The 5 Keys To “Complete Baseball Development"
Here at The Farm Baseball Performance Institute, our mission is simple - building the baseball athlete through the implementation of a complete skill development program. And while it is easy to explain the mission of a baseball development program in one sentence, it is another thing to really understand just what makes a program “complete”.
I say it a lot, oftentimes as a reminder to our staff and our players as it is sometimes overlooked - baseball is a sport of SKILL! In many sports, raw talent, ability, and genetic make-up can carry a player quite far. Tall athletes can excel in basketball. Naturally larger athletes, as well as quick athletes, will excel in football, etc. Of course, to compete at higher levels, those athletes must develop the necessary skills to continue to excel. But up to a certain level (say, high school), being genetically stronger, bigger, and/or faster can carry an athlete to marked success.
Baseball, on the other hand, is a sport of skill - and skill is a learned dynamic. One of the many beautiful things about baseball is that anyone can learn to play it. And play it well. Just ask Dustin Pedroia (5’7”) and Jose Altuve (5’5”). Or, you can ask C.C. Sabathia (6’7”).
One of the main reasons that baseball is a sport that relies so heavily on skill, is because pretty much everything that we do on a diamond - every athletic action that we perform - is in response to the actions of someone or something else. A batter must hit in response to what the pitcher gives him. A fielder responds to the flight, path or direction of the baseball, and so on. And in order to consistently execute in a reactionary sport, we must rely on muscle memory - and having the proper biomechanics built into muscle memory.
Learning the correct biomechanics of baseball - from the swing to proper fielding position, pitching, and arm path - is just one of the keys (albeit the most important one) to develop a successful baseball athlete. Most young players, however, have aspirations of playing at the highest level possible, collegiate and/or professional baseball. And in order to achieve that, it takes a whole lot more than ONLY proper biomechanics.
I have composed a list of the 5 most important aspects of baseball skill development. When searching for a solid skill development program for your son or daughter (or yourself), try to select one that offers at least four of these…
Here are the 5 keys to developing the complete baseball athlete:
1.) Skill Development: While this is a somewhat general term, this is one of the most vital keys to becoming a successful baseball player. You could have the strongest and most intelligent ball player in the world, but if he lacks the biomechanical skills, he simply will not succeed when playing against players who are.
Learning how to move your body like the best players in the world takes time, dedication, patience, and most importantly, good coaching. Having a coach who understands the mechanical dynamics of a professional baseball swing (for instance) is of major importance. The same goes for fielding, catching, pitching, etc.
Make sure to do your research when selecting a “development” program. Pretty much every program that exists today will say that they focus on “development” on their website or marketing material. Be sure to find one that is committed to the development and who puts the athlete first!
2.) Performance Training: In addition to mechanical training, performance training is critical to the success of a baseball athlete. As a player develops the mechanical skills necessary to compete, he should take part in an extensive and *progressive strength training program. Having a strong, athletic body that supports mechanical skills can launch a player from “competitive” to “successful”.
*It is important to find a performance coach who understands “modern” performance training. He or she should also have a fundamental knowledge of sports kinetics. A good strength coach not only builds strength but also identifies areas of weakness in an athlete. For instance, if a player has poor flexibility in his hips, he may not be able to perform the proper hip rotation during a baseball swing, which his hitting coach is trying to teach him.
3.) Sports Nutrition: The athlete’s body is a performance machine and it must be fueled as such. I know it's an old cliché at this point, but it holds true - would you put regular unleaded in a race car? Of course not. Well, athletes need “super” as well. A solid sports nutrition program to go along with a strength and skill program is another factor in building a complete baseball athlete.
4.) Athletic Lifestyle Management: Committing to a top-level development program requires a great deal of dedication. The better off-season programs will train their athletes at least three times per week, beginning in October or November and wrapping up at the end of March. These months, of course, directly coincide with the school year.
Maintaining academic excellence is paramount for ANY collegiate-bound player. The term is “college-athlete”, not the other way around. If you don’t get the grades, you won’t get the grounders - it’s that simple.
Balancing schoolwork, athletic training, and social life has never been harder. Managing an athletic lifestyle and succeeding in the classroom as well as on the field is daunting. Finding a program that has a support system for the academic athlete is super important.
5.) Mission Cohesiveness: Having personal goals for individual development is important. Getting somewhere is a lot easier when you know exactly where it is you want to go. However, be sure to find a program that will surround you with like-minded athletes who are on the same mission.
In addition, the goal of the coaching staff should be to support the goals of the athlete. Instead of being on some coach’s team, look for a program that practices a philosophy where the coaches are on the team of the player. In a top-level baseball development program, the coaches should serve as support staff and as a group of resources for the individual athlete.
** For high school players in their sophomore year or above, there is one more critical aspect of “complete development”. Every top-level development program should also provide this service, below…
6.) College Placement/Admissions Consulting: The college selection and admissions process can prove to be a very difficult task. The competition for college enrollment has never been stiffer than it is today. Adding the element of athletic recruitment to this process can make it that much more difficult.
Education on the college recruitment, placement and admissions processes is another critical, yet overlooked facet of an athlete’s development. The best development programs will have a person or staff of people (usually former college admissions board members, guidance counselors, etc.) that can provide this service to its athletes.
Getting “looks”: Pretty much any program available will offer some sort of “showcase” element to their high school ball players (sophomore year and up). This typically amounts to traveling to a few showcase tournaments throughout the summer, in the hopes that one or two players will catch the eye of a college coach or recruiter. Oftentimes, this can be hit or miss. The right coach must be present at the right time for the right player, who must perform at the right time for that coach.
Programs that provide a college admissions assistance service that works in cohesion with the coaching staff will get their baseball athletes MORE looks from the RIGHT coaches and schools that are both athletic AND academic matches. This way, college coaches will attend games for specific players within the program that fit the profile of their college.
To review, when choosing a program for your son or daughter (or yourself), please make sure that you check off AT LEAST four of these five of these components!
Skill Development: Learning how to move your body like the best in the world takes time, dedication, patience, and most importantly, good coaching.
Performance Training: Having a strong, athletic body supporting the mechanical skills can launch a player from “competitive” to “successful”. It is important to find a performance coach who understands “modern” performance training. He or she should also have a fundamental knowledge of sports kinetics
Sports Nutrition: You wouldn't put unleaded fuel into a Ferrari, would you? The athlete’s body is a performance machine and it must be fueled as such.
Athletic Lifestyle Management: Balancing schoolwork, athletic training, and social life has never been harder. Managing an athletic lifestyle and succeeding in the classroom as well as on the field is daunting. Finding a program that has a support system for the academic athlete is super important.
Mission Cohesiveness: Be sure to find the program that will surround you with like-minded athletes who are on the same mission. In addition, look for a program that practices a philosophy where the coaches are on the team of the player.
Director, Player Skill Development
The Farm BPI
Originally printed August 19, 2014
Reprinted August 14, 2022