Despite the cold temperatures and the wind, the sun did make an appearance and add another element to the workout.

Power Infield made a modified return in Friday's practice but was in mid-season form during today's infield outdoor session. Infielders have more of an advantage during the winter months as far as their defense is concerned. By that I mean they have more opportunities to take game-like reps, but until they get outside and take live balls off the bat, they are in the same boat as everyone else.

Overall, today was a successful one, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. There are still two weeks to continue working out the kinks before the first pitch is thrown on March 6th in the Sunshine State.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When It Was a Game

As "Scotty Smalls" of Minor League University wrote last week, there are certain ways baseball players handle bus rides. There is a strategy to picking your seat to not only ensure you get your own row, but to also sit in the optimum seat for watching movies. There are iPods, DVD's, magazines, cards, and laptops to keep players occupied on long trips. But there are certain things to take on trips that don't require any extra space in your bag which can eat up a few hours on trips or rain delays.

"Black Magic," "Camping Game," and the "Triangle Game" are names of dugout games as common with baseball players as "I Spy" is to kids on family vacations. These games probably originated in baseball during summer ball, where bus rides ranging from 2-4 hours are the norm, but have made their way to the spring season as well. These games are fun for awhile but played too long can create some unwanted hostility if the guys trying to break the code have trouble figuring it out.

Our featured game today is called "Destination Game." The purpose is to guess the next city the player will visit based on a series of clues from his previous stops. For those of you who have never heard of, or played the Destination Game, we have provided some video of how it works. In this footage, juniors Jae Leeworthy and Matt Vanni give us an example of how the game is played and leave us with one to figure out on our own. We will be back in a week or so with the correct destination. See if you can figure it out. Enjoy!

For more video footage of Storm baseball, check out The Cave's YouTube page at www.youtube.com/thecoachscave.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spring Training: Bullpens Unplugged

We are now only a month away from Opening Day 2011 when our first pitch will be thrown in St. Augustine, Florida. It is now the time of year when the screws get tightened during practice and the intensity picks up as well. This usually means that live bullpens have begun where the hitters and pitchers square off in the cage. Continuing with the look-ins to the 2011 version of Storm Spring Training, we take a look at some of this weekend's live bullpen action. The hitters have been doing drill work for two weeks waiting for the moment when they get to dig in versus the Storm pitching staff. Like the hitters, the pitchers have been doing chair drills, towel and band work for months waiting to see an opponent in the box. Let's take a few minutes to put the snow shovels down and take a look at some live AB's. The video can be found at The Cave's YouTube site, but you may also watch by clicking here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spring Training Videos

Spring is my favorite time of year and one of the reasons why is spring training. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I am used to the brutal winters. But a constant bright spot in the winter was footage of the Indians spring training workouts in Arizona, then Florida, and now Arizona again. Even if it was just watching Charles Nagy play catch with Dave Burba on the evening news, it was enough to get me through the last few weeks (and months) of winter. Now thanks to beat writers and fans across the country, spring training video footage is all over the Interweb. Because I always looked forward to watching these, I figured I would share a few clips from a recent pitcher's workout. The video can be found at The Cave's YouTube site, but you may also click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spring Training: Week 1

The first week of the college practice season is usually the same every year, and each day eerily resembles the set list for a music concert. After a few months off from baseball, players and coaches alike are excited to get back in the swing of things and a heightened level of anticipation surrounds the hours and minutes leading up to the first catch of the new season. Day one is like the first song of the concert, the band wants kick off with a killer, to grab attention so they either start with one of the hits from their latest album or one of their classic songs that contains a fast beat (e.g. "Corduroy" by Pearl Jam). On the first day of spring training, the coaching staff wants to set the pace for the year regarding intensity of practices, rules and procedures, while the players are ready to prove themselves worthy of a starting spot and there is always a lot of intensity and adrenaline flowing throughout the gym.

The second song has to take the intensity up a notch to really set the stage for the remainder of the show. A good example would be the song "Hail, Hail" to follow "Corduroy." After these two songs, the crowd would be feeling good and locked in for the rest of show, allowing the band to play a lot of the songs from the new album. In order to hammer home the ideas, theories, and principles set the previous day, the coaching staff has to increase the intensity of practice to demonstrate how serious they were about what was established in day one (the fall season also follows this formula but it is more like an unplugged version so the artists and coaches have the ability to freestyle on songs or practice plans).

The next song is key for the performer because they don't want the crowd to exude all their energy for the remainder of the show, so they have to cool it of a notch (e.g. "Daughter" or "Off He Goes"). Because the baseball season is a five-month grind, the same rule applies for the coaches and their practice plans on day three. This is when you start to get into the mode of being ready everyday with an even-keeled approach...not getting to high or too low and just getting your head right. There are a lot of rules.

The remainder of the concert is usually up to the performers discretion. If there is a time they feel like throwing in "Do the Evolution" or "Alive" as opposed to "Low Light" or "Just Breathe," the crowd will usually dictate this by their mood. Similarly, there will be times a coach needs to put his foot on the gas and get the team going and there are times to let them wear shorts to practice and plug in the iPod. Like I said, there are a lot of rules.