Category Archives: Baseball

Success Story: Luis Escolano

Luis Escolano is one of our talented Senior left-handed ball players here at Champion’s Quest. His transformation as an athlete in this past year of work, has been exciting to watch, to say the least. At 6’4″ 190 pounds, Luis has an outstanding Pitcher/ Outfielder’s frame, and has proven himself to be uniquely explosive for his size. Since training here Luis has dropped his 60 yard dash time to 6.8 seconds, and increased his vertical jump by a whopping 6 full inches. Unsurprisingly, this has directly translated to his abilities out on the diamond.

100008991_largeCombine the work that Luis has put in to his lower body power, with his strength work on the posterior side of his body (THE ARM FARM), and he has done something that most people would say couldn’t be done. However, here at Champion’s QUEST we don’t focus on skepticism, just the task at hand. In one year Luis has developed elite level tools on the diamond… His bat is noticeably stronger, and on the mound he is 9 MPH harder with his fastball. To top it all off he has gained a nearly polished repertoire of balance, coordination, and mechanics in all aspects of his game.

It is amazing to see that the ambitious goals we set out to tackle a year ago, HAVE BEEN TACKLED. Even better yet, Luis still has a lot in the tank with his projectable frame, and it is certainly going to be an extremely exciting year to continue watching him grow. One thing I always say to my ball players is that if they put in the work that it takes to be elite, they will achieve what they set out to do, period. It becomes a matter of WHEN it will happen, not IF it will happen. Expect more good news as we follow Luis’s progress, as he is on the verge of breaking into the elite prospect scene. I hope that this inspires those who are reading this today. Big change CAN happen in a short amount of time, it’s just a matter of how bad you want it.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

 

Long Toss: Building Better Throwing Athletes Part 2

101509_hamels_4001Last time we opened up a discussion about Long Toss, and touched on some surface level reasons why I believe it to be effective. Also, we discussed the importance of muscular balance in the rotator cuff, and posterior side of the body. This is vital to ensure health and progression in your throwing velocity.

Long Toss is designed to teach the throwing athlete how to be elite from both a command and velocity stand point. However, the approach has to be executed to perfection in order to ensure that you are seeing these positive results. To me, the best in the business with this execution is Alan Jaegar, who has established himself as an expert both on the long toss and arm care side of throwing progression. Ironically, the focus of long toss should not be strictly on throwing distance. If you only focus on the distance, you will likely find yourself trying to throw beyond the means of your mechanics. For this reason, the “stretch out phase” (where the athlete throws for distance) is designed to accomplish two things…

  1. Properly warm up and prepare the arm
  2. Develop feel from multiple release points

I believe number two is something that is commonly looked over. Long toss is extremely important for the athlete to learn the feelings associated with throwing from multiple different release points. Why is this important to develop this feel? It allows the athlete to make adjustments throw by throw, pitch by pitch. Also, developing this feel allows the athlete to trust their stuff, and throw the baseball instinctually, and aggressively, the way they should be!long-toss

Once the athlete reaches the peak throwing distance (always listen to your arm, and what it gives you each day), they then start what is known as the “pull down phase.”

The pull down phase is where the real work begins, and where the velocity gains will become a reality. By throwing with high effort, on a line to the target you are going to develop your velocity, period. This is going to occur from both physical and psychological changes. On the psychological side, the athlete is learning how to be an elite thrower, with elite command, at a high effort level. This is vital to success, especially with pitchers… because the better their stuff, the better their chance of success.

On the physical side, neuromuscular efficiency will increase due to testing their limits of muscular power. As with anything else that you attack from a power or plyometric training standpoint… if you want to move faster, you have to train your body by moving extremely quick! Your body has an amazing ability to adapt, as long as the athlete is moving with tremendous speed, in an instinctual state, and making positive adjustments on a rep to rep basis

Try this out yourself, and witness the transformation of your throwing athleticism that will take place within the first few weeks! Next time we will continue our discussion, and dive into some more important facets of arm health.

Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

Success Story: Cameron Repetti

Huge congratulations to Cameron Repetti, one of our HS baseball athletes, who has taken some big strides towards accomplishing his goals this summer. In just under 3 months of taking pride in his athleticism, and arm here at Champion’s QUEST, Cameron has already tacked on 2 MPH (pushing to 87) to his fastball and has no signs of slowing down. He is being recognized as a top prospect both in the field, at the plate, and on the mound at every showcase and event he attends. It is clear that Cam has a very polished game with strong tools to go a long with his raw power. With this, of course, is coming a lot of interest and attention from coaches at the D1 collegiate level. What’s scary, Cameron is only going into his sophomore year! The hard work and dedication, is helping Cameron separate himself from the pack, and he still has a lot of work ahead of him.3994-purple-15

Recently, Cameron attended the PG West Coast Underclass showcase, and stood out as one of the best prospects on the field. He was ranked at the top of the prospect list for the event with some very positive notes. “Repetti has lots of tools on both sides of the ball and is very projectable at 6-2/175. He topped out at 87 mph and showed lots of bat speed and easy power from the right side of the plate.”

With multiple more years to continue refining his craft, and athleticism, he has a very, very bright future indeed. As he continues to develop his posterior strength, rotational based core strength, and lateral agility he is going to continue to add to his already impressive, raw power. I am very excited to continue watching Cameron develop and mature as a ball player. 

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

Long Toss: Building Better Throwing Athletes Part 1

Long Toss is one of those topics in the baseball world that is highly debated for many reasons. On one side, it is argued that long toss puts un-necessary stress on the arm, while reinforcing bad mechanics, and ultimately does not translate to velocity on the mound. Today, I am going to start an in-depth series breaking down this throwing program, and explain why I am a believer. To me, there are so many factors that make long toss a beneficial addition to your velocity training program.53a8f307e9e23-image

First, let me start by saying that baseball is one of the more uninformed sports in the world today. This sport has relied on traditions, values, and methods for quite a number of years, many of which are simply not backed by science. One of those ideologies, which has run rampant, is this idea that every pitcher only has a set number of “bullets” to use over the course of their career. With this ideology, it is encouraged to do as little throwing as possible, and save your arm from its impending doom. To me, this is just the blind leading the blind. In what sport, category, or profession can you ever expect to “not practice” your actual craft, and make improvements/ set yourself up for injury prevention?! If you think about it from a sport by sport perspective, EVERY OTHER SPORT, endorses advancement by the act of throwing, kicking, or shooting rigorously within the same movement pattern, with the same equipment to achieve results. So why is throwing a baseball (In America) any different?CC Sabathia

To me, there is one American-specific condition that sheds a lot of light on throwing phobia, and it is the fact that we are completely front-side dominant. This front side dominance is a major contributor to most throwing related injuries, which would also explain why people are cautious to let kids throw the baseball a lot. We are obsessed with the “glamor muscles” on our anterior side of the body. This includes our pecs, biceps, abdominals, quads, etc. Where we have neglected our bodies as throwing athletes is on the posterior side. This includes the back side of our rotator cuff, scap chain, lats, rhomboids, glutes, hamstrings, etc. This imbalance is important because it shows that as a culture we have bigger accelerator muscle groups than our “brakes” will allow. One of the easiest ways to expose this imbalance is by testing the internal rotation strength versus external rotation strength of the athlete.


My personal testing of young baseball athletes has shown that there is an approximate 1:4 deficiency in the decelerators of the shoulder to the accelerators, which is culturally instilled. Sometimes, this gap is even more! I’ve had a number of athletes that were closer to 1:10! What this shows me, is that the great majority of American throwing youngsters are driving Ferraris equipped with Prius brakes. What happens when you don’t have the brakes to match the horsepower? You either have to cruise at a sub maximal speed or you’ll likely crash at some point. The same can be said for these young throwers. This also shines light on
exactly why there is a phobia with athletes throwing a baseball as hard as they can. If you push your body’s limits without the proper structural integrity, you are asking for trouble.

average-mlb-fastball-velocityI am a firm believer that in order to throw the baseball hard, you have to go out on a regular basis and learn to throw hard… BY ACTUALLY THROWING THE BASEBALL HARD. When you push the envelope in your catch play, you are not always going to be perfect, but as long as you are making sound adjustments mechanically, you are re-wiring your body to be a quicker, more efficient athlete. This is quality practice, and there are many factual reasons why long toss is one of the most effective ways to develop elite throwers. If you are looking for positive gains in velocity, long toss is certainly one of the answers. However, you need to make sure you start developing the balance and strength in your rotator cuff that will be demanded of you when you hit the gas pedal on your training. We will start hashing out the nuts and bolts of why long toss is so effective next time. In the meantime, gentlemen, start mixing in a back/ pull day every now and then. Those biceps aren’t going to help you throw 90MPH.

Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

Success Story: Andrew Stanley

It is always great to see the hard work pay off here at Champions QUEST. In fact, it is a daily occurrence! In the case of one of our young baseball athletes, Andrew Stanley, the 100008284_largehard work is paying off quickly! In less than a month and a half of work, Andrew has seen some incredible results, that are highlighted by his gains in speed, agility, and core strength. In two of the three agility tests, he has increased his efficiency by a full category, which is normally indicative of 1 year’s worth of growth! On his 5-10-5 Pro Agility, he shaved .42 seconds off his time, which is quite substantial for a 20 yard increment. He also has increased his plank hold time (core strength) from 32 seconds to 2 minutes. This test shows me that he is not only getting stronger physically, but also increasing his mental aptitude. I am quickly seeing a shift in his work ethic, demeanor, and ultimately his make up as an athlete. Keep up the hard work Andrew, and I look forward to seeing your continued growth. Always remember, the joy is found in the journey.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

“The Process”: Mental Approach on the Diamond Part 4

Over the last couple months here at Champions QUEST we have spent a considerable amount of time and thought dissecting the tangible action steps for ball players to take control of their mental game. We have talked about what the “process” looks like, and how a ballplayer should only focus on those things that are within their control. Today, I would like to add one more piece of the puzzle which is equally important, and that is routines. Routines are an essential part of the “wiring” process that allow athletes to stay repeatable. Repeatability is crucial for athletic confidence, especially when it comes to baseball, a sport that is centered around accuracy related results.

garciaparras20habits207-001In order to establish a routine, first the athlete must develop a plan. It is absolutely essential for the ballplayer to have a plan each and every time they step on the field. Baseball is a tricky game, because it requires a balance of strategy and instincts. For instance, if you step up to the plate as a hitter with the intention of “wingin’ it,” you are not giving yourself the best chance of success against an opponent that is trying to outmatch and outsmart you. Today we are going to talk about a sample mindset and approach for a hitter, which can be established through batting practice and game time experience.

  1. Step up to the batter’s box, and establish what you like to do to prepare before you enter. Once you realize what you tend to do (manicure the dirt, re-strap batting gloves, tap the bat on the plate, etc.), make it is detailed as possible. From there do the same exact thing every single time, for the same amount of time/ repetitions. As you do this enough, you will have to think about it less and less. This serves to tap into the same wired instincts that have made you the hitter you are today.
  2. Use a deep breath as your re-set button. There is scientific power in the deep breath, and how it impacts your body. Physiologically, it works to slow down your heart rate and reduce stress. For this reason, there is really no better cue for re-setting than a breath. From there, go back through your routine and back in to the batter’s box.
  3. Always sit fastball, and adjust off-speed. If you allow a fastball to beat you, you are setting yourself up to be dominated a number of different ways.
  4. Be ultra decisive. Either give a healthy hack or completely lay off. The better you get at reading spin out of the pitcher’s hand, the better you will get at deciding.
  5. One indication you are getting fooled may be your hands. If your hands are dropping as you step/ load, it likely means you are unsure of yourself or cautious. Force yourself to keep those hands up even on pitches you take!
  6. Be aggressive and hit the ball hard! PERIOD!evanlongoriatexasrangersvtampabayraysfah8ouxe91ol

By following an approach, such as this, you can ensure you are achieving one main objective… That every pitch you “check in for” you are becoming a better hitter. By sticking to an approach, you have the ability to learn from mistakes, and constantly refine your craft. You will absolutely still make mistakes, and get beat at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an adjustment next time. The premise of hitting comprises of a a few important factors which consist of being..

  1. An excellent decision maker
  2. A strong athlete
  3. Efficient at swinging a bat
  4. A superior competitor

Again, the whole justification of taking pride in an approach is to help the athlete self-evaluate, and ultimately gain the confidence that comes from repeatability. From there, it is up to them to make sure that their “big picture” approach is sound. This means that from at-bat to at bat, they are completely acting in the moment, with disregard to the results they may or may not have achieved in previous at bats. This all serves to simplify things for arguably one of the toughest objectives in all of sports, hitting a baseball. Try this out for yourself, and pay careful attention to your development. Give yourself credit, when credit is due! Stick to the process, and reward yourself according to how well you execute as an athlete, not the outcome.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

“The Process” : Mental Approach on the Diamond Part 3

In our last article, we had an in depth look at what the “process” looks like for a ball player. To recap, “the process” is all about controlling only the things that you can control. By understanding that results are out of their control, the athlete can focus in on the things that are important. These things that are important are hitting the ball hard, making quality pitches, putting their bodies in the right position to field on defense, and ultimately, staying completely aggressive with their approach and effort. clayton-kershaw9

Baseball was never designed to be a sport based on accuracy and analytics. If pitchers were only required to throw strikes, and hitters were only required to hit the ball into permanent unchanging gaps, then we could maybe put the heavy emphasis on stats that we do. However, Baseball is so much more than just ERA, batting average, hits, walks, strikeouts, on base percentage, and everything else we obsess over! This game is an art form, and chess match that pins competitors against each other in a ballistic, fast paced, ever changing setting with strict guidelines and a human umpire who can determine their fates. With this thought in mind, how do we set up a pitcher to have the best possible chance of success on the mound? 635982535697601028-ap-rangers-tigers-baseball-m

If you are a pitcher, it is not rocket science to know that “better stuff” (i.e. velocity, movement, spin, etc.) equals a higher likelihood of getting the batter out. This also means that a pitcher that is throwing 95MPH versus a pitcher that is throwing 85MPH can get away with way more mistakes, because the batter is stressed with reaction time. If a pitcher that throws harder can get away with more mistakes, from an odds perspective, doesn’t he have a better chance of getting the batter out? You may be saying to yourself, “well yah of course, unless he’s really wild.” Ok, well now let’s imagine this is the same pitcher that has the ability to throw 95MPH but the coach has asked him to “tone it down” and throw 85MPH with more strikes.

First of all, he is now trying to do something which he has never done in his life, which is throw the ball with less than 100% effort with high pressure to a small target. With that his mechanics will change, his approach will change, and ultimately he will lose confidence in throwing the ball over the plate with conviction. This is because he is now solely thinking about just throwing strikes, rather than competing as an athlete. This leads me to the big take away. The pitcher, no matta0qcber how hard he throws, will compete at a higher level and have higher success, if he is trying to put a hole in the catcher rather than just getting it to the glove. This is because…

  1. His “stuff” is better and therefore the batter has less time to react and adjust.
  2. He is allowing himself to throw the way he has HIS ENTIRE LIFE of playing the game. From an early age, he has honed his craft of playing quality catch in a relaxed state of mind without conscious thoughts, and the demands of high achievement and pressure. So quite simply, practice like you play, and play like you practice. 

I have said it before and I will say it again, baseball players are gymnasts on a diamond. This means that ballplayers have to play the game instinctually with full trust that their countless hours of preparation have established their skill set. If you go out onto the field and try to do something different, by appeasing a voice that is telling you to play it safer, you are only setting yourself up for frustration and suffered performance.

It is time to take a step back as a culture, and not only look at how we are mentally developing our youth ball players, but also how we choose to coach our older elite ball players. Next time we will talk about this mental approach from a position player/ hitting perspective.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance