Tim Kendell – Looking at your game through the baseball scout’s eyes

Tim Kendell – Looking at your game through the baseball scout’s eyes

When recruiting, there are certain aspects of the game that scouts notice and often place at a higher value on than others. Give yourself the best chance for success by developing a thorough understanding of what it is that scouts are watching for.

Scouts want the ‘whole package.’ They want a prospect that is well-rounded and holds a strong knowledge of the game. So, think about your game. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Where do you think you need to improve?

Here are a few tips on what scouts look for in a prospect:

Overall Athleticism.

The first thing they will take note of is a player’s overall athleticism. Speed, power, and size all play a part in this evaluation and small advantages can have a big impact on your career. So, train hard. Aim to get stronger and faster through training and practice.

Passion.

Playing on an elite baseball team comes with a grooling schedule that can be mentally and physically exhausting. Top prospects need to have a passion for the game. It takes heart to stay fully committed.

The fundamentals.

Never underestimate the importance of having a solid foundation of knowledge on the game. Understand the strategy. Know how to take second lead or where to go in a double cut-off situation. If you don’t know the strategies, you will get passed over for someone who does.

Running speed.

Of course speed is an advantage. The ability for a player to earn singles and steal bases puts the team in a scoring position and the difference between ‘out’ and ‘safe’ is only a fraction of a second away. The 60-yard dash is often used as a quick measure of speed and stealing ability. The Major League average for the 60-yard dash is 6.9 seconds. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Throwing strength.

Arm strength can make the game easier but it is also a tool that gets noticed. For pitchers, focus on speed and control. For those in the the infield, place a target at first base and don’t stop until you can make 10-of-10 consistently.

Defensive skills.

Scouts are going to examine your stats, focusing in on your errors, chances and field percentage. But, they are also going to be watching for your body conditioning, your instincts, your reliability and consistency in making good plays, and your arm strength. Do not neglect your long toss.

Hitting for power.

Practice hitting the ball to 450 feet consistently. Scouts give high points for power and speed.

Hitting for average.

When it comes to stepping up to home plate, scouts are going to be watching your hand path, head movement and general decision making. Your batting average is important but so is your walk/strikeout ratio. This stat shows a lot about discipline, eye and hand coordination and knowledge of the strike zone.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to make sure that you don’t focus solely on one area of your game. Being well-rounded is essential.

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Tim Kendall Baseball Instructor: Envision it Then Make it Reality

Tim Kendall Baseball Instructor: Envision it Then Make it Reality

Everybody remembers the 2006 bestselling book, The Secret. The not-so-secret secret revolved around envisioning success, then manifesting it through the power of positive thought and repetition. While success may be a little more nuanced than just believing it, there is something to be said about reinforcing your skills with the power of a positive attitude. 

When it comes to baseball, I am strong believer that it is a 30 percent physical game and 70 percent mental game, and while we can monitor and gauge a player’s physical game, it is harder to accurately measure mental toughness.

We all fall victim to that negative inner dialogue, when things don’t go the way we had planned or we fail at a task we especially wanted to excel at. For young baseball players, this negative self-talk is particularly detrimental because it slowly erodes their self-confidence.

The power of perception when it comes to baseball was evidenced in a 2005 study that found that softball players who had big hits envisioned the ball as being larger than it was.

“Perspective and perception play a big role in what we do and how well we do it,” wrote Jessica Witt, a cognitive psychologist and author of the report. “If you visualize yourself hitting better, maybe you’ll see the ball as bigger.”

As Witt’s study concluded, in order to achieve the results they wanted, softball players literally see the ball as larger. You’re probably asking yourself, well how do I trick my brain into seeing the ball as bigger?

The trick is, there is no trick.  When it comes down to it, it is all about training and nurturing your mental game.

“Baseball is impossible without psychology: impossible to play, and impossible to appreciate fully as a fan,” writes psychologist Mike Stadler, who authored The Psychology of Baseball. “The physical nature of the game, and especially the speed of some of the things that have to happen means that you just have to have a lot of mental preparation or it would be impossible.”

This means that in order to build your mental game, you must diligently and routinely practice and repeat your physical game.  That is what’s called muscle memory.

You have seen those plays that are so lightning fast you wonder how on earth athletes can possibly think that quickly.  They aren’t, in the traditional sense. In fact their body is so trained and refined that they automatically perform the play with little thought. What needs to be done is so ingrained in the athlete’s mind and body that they perform the action at the simple prompting of the ball’s movement.

When the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2014, the team credited their ability to envision group success as one of the main factors that led to their 4-game sweep.

“When we sign our players long-term, they all want to win,” said David Glass, the team’s owner. “These guys are the most competitive people on the planet and they want to be a part of a winning team, a winning culture.”

To achieve success in baseball or any endeavor, you must first envision yourself as able and worthy to reach your goal.

Tim Kendall, baseball players need to shake off the rust with these exercises

When New Year’s Day rolls around, it should serve as a signal the offseason is drawing to a close for baseball players. Those who have done little strength and conditioning work since the season ended will need to shake off the cobwebs in preparation for spring training.  In all fairness, a lot of players are banged up in one way or another at the end of the season and use the offseason to get over those nagging injuries.  But, bear in mind, plenty of ‘freak’ injuries have happened to athletes as they prepare for spring, so is critical you listen to your body regardless of how many times you’ve gone through this before.

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With that in mind, I recommend five key exercises designed to help ball players get ready for spring.

First off, the Front Squat.

Of all the exercises, this one will tell you what kind of shape you’re in and provide optimum ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of time and effort.  It utilizes lower body strength, anterior core stability, and increases hip, knee, and ankle mobility.  Technique is extremely important here as knee or back injuries can happen if the front squat is done improperly or you’re not warmed up. When it’s done right, the exercise forces you to stay upright and utilize core stability to complete the movement.

Keep your hands in front of your body, so your shoulders are in a safer position.  Keep in mind that with baseball related movements (like throwing) coming up soon, the stress needs to be off your shoulders, so keep your arm safe and out of risky positions.   This exercise is critical for increasing force production.  For those who don’t have a barbell, a kettle bell is fine.  

The next one on my list is the Romanian Deadlift.  

Nothing works the major abdominal muscle groups quite like this one.    The Romanian deadlift utilizes the hips and builds strength in the glutes and hamstrings.   This helps develop the kind of explosive power baseball players need in the heat of battle.  

Beginning with your bar or dumbbells from the ground, use your hips to lift the bar/dumbbell.  Unless you’re experienced, I don’t recommend doing the single leg Romanian deadlift.  The more advanced weight trainers who do the one-legged version will get the added benefit of developing balance and proprioceptive feedback. That’s another way of saying it develops your perception of where your body is in space, which contributes to balance.  That comes in handy after stealing second base standing up and trying to stay on the bag as you’re being tagged.  

Number three is the Single Arm Row.   

So we’ve gone from major abdominal muscle groups to using dumbbells, bands, cables, or pulleys to work one lat and arm at a time.  Obviously, doing it that way allows you to focus on one side at a time.  I know it’s tempting to think of this as an arm exercise but really it’s designed to work your back, mainly your lat muscles.  Try to maintain good movement in your shoulder blade while working back muscles and you’re on the right track.

Number four is the good old Push-Up.  

I know many gravitate towards the bench press, but baseball athletes should really do this one.  For one thing, it’s a lot safer on the shoulders than your typical bench press.  It’s effective because it forces athletes to learn to control their shoulder blades.   If you do it right,  your  shoulder blades will move on the rib cage.   At the bottom of the movement, the shoulder blades are close to the spine, but then at the top of the push-up the shoulder blades move on the rib cage away from the spine. The push up has the added benefit of working your core muscles.  Again, this one beats the bench press hands down.

Number five is the Hip Thrust.

Speaking of working your core, here’s another good one for that.  Hip thrusts also target the glute and hamstring muscles.  You work the core when thrusting up and a strong contraction of the glutes.   It’s so important for ball players to creating lower body strength.  Think of pitchers which generate power from their lower body.   This one has the added benefit of not requiring weights.  As you get better, you can add a dumbbell and then a barbell to create more force production.

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So there you have it.  Five exercises designed to get you primed and ready for that first day at spring training.  Enjoy!

Tim Kendall, Baseball Offseason Fitness Regimes Key to In-Season Performance

It’s still the dead of winter, but the days are getting a little longer everyday, meaning spring training is once again drawing near.  It’ll be the ballplayers who maintained a good offseason workout regimen who will have the edge on opening day.  Diet is important too. The idea that we can throw common sense dietary rules out the window after the season is wrong.  We’ve all heard of players who show up to camp 25 pounds overweight and are still out of shape and underperforming when the season starts.

Don’t be that guy.

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So, what does a good offseason routine look like?  Certainly, it can vary according to each player.  Age is a factor, injuries are a factor, but the one thing to remember is that maintaining your skill level demands staying in shape.

We’re all a little different, but our offseason routines should include a balance of cardiovascular training, strength and flexibility training.  Obviously, you’re not expected to stay in midseason form throughout the year nor would I ever advise you to do so.  But, you don’t stop being an athlete just because it’s the offseason. That means you need to maintain a level of running speed, strength and mental readiness that the average accountant or secretary may not have to.

I also have to state that for ballplayers, maintaining a good fitness level is not enough.  They must also incorporate exercises specific to their position.   If you’re a pitcher, you need to do certain limbering work unique to your position.  The same goes for catchers, fielders, etc.  I’ve spoken in the past about specific weight bearing exercises that help ballplayers stay in shape in preparation for the season.

One option is a 4-day workout program focussing on the lower body for two days, upper body for one, but let’s talk a bit about cardio.

Ball players know their jobs are physically and mentally demanding, so cardio fitness helps players adapt to that and recover from any nagging injuries. I recommend starting every exercise session with a 20 minute aerobic exercise either cycling or on a treadmill.  I like 400-meter sprints and I recommend distance running to get that heart rate and endurance level up.

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The other big part of an offseason training regimen involves strength and flexibility.  We need to maintain a balanced body and that means muscular endurance and stabilized joints.  Keeping yourself as flexible as possible allows you to untighten those muscles and expand the range of motion for your joints, a critical part of avoiding injury.

A typical offseason weight training routine involves lifting weights three or four times a week.  I recommend taking a day off between workouts for rest and recovery.   Most athletes know to stretch before a workout but it’s important to do so after as well.  I’ve gone into depth about five specific weight-bearing exercises on another blog and invite you to check it out.

As far position-specific exercises, these are critical to maintaining motor skills whether you’re pitching, batting or fielding.  Maintaining strength on the rotator cuff in the offseason is critical so please include a lightweight routine to do that.   The most popular exercise for that involves lying face down on a bench with shoulders straight out and elbow bent at 90 degrees toward the floor.  As you hold a light dumbbell, raise the hand forward until the hand is level with the shoulder. Then slowly lower your hand until it level with the shoulder.

There you have some ideas for the offseason. It can be a challenge staying motivated over the long winter months.   That’s the psychological part of your routine. Just remember, spring comes faster than you think.