Christmas Elite Pitcher's Boot Camp: Day 1

Today was the first day of Ron Wolforth’s Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp at the Texas Baseball Ranch and because I will be in attendance all three days I decided that I would post a few blogs about some of my observations while there. For those of you unfamiliar with this camp it is, in my opinion, the absolute best for a baseball athlete, whether a pitcher or position player. Although it is definitely geared toward pitchers, the theme of the 3-day camp is to help athletes maximize their athletic ability by training the body to move faster and more explosively than ever before.

Coach Wolforth specifically targets the explosive ATP energy system in nearly all of the activities and drills that the athletes perform while at the camp. This is done by using timers set at varying durations, all under 10 seconds, to allow athletes to move as quickly as possible and help to train the same energy system used during a baseball game.

At the beginning of the camp, Coach Wolforth, aided by Brent Strom and Flint Wallace, gave a lecture accompanied by a slide show to the players about a number of critical topics that will be important in the pursuit of reaching the next level in their baseball career. One of the most interesting topics that Coach Wolforth explained to the players was about the body’s stability and mobility continuum, all done by examining a picture of Roger Clemens’ delivery. This slide had arrows pointing to different parts of Roger’s body labeling joints as those needing stability or mobility. Coach then explained that during the course of the 3 days every player will work on improving the stability and mobility of these joints.

Another fascinating part of the slide-show presentation was the importance of perseverance and having the right attitude. Coach Wolforth has used many examples to demonstrate this including an accomplished wrestler who didn’t have hands or feet; a dog who has only two legs and walks upright on them; a piano player who has no hands and plays with his feet; he has even used several reality show clips such as Paul Potts famous opera singing on Britain’s Got Talent to show that many people may laugh at you when you say you are going to do something but you must have courage to try anyway. I think this is an extremely valuable piece of information. People will always tell you that you aren’t good enough, fast enough, don’t throw hard enough, don’t have enough power, etc…and you cannot listen to these naysayers if you want to fulfill your dreams.

After the presentation the players got right to work as they went outside to do a “wake up/warm up” that lasted a good 15 minutes and most of the kids were breathing hard afterward. It consisted of many movements including skips, bounds, and leg kicks to name a few. Following a short water break, the athletes formed lines and began to do hurdles and ladders. The goal while doing this portion of the warm up was to move as quickly as possible and see how many hurdles they could jump over or how many rungs of the ladder they could move through in 5 seconds.

Many of the kids seemed to struggle with their coordination under these conditions as their minds were telling their body to move faster than it was used to. This resulted in hurdles being kicked and athletes looking as though they were out of control. This is a common sight because most athletes do not push their bodies to move as fast as possible. The result is that the neuro-muscular pathways in most athletes are not as efficient as they could be and the athlete looks uncoordinated. Over time, by forcing athletes to move as fast and quick as possible they will build more efficient pathways and be able to move faster, further, and with more coordination than before, which will help in everything they do athletically.

After a grueling circuit of hurdles and ladders the players were soaked with sweat, even in December, and they were now ready to do what is known at the Ranch as “Verstegen’s.” These are a series of dynamic, active stretching movements named after the well-respected Mark Verstegen. Many of these movements mimic the throwing motion, such as an exercise where the athlete arches back and then comes forward on one leg balancing while his other leg extends straight out behind him stretching his hamstring. This movement is very similar to a pitcher’s finish after releasing a pitch. In the picture I posted the athletes are doing a reverse lunge with a twist, helping to loosen up their back and work on the mobility of their spine.

After Verstegen’s the players were sufficiently warmed up to begin a number of circuits. I will talk about these circuits in more detail in a later post but the first day was a great one for the many newcomers to the Ranch. I fully expect there to be many sore baseball players show up at the Ranch at 8:30 tomorrow morning to begin Day 2 of the camp.

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday and is ready to get back to work as the baseball season will be here before we know it.

Until next time, Brian Oates

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