I received this note yesterday.
“Suggestion: for me, and your other loyal readers, can you give us a list of best exercises to get ready for the season?”
Best, Bill G.
Alright catchers throughout the world, here are my “get-ready-for-spring-training tips”.
1. Stop partying. You need to get into some good sleeping habits and you’re gonna get drug tested when you walk in the door. Clean up your act and get your priorities straight!
2. Come the first of the year, you should be in the weight room less and on the field more. Not completely out of the weight room, just tapering it down slightly, spending more time doing baseball specific activities.
3. You should be running about 3 miles at least 4 days a week. Every spring training involves some kind of endurance training and testing. Trust me, just do it. Plus, your legs will get strong. (I never did, but YOU should).
4. It’s a long season filled with marginal clubhouse food (especially if you’re in the minor leagues). Make a commitment to spending the time and energy to eat healthily. It will pay off in the later parts of the season.
5. For arm strength, endurance, and overall health make sure you’re playing long toss at least 5 days a week. Realistically, God either blessed you with a good arm or not. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Your arm strength can be improved a tiny bit, but for the most part, it is what it is. That being said, long toss is the best way I know of to maximize and build upon what you’ve got. Use your legs to drive and make the majority of the throw (not all arm) and only go as far as you can throw it with some arc and one hop your partner. Throw about 10 at that distance and then move it slowly in.
6. Here’s one thing you can control – your level of flexibility. Do yoga or learn yoga now. Period. You’re not going to make any money on the DL with two pulled hamstrings.
7. If you are new into pro ball, learn how to do your own laundry, grocery shop, speak spanish, and sleep in a chair or bus seat. Buy some ear plugs. While you’re at it, learn how to ice yourself at home or from the hotel ice machine. You DON’T want to be that guy who lives in the training room. Take care of your injuries but only see the trainer if something is really wrong. Remember, they have to write daily reports and no matter what level your playing, you don’t need to get labeled as anything other than a gamer.
8. As far as hitting goes, make sure that you have the ability to turn off the mental chatter. What I mean by that is this. You’ve been working on mechanics all off season (or at least since January). When you go into the batting box during a game, you want to just see-ball-hit-ball, right? Ideally when you step into the box you step into a vacuum where you’re completely focused and not worrying about your hands or stride or whatever.
We all know how we practice is how we’ll play, right? So, if you’re taking 100 swings a day working on some mechanical issue the whole time, guess what you’re gonna do come game time. It’s gonna be real hard to stop the thinking and noise because that is all you ever practice. You don’t know how to do it any other way.
You need to take at least 51 of those 100 swings trusting what you’ve got, mentally quiet, just seeing the ball and hitting the ball. Since you’re going to be playing games soon, you need to practice doing nothing. Got it?
9. As a catcher you’re going to be severely sore for about the first 2 weeks of spring training. Deal with it. There’s no way around it. You can try to catch every kid in your county for the month leading up to spring training, but why? You’re either gonna be sore then or sore the first few weeks of spring. Take the later.
There’s really nothing you can do to prepare yourself for the 12 bullpens a day your going to have to catch. It’s like surfing. There’s nothing you can do to get yourself in paddling shape except by surfing. In baseball, there’s nothing you can really do to get yourself in catching shape except catching. Trust me, after the first few weeks of spring training, you’ll be able to squat on the toilet without pain again. I promise.
10. On that note, if you’re married and she’s coming to spring training, tell her that for the first few weeks, you are just going to come home and go to sleep. If she can feed you that would be great. Pay her back later.
11. You should be throwing to the bases with gear on at least 3-4 days a week. Effectively throwing base stealers out is VERY timing dependent. It’s very similar to hitting. And just as you take daily batting practice to perfect your timing and rhythm, same goes for your footwork and throwing rhythm from behind the plate. I’m not saying blow it out. I’m just saying 10 or so throws 4 days a week going about 85-90% with a guy catching the ball at second. You’ll never be a consistent thrower if you don’t practice it and stay on it.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got for you. There’s really no way I can describe the grind you’re about ready to enter. Do you’re best, and take it one day at a time. Forget the past, be it good or bad, and focus on the moment. It’s an endurance race and there’s always tomorrow in baseball. Do not get too high or too low…that roller coaster ride will prematurely wear you out. Be an entertainer, be a team player, play the game hard, and most importantly, find a way to have fun. Good luck soldier.