Why Struggling is a Good Thing

We all struggle. At one point or another, we all go through it. Some more than others, but it’s all the same. When we’re pushed into a corner in life, how do we react? Struggling can be one of the most powerful motivating factors in life. It can also go the other way and drag you into despair. It depends what side of the coin you choose to look at. I’ve always struggled in life. I’ve lived on floors of friends houses just to get by, scraped the last bit of change out of my cupholder for gas in my car hoping that I’d make it to work the next day, worked 100 hour work weeks for years just to make a dream a reality. I could go on and on, but this isn’t a pity party. I will tell you this though…It’s all been worth it. Struggling has humbled me. It made me look myself in the mirror when I didn’t want to see the person staring back because that person saw right through the bullshit and cut right to the truth. It’s made me work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life when I thought I had worked hard in years past. I embrace struggle now because I know it will lead to something greater.

Baseball is a constant struggle. Everyday, you have to be working on getting better, whether it be throwing, lifting, hitting, taking ground balls/fly balls, sleeping more, getting treatment, stretching, or eating right. You have to be willing to grind it out everyday to get what you want out of baseball. There are no days off. If you want to be great at this game, you have to be willing and wanting to go out a take your dream on a daily basis. There is no chasing. If you want to be good enough, you’re in the wrong place. You’re in the wrong time. Today, good enough is not good enough. Today, you have to be willing to be great. And greatness comes with a price in this game. Sometimes, you’re going to have to miss the party on Saturday night because you have a game the next day. Sometimes, you’re going to have to give up a little sleep to get to your workout on time. Sometimes, you’re going to have to miss a summer vacation because you’re at a tournament taking down your dream. It’s all worth it in the end. When you’ve struggled and fought to play college baseball, all the thoughts and feelings of what you missed are gone. All you can think about is that you’ve made it to your dream. If you continue to fight through the struggle, you may even get a shot to play professional baseball. Then, if you get that shot, it’s time to struggle some more. Talk to any player that’s ever played minor league baseball. You want to talk about a struggle? How about living on a bus, sleeping in the aisle, wondering if you’re going to get released, grinding out a 100+ game schedule, being away from home for months at a time, not seeing your parents, siblings, wife, kids, etc. Everyone thinks it’s glorious, but it’s not. It’s just one more struggle to go through. One more test…Every single day. All to take a dream that you’ve had since you were a little kid and create a reality. But, it’s all worth it. Every single bit of it.

In my eyes, the struggle is a blessing. It wakes you up to life. It forces you to be better than you were. It makes you accomplish great things. It makes you find peace and happiness with your life. It makes you who you are today, tomorrow, and the days that follow. So here’s three cheers to the struggle. #GAI


Interview with John Barr, OF, Cleveland Indians

Today’s interview comes from John Barr of the Cleveland Indians. JB is an Outfielder in the organization and quite the character in the gym. Enjoy!

1) To start, let’s let everyone know a little bit about you. What schools/teams did you play for during your amateur career and where are you playing now?

I played for Germantown Academy in high school and University of Virginia in College. In college I played in the NECBL( New England Collegiate Baseball League) for the Keene Swampbats and in the Cape Cod Baseball league for the Brewster Whitecaps. I am currently playing professionally in the Cleveland Indians Organization.

2) 2 part question here. What was the recruiting process like for you? Also, what was the draft process like?

The Recruiting process for college was a very exciting time for me. I was receiving interest from a considerable amount of schools including Virginia. I had a pretty good idea going into the process that I wanted to go to a school that was a national contender in baseball but also a strong academic institution. Virginia fit both those criteria and I wound up going to a camp there during my sophomore summer. Coach Mac came up to see me in the Spring of my Junior season at GA and I was offered shortly after. I committed June of my junior season. It was exciting to have made my decision and to be getting the opportunity to go to UVA.

The draft process was definitely a frustrating time. I had a pretty good junior year and was receiving some interest for the draft. However, I had made it a priority to finish school at Virginia and didn’t want to sign unless I was offered a considerable amount of money. I received some calls prior to the draft but the opportunity was not going to be enough to sign. My senior year I got picked late by the Indians. It was exciting to get picked up and I am grateful for the opportunity.

3) In terms of your workouts, what do you do now that you wish you would’ve done then?

Kevin Wilson has been my hitting coach since I was in high school. He has helped me with my career a great amount. This past offseason he put me in touch with Chris Kurtz at CK Performance. We started incorporating more flexibility into my workouts which was extremely important for me. I was able to gain strength, speed, quickness while improving my range and flexibility. I have never been in better shape in my entire life. The workouts were catered to my needs and took into account both my strengths and limitations. I felt as if I was a more complete athlete after putting in an outstanding six months at CK Performance.

4) How big is nutrition in terms of gaining strength, staying healthy, and generally feeling good? What have you changed from your college days to your professional days in terms of nutrition?

I never really fully invested myself in nutrition until this past offseason. Nutrition is every bit as important as the workout itself. I started eliminating bad foods from my diet and really focused on eating foods that would help me to perform to my best ability on the field. CK Performance really helped me expand my horizons with food and understand which foods I should include and eliminate in my diet. As a result I dropped about 3% in body fat and still gained a considerable amount of strength.

5) Favorite player of all time and why?

Favorite player is without a doubt Chase Utley.

He plays the game the way it should be played. When he is on the field he plays with everything he’s got. He leaves it all out there on the field and I feel that is the only way you should go about your business. It doesn’t matter if he hits a ball back to the pitcher or a ball in the gap he is going to run down to first like his life depends on it. I have tried to take this same approach to how I play the game.

Your Baseball Coach Shouldn’t Write Your Program, Epic Posts, and The Slider

What’s going on gang? It’s about 976 degrees in the gym today, so today’s post comes from the burning fires of hell.

I have a lot to talk about, so let’s get it going, I’m fired up!

Your Baseball Coach Shouldn’t Write Your Program
Before I get into this, let me throw a little disclaimer in here…If your coach is qualified to write your program in the gym, then by all means, he should be doing it. That being said, if your coach has no background in the fitness industry, he should back off. Here’s what got me fired up over the weekend. One of my players came into the gym absolutely trashed from a “workout” he did with his summer league team at their academy. The workout consisted of a mish mash of 9 exercises designed to beat the shit out of every player. There was no concern given to each players imbalances. No evaluation of any sort to find these imbalances. No rhyme or reason to the workout whatsoever. And this happens ALL….THE….TIME. It pisses me off to no end. I’d imagine they’re big fans of this guy’s book…

While Coach X thinks he’s making his players better as he wears his players out throughout the year, he’s actually exacerbating some players imbalances, putting some players in poor positions because their movement patterns suck, and contributing to greater central nervous system fatigue which, by the end of the summer season, will have his players hitting a wall or getting injured. IF YOU MAKE YOUR PLAYERS TIRED AND SWEATY, IT DOESN’T MEAN THEY GOT A QUALITY WORKOUT!!! Too much of this garbage is going on and it’s not only this team. It’s multiple teams in the area and it needs to STOP. If you’re a coach and you fall under this category, find answers. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants and make shit up as you go. There are excellent resources out there for you to get help. Read Cressey. Read GentilcoreContreras, Robertson, Boyle, Hartman, Bruno, Gaddour, Tumminello. There are so many more resources I could put up, but you get the point. These guys are here to help. So am I. If you have questions or comments, please fire them my way, all are welcome. Just stop making programs up on the fly if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s only going to hurt the kids.

Epic Posts
In the past few weeks, there have been some serious knowledge bombs being dropped from the howitzer’s of our industry and I’d like to share some of them with you. Check ’em out!

Eric Cressey – This one was short and sweet, but very informative for all who read.

Tony Gentilcore – Great post by Tony with some fresh ideas for your warm up. We’re definitely going to incorporate some of these into our warm up at CKP.

Jim “Smitty” Smith – I should probably just link you straight to Smitty’s page (www.dieselsc.com) because every post he puts up is Epic. This guy’s the truth, all real, all the time. He motivates me when I have trouble motivating myself. Respect!

Bret Contreras – I saw this one this morning before I came to work and absolutely loved it. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen in this industry and Bret goes after one of ’em. Major respect for the balls it took to write this post!

The Slider
Here’s a few videos on how we teach the slider at CKP. There are multiple grips you can use, here are a few that work for different players.

Once you find a grip that’s comfortable, start playing catch with it. You want to pull down the side of the baseball like you’re turning a doorknob a quarter turn or throwing a football. That release should happen out in front of your face or glove, whatever visual you want to use. You’ll get more movement east to west or north to south depending on your arm slot. Here’s what it should look like from behind…

And from the front…

And that’s it for today! Any questions or comments, feel free to fire. Have a great rest of the night!


Interview with Kevin Wilson, Professional Hitting Coach

Today’s interview is with Kevin Wilson. Kevin is a private hitting instructor at CKP and works with a long list of professional players. Enjoy and Happy Memorial Day to all!

Kev, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I know you’re a busy guy (Hitting Coach, Full Time Dad, Front Toss Guru), so let’s get right to it!

1) To start, let’s let everyone know a little bit about you. What schools/teams did you play for during your amateur and professional career, and where are you coaching now?

I played my high school baseball at Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, Pa. I’m a proud alum of the University of Cincinnati. I was fortunate to be a part of the first recruiting class of current head coach Brian Cleary back in 1997. After college, I signed with the Chicago White Sox and began my minor league career. I spent 6 years in the minor leagues, including stints in independent ball as well. I retired after 2006 season. I have been a hitting coach in independent ball since then, as well as a private hitting coach for individual hitters from MLB all the way down to HS players.

2) What difference do you see between the recruiting process today compared to your high school days?

It’s much more aggressive and many more added pressures on today’s kids than when I went through the process. With technology being what it is nowadays, coaches have such greater access to players whether it’s on their cell phones, twitter, facebook, etc. They know where these kids are at every day of the week. There is nothing that these kids can hide.
Note from CK: College Coaches are not recruiting this guy when they see his facebook. Don’t be him.
These showcase circuits that these players go through is also very different. Coaches came to our games to watch us play. Now because of their budgets and time frames they can go watch players, they are almost forced to watch showcases only most of the time. It’s only a very small sample size to try and recruit. I think it’s a very tough job evaluating these players compared to when you used to see kids play 5-10 games a year.

3) Let’s talk a little bit about hitters today. You work with hitters at every level, mostly professional. What separates a professional hitter versus an amateur hitter?

Their approach. They actually have one…… Most amateur players (I include myself as one when I played HS and college) have little to no approach at the plate. They may have a great swing and look good in BP, but when it comes to game time, they don’t have a plan and it shows against better pitching. When I got to pro ball, I began to understand what it took to be a professional hitter, and very little of it was mechanics. I try and stress to these young players that having an idea up there is the best thing that you have going for you to compliment your tools.

4) There are a lot of ways to teach hitting. What advice do you have for youth coaches who are trying to make their hitters better?

Get to know your player first. Know them as a person before knowing them as a player. A lot of coaches forget they are dealing with human beings and that they can’t treat them all the same. If you take the time to get to know them and they get to know you, they will respect you sooner so that you can begin to provide them with some information. If I a player doesn’t trust you and/or respect you, you will have a very hard time suggesting things or developing that player.

5) Favorite swing of all time, GO!

Not mine…… from the right side Manny Ramirez.

From the left side Griffey Jr.

Big thanks to Kevin for the interview. I hope you guys found this informative and enjoyed it! Have a great rest of the week!

The Long Toss Debate

This topic is an often discussed in baseball circles around the country. Should my son long toss? If so, how far should he go? Should he throw the ball on a line or high arc? How many times a week should he long toss during the season? During the off season? It’s a loaded topic for sure, so let’s get into why and how we go about our long toss protocol at CK Performance…

To start, there are two accepted ways to long toss. One method is to throw the ball on a line, no more than 120 feet. The other method, the one we use, is to throw the ball as high and as far as you can as you work out to maximum distance (stretching phase). Once you’ve reached your maximum distance, come in 20 feet and put the ball on a line (pull down phase). This method (along with his shoulder program) was popularized by Alan Jaeger and is a great way to build up arm strength while maintaining a healthy arm. Being that there are two sides to every coin, there has been limited research to support or negate the long term effects of long toss.

With each player, long toss days will be different every time they go out to throw. Players need to listen to their bodies and go as far as their body will allow them on a given day. One day you may be throwing the baseball 300 feet and the next may be 250. Whatever your body tells you to do, do it! Don’t try to be Superman everyday if your body isn’t feeling up to it. As mentioned earlier, Jaeger includes a shoulder program and sells his J-Bands for implementation of the program. At CKP, we use the bands a little bit, but spend a lot of time focusing on scapular work as well. Please keep in mind that without a solid strength base and mobility routine, you can exacerbate weakness and range of motion deficits in a pitchers body which can lead to arm injury. Bottom line, make sure you’re dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s before you start chucking the ball 300 feet. To get a better idea of the long toss program we use, check out the video below. Happy Hump Day!

Interview with David Amaro of the Philly Bandits

Hey guys! It’s been a while since my last post. The last few months have been crazy with the opening of CK Performance, but my schedule is finally starting to get back to normal and I wanted to bring you a quick 5 part Q and A with David Amaro of the Philly Bandits.

I’ve been fortunate to learn from Dave over the last 4 years as an assistant coach and on top of being a great person, he holds a wealth of knowledge that every player and parent can learn from. Hope you enjoy it and learn something about the recruiting process along the way!

Dave, first off, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I appreciate you taking the time to do it. Here we go!

1) To start, let’s give everyone a little background action here. What schools/teams did you play for during your amateur and professional career?

I played for the William Penn Charter School, Rhawhhurst Legion and then Fox Rock – AAABA. Later played 4 years for Duke University and then drafted in the 23rd round by the Chicago Cubs. I played a year and a half before a career ending wrist injury. Trying to make a comeback I also played for the Mexico City Tigers for a month.

2) You coach a very successful AAU organization named the Philly Bandits. How did you get into coaching?

I always wanted to give something back and use a more low key approach to Coaching so that players really enjoyed playing the game the right way. We try and emphasize playing a high energy style and we try and help our players navigate through the College recruiting process.

3) From a coaching perspective, what do you see in today’s amateur players that they could be doing better, as a whole?

Today’s amateur players do not play with intensity or urgency. That needs to change and if it doesn’t in the Delaware Valley, recruiters will not come look at the area players.

4) As a parent, what is the hardest thing about going through the recruiting process?

The hardest thing is to be realistic and understand all the aspects of the process. It can be overwhelming.

5) What would your advice be to
a) players going through the recruiting process?

You first need to honestly assess your talent and academic aptitude so you can make an appropriate target list.

and b) parent’s dealing with the influx of recruiting materials, coaching calls, and decision making during the recruiting process?

You have to take un-official visits to those schools that you have interest in as well as those that you are considering as options since they are recruiting you. Once you are on Campus speaking to the Coaching staff you will get a good or bad feel for how you can fit in. If you are uncertain then it may not be the right place for you. All recruiters will love you and things become very different when you show up so you’d better love the environment.

To wrap up, here is a 10 minute video about the importance of education, playing college baseball, the recruiting process, and professional baseball. Enjoy!
Note: Please excuse the glasses in the video. Dave was battling pink eye at the time. I still believe he was trying to land the lead role in Terminator 5.

Articles You Should Read

Here are a couple of articles that have peaked my interest over the past week.

Some Children’s Cereals Have More Sugar Than Twinkies And Cookies – Catharine Paddock, PhD

Catharine is a writer for medicalnewstoday.com who recently wrote about children’s cereal’s and why they should not be eating them. Kudos to her and right on!

How Not Training Can Help You Make Progress – Tony Gentilcore, CSCS @ Cressey Performance

Tony, like Eric, are both my man crushes (is that a violation to have 2? More than likely) when it comes to fitness industry. I’m always learning new things from these guys, but today, Tony hit on a topic that we’ve discussed a bit in the gym this off season. Baseball guys, take a look!

The 3 Most Idiotic Things I’ve Done as a Personal Trainer – Bret Contreras, CSCS, Certified FMS Expert

I liked this article because most of what you read online from personal trainers/strength coaches is about why you should train with “me,” why the competitor sucks, lookatme lookatme lookatme!, you get the idea…Bret went the other direction with this article and I can definitely say I’ve experienced one of these during my career. Great Post